CUENCA ARCHITECTURE – Capilla del Corazón de Maria, y Convento del Buen Pastor

CUENCA ARCHITECTURE – Capilla del Corazón de Maria, y Convento del Buen Pastor


By Jane Hiltbrand
Photos: Jane Hiltbrand
Location: Tomás Ordóñez y Simón Bolívar

The Good Shepherd Order of Nuns arrived in Cuenca in 1892. Although initially put in charge of the girls’ school in the St. Blas district, the ultimate aim for the order was to run the city women's prison, which opened in 1894. The first stone of the prison was laid in September 1892.

The design and construction of the work are attributed to the monk Juan B. Stiehle. Juan Baptista Stiehle’s name will come up often in any discussion of Cuenca's historic architecture. He was a German Redemptorist monk who came to Ecuador in 1873. In 1885 Brother Stiehle was commissioned to draw up the plans for the New Cathedral of Cuenca. Construction of the New Cathedral began in 1885 and was completed in 1968. Brother Juan directed it until his death in 1899.

He also built the Church of San Alfonso and the Church of the Holy Cenacle. He designed plans for hospitals and schools and the construction of roads and bridges. He built many buildings in a French style, adding to the “Frenchification” of Cuenca.

And, he built the Capilla del Corazon de Maria and the women’s prison. This building now houses government offices for La Casa De La Provincia—the Perfectura del Azuay.

The Heart of Mary Church is slightly set back from Tomás Ordóñez Street. A small door leads from the church to the old prison grounds.

A very special hidden treasure is in the back of the government office building: EL JARDIN DE LAS MUJERES, a (more than life-sized) wall sculpture by artist Nicolas Herrera. It is a powerful sculpture of Andean forms and mythological beings, and it is free and open to the public. You can also watch a video of the artist describing the sculpture at Treat yourself and go visit this hidden treasure of Cuenca, located just off of Plaza San Blas.

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