Quito Exhibits Largest Nativity Scene in South America

‘El Panecillo’ is the name of the little round bun-shaped hill in downtown Quito, right in the historic center of this beautiful colonial city. On top of the hill sits a statue of a winged virgin made of over 7,000 pieces of aluminum. This virgin stands on top of a globe and is stepping on a snake, which is a classic madonna iconography. The statue is a replica of the Virgin of Quito, a 30-centimeter high statue carved by Bernardo de Legarda in 1734.

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View of Panecillo Hill from downtown Quito


View of the Virgin of Quito from the streets of downtown Quito

Yesterday the nativity scene set up around this virgin was lit with 400,000 LED lights. It includes the Virgin Mary as represented by the madonna statue, Saint Joseph, Baby Jesus, the Three Kings, the Christmas Star, a donkey, and an ox. This nativity can be seen from miles away. Covering 3,500 square meters and with figures as tall as 40 meters, it is said to be the largest Nativity scene in South America. At sundown each day, the lights are turned on – all except for the lights on Baby Jesus, which will not be turned on until Christmas Eve. This nativity scene took three weeks to put together and has been a tradition every year in Quito since 2001. It stays up until January 6th.

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Nativity Scene

Many people – tourists and locals alike – visit the nativity scene on top of the hill and say evening prayers (a tradition carried out each of the nine nights from December 16th to the 24th). This nativity scene represents the religious nature of Ecuadorians, the majority of whom are Catholic.

You can see the statue of the Virgin of Panecillo in this short video. On a clear day in Quito, you would see the snow-capped volcanoes surrounding the city in this view as well.


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