If you look up from Quito city centre, you will be able to catch a glimpse of one of the biggest statues in the world: The Virgin of El Panecillo. Also known as the Virgin of Quito, it measures 41 metres from base to tip and rests atop the loaf-shaped hill at the heart of the city (hence its name, with panecillo meaning “bread roll” in Spanish) and can be seen from just about any point in the city.
The Virgin of El Panecillo serves as both a cultural and religious figure for Quito, a constant reminder of the city’s faith and religious nature. As well as being one of the top symbols of Ecuador’s capital city, it attracts thousands of visitors each year, making it one of its most-visited landmarks.
Together with the Church of the Company of Jesus, the Basilica of the National Vow, the TelefériQo cable car, La Ronda neighbourhood, the Middle of the World City and Itchimbía Park, it makes up the Seven Wonders of Quito, a collection of must-sees for anyone who visits the Capital of the Centre of the World.
The statue of the Virgin is made from 7,400 numbered pieces of platinum, aluminium and other metals which were all put together like a giant puzzle. Measuring 30 metres tall, the stone and reinforced concrete base adds another 11 metres to its overall height. Its total stature of 41 metres makes it the tallest aluminium statue in the world, even taller than the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.
The base comprises 18 columns representing Ecuador’s provinces at the start of the 1970s, when construction began. At the top of the base is a 180º viewpoint offering unrivalled panoramic views of the city of Quito. The base is crowned with a globe and a snake, which allude to the original sin, from which the Virgin rises up.
The sculpture depicts the Virgin Mary as portrayed in the Book of Revelation – the Woman of the Apocalypse – a woman with wings and a chain shackling the snake. Finally, she wears a crown comprising 12 stars, which symbolise the 12 apostles. This statue is based on the Virgin of Quito, a 17th-century wooden sculpture made by Bernardo de Legarda, one of the finest artists of the Quito school.
Since its inauguration on 28 March 1975, the Virgin of El Panecillo has attracted visitors from far and wide, amazing people with its imposing structure and the impressive vistas from its viewpoint, offering a unique perspective of the city. For the residents of Quito, it is a symbol of identity and local pride, turning it into a truly authentic landmark that is greatly valued.
Quito, the Capital at the Middle of the World, is the closest city to the sun and the only place where it is possible to stand with one foot in each hemisphere. This city, declared the First Cultural Heritage of Humanity thanks to its Historic centre, mixes the pre-Hispanic, colonial, traditional and modern.
Quito is also a place for adventure. This equatorial city is the start of the Avenue of Volcanoes, or you can visit the Andean Chocó, home to the spectacled bear and thousands of bird species.
It is also the gateway to the four worlds of Ecuador: Galapagos, Pacific Coast, Andes and Amazon. Quito has a unique cuisine that fuses ancestral knowledge and flavours with avant-garde proposals that conquer the palates of those who try it.