Gold and silver threads in San Francisco

As a destination, Quito is a must see for those who are passionate about art, culture and architecture. With the arrival of the colonizers –not surprisingly, and against all odds, churches, convents and manors were built on mounds, hills and ravines, which 400 years later still stand as lofty and majestic as they did when first built.
San Francisco is that not to be missed place. It’s where the history of the city begins; where a pre Colombian market once stood, and later where one of the largest architectural complexes in America was built, a true challenge that began construction in 1537 and ended 150 years later.
The church and convent of San Francisco were known as the “Monastery of the New World”, a source of pride for King Charles V, who ordered its construction from Spain. In total, it boasts 13 cloisters, three temples, and a great atrium, all built on 13 and a half hectares.
Among the 3,500 colonial Works of art housed at San Francisco, UNESCO recently proposed a new thematic exhibit “From Embroidery to Meaning” with 54 religious garments (chasubles) which were used in the XVII and XVIII centuries by priests during mass or religious festivities. They have been restored by students from the Universidad Tecnológica Equinoccial (UTE) over a six month period, within the framework of the San Francisco Comprehensive Management Plan.

The “chasubles” are the name by which these works of religious art brought from Europe are known. They were surely sewn and embroidered by nuns from convents in Italy or Spain as an offering for the Franciscans.
Cotton, linen and silk are part of the raw materials used to make the chasubles, the ornaments have been embroidered with such perfection that their original colors, textures and shapes can still be admired. The majority of the decorative elements are floral ornaments (leaves, petals and crowns), made with gold and silver thread. For some chasubles, brocade and velvet were also used as a foundation for the embroidery and fabrics.

Katherine Basantes, one of the 12 students that participated in the Restoration Workshop of these works of art tells us that: “This has been a spectacular experience, a task that required a great deal of patience in trying to restore those embroideries and ornaments from times gone by. I loved working with fabrics and materials so full of history. It is no easy task because we have to work with magnifying glasses and tweezers in order to not lose the original lines and stitches.

Here, everything has a meaning, which is why the colors that stand out in the chasubles are blue, white, red, green, purple and black, the latter was used during Good Friday for example, during Easter Week; while white was worn to celebrate weddings, baptisms and other sacraments..
A time and history expressed in these recently restored works of art inhabit San Francisco. They become unmissable (temporales…) that soon will once again be secreted away as treasures in a particular corner of this grand complex.


“From Embroidery to Meaning”
Place: Fray Pedro Gocial Museum
Date: Until May 31, 2015
Time: From 10.00 to 17.00
* Make the most of the experience by visiting the museum, the church, and the chapel of Cantuña.

Written by: Carla Martínez / Picture: Carla Martínez - Archivo Quito Turismo

Absorb the colors, shapes and brightness of the textiles and its embroideries

Gregorian chants that set the sample to music

Before entering the sample, you can drink one of the natural juices from Sucre Street; if it’s lunchtime, you can find the Guatitas de la Colmena, a local delicacy, on Benalcazar Street. Another option is the Tianguez café-gallery, beneath the San Francisco atrium.

To Feel
An imaginary tour of the textures of the embroideries

To Smelle
The fresh breeze of the convent’s inner gardens

/ / / /