Museo Fray Pedro Gocial

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Quito, Ecuador

Museo Fray Pedro Gocial Quito Reviews

Toonsarah Toonsarah
330 reviews
Museo Fray Pedro Gocial Oct 25, 2012
This museum of colonial religious art is located in the convent attached to the church of San Francisco, and even if you think you aren’t interested in that type of art is still worth visiting, as it gives you access to the lovely and peaceful convent cloisters and to the choir loft of the church. The monastery is the oldest and largest in the country, taking up two city blocks. It was founded in 1546 but took 70 years to build.

The art works here include paintings, altar pieces and processional statues, displayed very nicely along the outer and inner cloisters. No photos are allowed in the inner one but you can take any pictures you want in the outer one, both of the works on display and the cloister itself. In one corner we found some pretty birds – finches, lovebirds etc. I’m not a fan of keeping pet birds but at least these weren’t caged (though I assume their wings had been clipped to keep them here) and the lovebirds in particular were so sweet that we found them an added attraction to the museum (see photo three).

But the highlight for me was a series of processional statues depicting the Passion on display in the inner cloister. These are typical of the Quito school in their vivid, if not gory, portrayal of the sufferings of Christ and the other saints. It is generally said that this goriness is a reference to the suffering that the indigenous people had undergone at the hands of their Spanish conquerors. Perhaps they found those who had suffered for this faith that had been imposed on them, to be the element of it with which they themselves could most easily identify? Whatever the explanation, these are powerful works whether or not you share the beliefs that inspired them.

The altarpiece in photo two depicts Saint Barbara and is by an anonymous artist of the 17th century. This is in the outer cloister, which was why I was able to take the photo, and is typical of the works on display there. When you have finished looking at the art, and maybe sat a while in the peaceful cloister, you can climb a flight of stone stairs to the left of the museum entrance which lead you to the choir loft of the church. From here you have an excellent view of the church (again no photos allowed). The loft itself s also worth seeing, for the intricately carved choir stalls and the dramatic crucifix by Manuel Chile Caspicara, which dates back to 1650-70. It is said that Caspicara tied a model to a cross to examine how best to represent Christ's facial and body expressions as realistically as possible.

Entry to the museum and choir loft cost us $2 (October 2012). I have read that guided tours are compulsory but we weren’t offered one – maybe it depends on the season when you visit (it was very quiet when we were here) or maybe that is no longer the case. We were given a leaflet with some information in English. Signs by the art works are in Spanish but you can easily make out facts such as artist and date of course. The museum is open Monday - Saturday from 09.00 to 17.30 and Sunday from 09.00 to 13.00. Highly recommended!
Cloisters of the church of San Fra…
17th century altar piece, Museo Fr…
Lovebirds in the cloisters
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