Quito’s Historic District is extensive and visitors would be hard pressed to view it all in a single lifetime. In the past, this area comprised the ENTIRE city of Quito. These days, it is an historic dimension that preserves streets, alleys, squares, ancient houses, endless cobblestone slopes and garden gates; history and silent treasures are sheltered in every corner, waiting to be awoken by the sound of visitors’ footsteps.
It’s Wednesday, I’m not familiar with Fernandez Madrid street but I search for it, and by “asking around”, I find this artery that splits and immediately continues, snaking along two blocks and several houses in its path. This is something that only happens in Quito’s Historic District. The street gets the best of me. I can’t get through it by car.
I arrive at la Mama Cuchara in the heart of la Loma Grande, now a musicians’ quarter, musicians that are part of the Cultural Center by the same name. I turn towards Chavez street and right away a lady lets me know from her balcony that the Capilla de Los Milagros (Chapel of Miracles) is at the end of the street.
It’s comforting to know that I’m not lost. I walk as if trying to recognize the place and I definitely do not remember having ever been here before.
I continue towards an ancient stone staircase, designed as if it were a hiding place, a lover’s hidden corner… I cross and reach Fernandez Madrid street, the one with all those twists and turns that at one point, inevitably, becomes a pedestrian walkway.
I stand before an ancient, wooden gate, and see the great bell tower. I’ve reached my destination, the Capilla de los Milagros, a very well guarded treasure in la Loma Grande, located on Fernandez Madrid N1-11 and Rocafuerte.
It has stone patios, lush gardens with beautiful geraniums, and that solitary chapel painted with frescos, which welcomes parishioners once a week on Sundays during mass with the priest from San Marcos. It is an ancient chapel (XVII and XVIII centuries), made of paunchy walls and a bare brick bell tower. Within, at the altar, there is a small Hermitage that guards a painted image of the Señor de Los Milagros (the Lord of Miracles).
Fausto Caballero, who has seen in this treasure a touristic option and business venture, tells me the following legend of the image: “There used to be a cliff between Loma Grande and Loma Chica, a woman would have her cows graze there frequently. One day, seh saw the image of a man…She returned every day and people began saying that she would rendezvous with a semi-naked man. The news reached her husband, who in a fit of rage and jealousy killed his wife…Later, the remorseful man begged the heavens for forgiveness and as he desperately went in search of his children, he entered his small house and found his wife getting them ready for school”…
That is the miracle that took place, and which brought his wife back to life. The story has a happy ending. It spread amongst the inhabitants of the area and the priest from the neighborhood of San Marcos commissioned the painting of the image of the Señor de Los Milagros within a Hermitage (XVI, XVII centuries), which later had a chapel, a patio and a garden.
Los Milagros Cultura Gourmet is the touristic offering of this place: organic coffee, reinvented dishes with hints of the contemporary and of Ecuadorian tradition, gastronomic tastings and cultural activities can be found here.
The chapel’s garden has a view of avenida Sucre (Sucre Avenue). It is a peaceful place, made beautiful by the simplicity of the structure and two Capulin and Andean Walnut trees, emblems of Quito. It is a new treasure waiting to be discovered.
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Written by: Carla Martínez / Picture: Francisco Veintimilla - Quito Turismo
The details of the frescoes on the chapel walls, the trees and flowers of the garden.
The textures of the ancient tiles from the chapel.
The breeze through the Capulin and Andean Walnut Trees.
Black corn tortillas, cheese with hints of anise and lemon.
The fragrance of coffee from Intag.