Located in an untouristed part of Quito, Ecuador, far off the beaten path, this 17th-century Franciscan convent is an overlooked highlight among the city’s museums. Once you pay the $3 entry fee and are led inside, you’re taken on a fascinating tour of the many gems hiding in this remarkable little convent-museum.
The Museo Franciscano del Padre Almeida (Franciscan Museum of Father Almeida) at the Convento de San Diego is packed with beautiful art, walls adorned recently discovered frescoes that were long hidden beneath a layer of plaster, and exposed original beams up to 400 years old, held together with nothing but ancient vines.
Among the incredible works of art, one standout is an original painting by the famed Dutch Renaissance artist Hieronymus Bosch. Titled “A Passage from this Life to Eternity,” the painting has hung in the convent for hundreds of years, though no one can quite explain how it got there. Also be sure to catch Ecuadorian painter Miguel de Santiago’s amazing depiction of the Last Supper featuring a cuy, or guinea pig.
The tour includes a trip through a tiny stairwell up onto the roof, where you’re greeted by some beautiful city views. You’re also escorted behind the gilded altar to a 300-pound solid stone door that you have to crawl through to access a hidden ossuary chamber. Therein is a pit some 65 feet deep, nearly full with skeletal bones that have been stashed there over the centuries.
Know Before You Go
Take a cab or hired car. If you are nice to the guide and show genuine interest they may let you take photos, but the general rule is no photos. Note that the guides only speak Spanish.