Restoration of San Alfonso Church in Riobamba

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It could be that the San Alfonso Church in Riobamba (Ecuador) is the oldest church built by the Redemptorists in Latin America and that it is already 140 years since its blessing (August 1, 1881) and whose plans drawn up by Brother Teofilo were used for the Basilicas of Perpetual Help and San Alfonso in Cuenca and of the Sacred Heart in Chile.

The old and almost useless church of the Augustinian Fathers, which was given to us on the occasion of the foundation of the Redemptorists in Ecuador (May 13 and July 15 and July 31, 1870) in Cuenca and Riobamba, respectively, collapsed on May 4, 1871, escaping death by burying Brother Alvaro Tornero in the rubble. Pedro Didier said these words “ergo faciamus novam”, trusting only in the Providence of God and in the courageous and determined work of his confreres and in the generosity of the people of Riobamba. The President of the Republic at that time, Dr. Gabriel García Moreno, also collaborated.

With the plans drawn up by Brother Teófilo and under his direction, the work began in the midst of enormous difficulties due to lack of skilled workers and lack of materials, many of which were brought from France. Some materials were lost due to the sinking of the ship at Cape Horn. The monumental construction lasted 9 years, and on August 1, 1881, this magnificent temple was blessed, which has been a centre of sustained and profound evangelization where people of all conditions and fortunes have come, particularly the “poorest and most abandoned” and from where the missionaries left for Buga, Lima, Santiago and Piura.

The Municipality of Riobamba, with a cost of about 67,000 dollars, has restored the towers, façade and the paving, with carved stone, of the atrium of the church. Everything has turned out great and very beautiful. The Redemptorists have had to restore the roofs and interior of the church and the exterior walls. It has been an arduous and patient work because we were not allowed to change even one nail without the permission of the national heritage department since the Church has been declared National Patrimony.

On April 5, the architect in charge of the I. Municipality for the restoration of the towers and the atrium, already delivered the work to full satisfaction. The Municipality will hand it over to us around the 21st of the present month, on the occasion of the Riobamba festivities.

Fr. Ángel Montesdeoca V., C.Ss.R.

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