El Panecillo is located at 3,000 meters above sea level, in the historic center of Quito, is one of the most visited sites in Quito and its location is considered one of the most important natural viewpoints of the city.
El Panecillo owes its name to the fact that the hill has a resemblance to a small loaf of bread. History tells us that before the arrival of the Spanish conquest, this small hill had the name of Shungoloma, a Quichua word that means “hill of the heart”. According to legend, in pre-Inca times, members of the Karas culture built a temple there in honor of the sun and one in honor of the moon on San Juan, the hill on the opposite side. The Inca general Rumiñahui would have destroyed these two temples when his troops were forced to retreat by the Spanish army. Another name by which it was called in pre-Hispanic times was Yavirac.
This place is a reference for the Quiteños because it marks the division between the south and the center of the city; it still maintains the legacy of the Inca period because there is the Olla del Panecillo, which is a vestige of the Inca period, it is a kind of circular cistern eight meters deep that was filled with rainwater that was used to irrigate the crops of the place. In colonial times, the water collected here was used to irrigate the gardens of the Bellavista mansion.
It was also during those years that a military fort was built here to defend the city from insurrections. It played an important role during the First Cry of Independence, and later around 1822 in the Battle of Pichincha, which determined the end of the Spanish conquest. After the 19th century, El Panecillo lost its military prominence and came to be considered an important viewpoint for the inhabitants and visitors of Quito. From the Panecillo you can observe the urban distribution of the capital of Ecuador, from its historic center to its southern and northern ends.
The Panecillo is currently crowned by a giant aluminum sculpture of the “Virgin of Quito”, created in 1975 by the Spaniard Agustín de la Herrán Matorras, which was based on the Virgin of Legarda or Apocalyptic Virgin; XVIII century work of Bernardo de Legarda, one of the most important representatives of the Quito School, which can be seen on the main altar of the Church of San Francisco.
The Majestic Virgin of Quito, is composed of seven thousand four hundred pieces, numbered each one of them, so it could be joined as a puzzle; this is the largest representation of aluminum in the world and ranks 58th among the tallest images in the world, it is even higher than the image of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil.
On November 4, 1955, permission was given to build the foundations or base of the monument. The base, which is eleven meters high, is made of stone and reinforced concrete, made up of 18 columns that represent the provinces that Ecuador had until that year. Father Rigoberto Correa is the executor of the work and it was inaugurated on March 28, 1975 with a mass attended by 1,500 people who came on pilgrimage from the Basilica of the Voto Nacional (it was a pre-inauguration, as the wings were still to be assembled). In the month of September 1975, the wings were just placed.
Inside the figure there is a small museum that exhibits images and the history of the construction of the monument. It is open to national and foreign tourists. In addition, at the top there is a viewpoint to see the city and the perspective is 360 degrees.
Below we share with you some interesting facts about the Virgen del Panecillo.
The globe represents the world and on top of it is the serpent, which represents the sin that Eve committed.
The base of the monument measures eleven meters and the image of the Blessed Virgin measures thirty meters.
Upon entering the monument visitors are at 3016 meters above sea level and upon arriving at the lookout point at 3027 meters above sea level.
The weight of the statue is 124,000 kilograms.
The open wing of the Virgin measures 90 square meters. These pieces were assembled on the ground and then assembled to the body.
The crown of the Virgin is composed of 12 stars representing the 12 apostles or the 12 tribes of Israel.
The dragon’s head represents the devil.
Besides having an incredible view of the city from the top of the Panecillo, you will also find traditional food, restaurants, handicrafts, playgrounds for children, as well as parking.
To go up to the viewpoint on foot, you can use one of the accesses that starts from Garcia Moreno Street. Also, if you do not have private transportation, you can use two types of urban transport units that travel through the center of Quito through the streets García Moreno and Chile, but we remind you that it is a little dangerous so we recommend you take a cab that will take you to the top. To go to El Panecillo, specifically to the interior of the monument of the Virgin of Quito, it is recommended to go between 9h00 and 18h00.