Virgin of El Panecillo – Quito Ecuador

The Bread Loaf and the Virgin, Ecuador

One of Quito, Ecuador’s most visible sights is the tall winged statue propped up on a prominent hill near the center of the sprawling city. It is an interesting piece of art work with an equally grabbing beginning.

The hill that the statue stands upon is known as El Panecillo, or small bread. Before the Spanish Conquistadores arrived, this 200-meter hill is rumored to have been crowned by a temple dedicated to the worship of the sun, a prominent deity for the Incans and other indigenous people all over the continent. As is typical of the conquistadores, they destroyed the temple.

photo of Virgin of El Panecillo
Virgin of El Panecillo – Quito Ecuador

The peak had remained relatively bare of installations until 1976 when an artist was commissioned by the Catholic religious order of the Oblates to place a monument to the Madonna on the site. The 45- meter statue was assembled with over 7000 pieces of aluminum and stands upon a large pedestal which can be entered and climbed affording great views of the city below. On a clear day you can even some of the nearby volcanoes. The statue, the Virgin of Quito, also known as the Woman of the Apocalypse, appears to be watching over Quito. She was fashioned after a Madonna located on the main altar of the church of St. Francis.


Panecillo is located near the historic center of Quito, Ecuador. On a clear day you can even see some of the nearby volcanoes. There is a road that winds around the hill and leads to the peak; however, it is not advised to walk up the road. There have been many issues with people being mugged along this road. The safest way of getting there is via taxi. Taxis will take you to the top of the hill and wait for you while you peruse the site, the views, and the insides of the statue’s pedestal. They generally charge between 6 and 10 USD, depending where your departure and/or return originate. Slightly down the hill is an old well. There really isn’t a lot of information available about this well, but it is believed to have held sacred meaning to the indigenous people who previously populated the area.

Inside the pedestal is a photographic history of the assembly of the statue as well as other examples of other Madonnas of the Catholic faith, including some very nice stained glass representations. It is a relatively easy climb, other than the effects of being at high altitude (you’re at 3,016 meters above sea level here). You can walk around the base of the statue which, again, affords some wonderful views of Quito, but also gives you some unique perspectives of the Virgin. Admission to the inside of the pedestal is $1 for adults. There are, naturally, some vendors of crafts near the parking area as well, but really you’re better off buying these items elsewhere.

El Panecillo is a place that is worth a visit if you love outstanding views and religious art/history. However, it isn’t a visit for everyone, and you can also get great views at the Basilica del Voto Nacional and by riding the Teleferico, Quito’s sky ride.

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