Church of la Compañía de Jesús, Quito

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The Church of the Society of Jesus (Spanish: La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús), known colloquially as la Compañía, is a Jesuit church in Quito, Ecuador. It is among the best-known churches in Quito because of its large central nave, which is profusely decorated with gold leaf, gilded plaster, and wood carvings. Inspired by two Roman Jesuit churches — the Chiesa del Gesù (1580) and the Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio di Loyola (1650) — la Compañía is one of the most significant works of Spanish Baroque architecture in South America. It is Quito's most ornate church and (according to some observers) the country's most beautiful[by whom?].

Church of the Society of Jesus
Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús (la Compañía) (in Spanish)
Iglesia de La Compañía, Quito, Ecuador, 2015-07-22, DD 149-151 HDR.JPG
Overview of the interior from the entrance.
AffiliationCatholic Church
RiteRoman Rite
LocationQuito, Ecuador
StyleViceregal of New Granada Baroque
Direction of façadeSouth
MaterialsVolcanic gray stone


Over the 160 years of its construction, the architects of La Compañía incorporated elements of four architectural styles, although the Baroque is the most prominent. Mudejar (Moorish) influence is seen in the geometrical figures on the pillars; the Churrigueresque characterizes much of the ornate decoration, especially in the interior walls; finally the Neoclassical style adorns the Chapel of Saint Mariana de Jesús (in early years a winery).

The floorplan of La Compañía makes a Latin Cross, with central, northern and southern arms; it has the conventional nave, transept, crossing, presbytery, antechamber to the sacristy, sacristy, and chapel. The central nave is topped by a 26-meter high barrel vault constructed of pumice and brick. This vault is decorated with plaster, polychrome and Mudéjar figures in gold leaf. The skyline is capped by two green and gold domes.

The carvings of La Compañía’s main façade were executed entirely of Ecuadorian andesite stone. (Begun in 1722 by Father Leonardo Deubler, work was suspended in 1725 and taken up again in 1760 by Brother Venancio Gandolfi who finished it in 1765.) According to José María Vargas: “A simple comparison of dates explains the difference in styles between the body of the Church and the façade. While the structure of the Church reveals the Renaissance influence (that of Italy brought to Quito by Brother Marcos Guerra), that of the façade reflects the dynamism of the 18th century Baroque, instigated by Bernini’s solomonic columns of the Baldachin of the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome”. La Compañía’s columns, statues and larger details were executed in the quarry which the Jesuits had in the Hacienda de Yurac (in the nearby parish of Pintag). The rest of the material was brought from a quarry on the western slopes of El Panecillo, adjacent to the city. That façade, as it has come down to us, has more of the Italian Baroque than of the Spanish Plateresque and, with its high pilasters, a certain accent of the French Baroque.

Design elements include a near symmetrical facade, Moorish influence in the nave, and artwork by artists of the Quito School. A sarcophagus with the remains of Ecuador's patron saint, Mariana de Jesús de Paredes, is located in the base of the central altar.

The interior of La Compañía strongly resembles that of the Church of San Ignacio in Bogotá. This similarity, particularly evident in the design of the stuccos, baseboards, molding and vaults, represents an enhancement of the scheme first employed in the older Bogotá church.



The first group of Jesuit priests arrived in Quito on 19 July 1586, in order to establish a church, a school and a monastery. Among this group were Juan de Hinojosa, Diego González Holguín, Baltasar de Piñas and Juan de Santiago. Most sites for the construction of churches had been granted by the city council to the Franciscans, the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, the Augustinians and the Dominicans. However, in 1587 the council granted land to the Jesuit order at the northwest corner of Plaza Grande (now Independence Square). When the Augustinians showed their displeasure with the decision, the Jesuits chose to settle in another lot located southwest of the Cathedral and Plaza.

Nicolás Duran Mastrilli, a Jesuit priest from the Province of Naples, Italy, was appointed rector of the Jesuit College of Quito in 1602. Upon his arrival from Rome, he brought with him plans for the new Church of the Society of Jesus to be constructed in Quito. The plans for the church have been attributed to Domenico Zampieri, who also served as architect for the Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio di Loyola in Rome.

Construction began in 1605, with Mastrilli laying the first stone. The next documented architect was Gil de Madrigal, a Jesuit brother who arrived in Quito in 1634. The work gained momentum in 1636 with the arrival of Marcos Guerra, an Italian Jesuit priest who was also an architect and sculptor. The building was not completed until 1765.


Mariana de Jesús de Paredes (1618–45), the patron saint of Ecuador, was sanctified in La Compañía which she chose to be her permanent home.

La Compañía served as the headquarters of the Jesuit order in Ecuador and also housed a school. After the expulsion of the Jesuits from Ecuador in 1767 by King Charles III,[1] many texts describing the history and architecture of the structure were lost.

During the colonial period, the bell tower of La Compañía was the tallest structure in Quito. The original tower was destroyed by an earthquake in 1859. It was rebuilt in 1865, but it was destroyed a second time by another earthquake in 1868 and never rebuilt.

The miracle of Our Lady of Sorrows reportedly occurred in the dining room of the Academy of Saint Gabriel on April 20, 1906.[2]

Another earthquake damaged the church in March 1987. This prompted another period of restoration, undertaken between 1987 and 2005.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Merino, O; Newson, LA (1995). "Jesuit Missions in Spanish America: The Aftermath of the Expulsion" (PDF). CLAG Yearbook. Syracuse, New York: Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-11. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  2. ^ "The Miracle of the Dolorosa del Colegio: Quito, Ecuador, 1906". Mary's Index. Retrieved 2012-05-07.


  • Greenspan, E (2007). Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands. Chichester: John Wiley. ISBN 9780470120026.
  • Kennedy, A (2002). Arte de la Real Audiencia de Quito, siglos XVII-XIX. Hondarribia: Nerea. ISBN 8489569835.
  • Vargas, JMF (2005). Patrimonio Artístico Ecuatoriano: La Compañía de Jesús. Quito: Trama. ISBN 9978300171.
  • Báez, C (2008). Rostros e Imágenes de La Compañía de Jesús, Quito en el Contexto Barroco. PH Ediciones y B&B Grupo COMUNICACIÓN. ISBN 9789942021243.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 0°13′15″S 78°30′50″W / 0.22083°S 78.51389°W / -0.22083; -78.51389