The Basílica del Voto Nacional is the largest neo-Gothic church in South America. According to local legend, the world will end if construction of the basilica is ever officially completed.
In 1883, Father Julio Matovelle began drumming up support for the construction of a massive basilica in the heart of Quito, Ecuador. The president threw his weight behind the project, and Congress designated 12,000 pesos for its creation.
Still, it was a slow process. Pope Leo XIII approved the construction in 1887, and the French architect Emilio Tarlier was brought in to design the church. Tarlier, inspired by the Notre Dame and Bourges cathedrals, began his designs in 1890. Finally, on July 10, 1892, the first stone was placed.
It took more than 30 years to build the basilica. The first mass and the first ringing of the bells took place in 1924. Pope John Paul II blessed the church in 1985, and it was consecrated and finally inaugurated in 1988.
With more than a century between its conception and inauguration, you’d expect the Basílica del Voto Nacional to be an impressive structure indeed. And it doesn’t disappoint. The church is 460 feet long and 115 feet wide, with its two frontal towers reaching a height of 377 feet.
The interior features one long central nave with two smaller adjoining naves, with a dome and stained glass windows. Around the central nave are 24 small chapels, each dedicated to a province of Ecuador. A crypt and a pantheon are also connected to the basilica.
Outside, meanwhile, is a series of gargoyles that might look more familiar than the fantastical grotesques that normally adorn the facades of churches and cathedrals. The gargoyles of the Basílica del Voto Nacional all represent animals endemic to Ecuador, including iguanas, tortoises, armadillos. and condors.
Technically speaking, the Basílica del Voto Nacional has never been completed, at least not officially. According to local legend, this permanent state of incompletion is due to a fairly weighty premise: if the basilica is ever completed, the world will come to an end.
Know Before You Go
The Basílica del Voto Nacional is located on the corner of Venezuela and Carchi in central Quito, seven blocks northeast of Plaza de la Independencia. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, and from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekends. The entrance fee is $2 USD, which will let you ascend to the top of the towers. This is the highlight of most visits, offering fantastic views across the city. Getting up there is quite an adventure, with steep steps and ladders leading up to the top.