Cusco Travel Information


The famous Sun Temple of Qosqo was and is in practice a synthesis of the Inka`s organization, architecture and religion; that had already reached the summit of their level by the year 1438. It possibly represented the “Navel of the World”; therefore, the world’s center in the pre-Hispanic Andean Cosmovision.
According to our history, it was the first Inka, MankoQhapaq who built the original temple. But, it was the ninth, Pachakuteq who since 1438 reconstructed, enlarged, improved and modernized the most important religious complex of the vast Inka`s Society.

There are certain discrepancies about the complex’s original name, and though they are not antagonistic ones, they cause a relative confusion. Frequently in chronicles and history treatises the name Intiwasi is found, (inti= sun, wasi= house) it means “Sun House”; also the name Intikancha is used and which would mean “Sun Palace” (this is considering that almost all Inkan palaces had the noun “Kancha”). While that its most popular name is Qorikancha that would mean “Golden Palace”. Maria Rostworowski suggests that the ancient temple was known as “Intikancha” and after Pachakuteq as “Qorikancha”.>All the chroniclers coincide manifesting that the quality of the building was extraordinary, made with gray basaltic andesites coming from the quarries of Waqoto and Rumiqolqa. The walls have the “Sedimentary” or “Imperial Inkan” type that is the maximum expression of architecture in pre-Columbian America. The stones are between medium to large which outer surface is rectangular; the structure is straight horizontal that in the most important temples exhibit side views with marked convexity. The joints between stones are polished, so perfectly made that they do not allow insertion of even “razor blade”. The cross section structure is “tied up”, that is, with “H” shaped bronze clamps or clips in the internal joints that fastened together the lithic pieces avoiding harmful horizontal displacements in case of earthquakes. The wall also have a decreasing vertical structure, that is, with bigger stones in the lower part and every time smaller toward the top. The walls are wider in the base than on the top; with the classical inclination inward (there is not a general rule or measurement for that inclination) balanced with the trapezoidal shape of doorways, niches and openings. Those characteristics make the walls support themselves forming a resistant, solid, anti-seismic structure that was able to resist the two huge earthquakes after the Spanish invasion, in 1650 and 1950 that destroyed every tough colonial building. Today in some Inkan walls of the complex there are a few cracks. They are not a result of bad calculation or technique of the Quechua architects, but simply, consequence of changes carried out in colonial times, the earthquakes and mainly exposition to inclement weather and erosion after all of them. According to some studies the finely carved stone walls had a continuation of sun-dried mud-bricks on the top forming very steep gable ends in order to enable drainage of rain waters. The roofing was thatched made in wood and “ichu” the wild Andean bunch grass, with eaves projecting out about 1.6 mts. (5.25 ft); roofs which modest aspect was remedied in festivity days when they were covered with showy multicolored rugs made with special feathers. Gasparini believes that the often mentioned by chroniclers “gold edging” that served as a crown surrounding the whole outer upper side of the temple served, more over, in order to dissemble the difference between the fine stone wall and the upper adobe wall. The floor in the open areas of the temple must have been completely and finely paved with flagstones while the floors inside the enclosures were surely made with kilned clay as a solid ceramic block like the treated floors found in Machupicchu.

The temple’s main gate faced toward the Northeast; almost in the same position of the present-day entrance to the Santo Domingo (St. Dominic) Convent, overlooking the Intipanpa (“Sun Plaza”) that today occupies the small park in front. According to chroniclers this was a religious complex constituted by temples dedicated to different deities. It had a layout very similar to that of a classical “kancha”; with enclosures around a central patio where according to Cieza de Leon, every doorway was veneered with gold plates.

Cusco Peru

The Sun Temple stood out in the complex, covering the space occupied today by the Santo Domingo Catholic Church. Its eastern end was completely demolished while the western one still subsists partially forming what is known as “solar round building”, that is, the semicircular wall overlooking the present-day Arrayan street and the Avenida el Sol. The Sun Temple had its four walls and even the wooden ceiling completely covered with gold plates and planks, according to Garcilaso’s description it must had a rectangular floor plan, with a very high thatched roof for facilitating ventilation. It is worth pointing out that whom gives the most detailed information about the subject is the famous Cusquenian Chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega, who wrote as it is indicated by himself: “… what I swallowed in the milk and saw and heard from my ancestors…”. On the eastern wall of this temple must have been the facade and Main Altar that as it is known contained the representation of the Sun God in a gold plate with the shape of a “round face and rays and flames”. That solar representation was so huge that it covered all the temple front from wall to wall; in the treasures distribution among the conquerors, that golden piece corresponded by casting of lots to Mancio Sierra de Leguisamo, an inveterate gambler who lost it during one night playing dices; event by which the famous saying “ bet the sun before dawn” was created. Chronicler Sarmiento de Gamboa suggests that Pachakuteq ordered a layout so that the Sun would occupy the main place along with the Wiraqocha god representation on its right side and that of Chuquiylla (it must be “Chuki Illapa” or thunder, lightning and thunderbolt) to its left side. Also, on both sides of the Sun image were the “Mallki” (mummies or embalmed bodies in a fetal position) of the dead Inka Kings, according to their antiquity, and over litters of solid gold.

In the Andean Cosmogony it was considered that the Moon or Mamakilla was the Sun’s wife. Therefore, the Moon Temple was located on the eastern side of the Solar Temple; it had a rectangular floor plan with the best quality of architecture, unfortunately it was almost completely destroyed in order to built the Catholic Church. One of its gates is still seen as well as its eastern wall with the classical trapezoidal niches. Among those niches is the horizontal dark stripe that is believed to be the support zone of the silver plates that covered completely its walls. In the center of the temple there was a silver Moon representation and on both sides of it the embalmed bodies of the dead Qoyas (Queens), according to their antiquity.

More over, in this vast complex there were 5 Water Fountains, in which flowed clean water transported through underground channels; the water springs or sources were kept completely secret. Those water fountains had religious duties as water was another deity in the Andean Religion; they were also adorned with precious metals, had golden spillways, and large gold and silver jars. In colonial times the water was dried up as a consequence of lack of maintenance and on-purpose destruction. Garcilaso indicates that he saw just one of them: the last one that Dominican monks used to irrigate their vegetable garden. Since 1975, the convent and church were reconstructed, at the same time some archaeological digs were performed too; they finally made possible finding one of the 5 original fountains. It is located lower and before the “solar round building”; water still flows through its finely carved channels. It is possible that in the future remains of the other fountains described by Garcilaso will be found. Until 1990 most of the Solar Garden’s space was covered by different buildings; thanks to a law that was put into effect by the end of the 80s, the central government and especially the Qosqo’s Municipality bought the lands and houses of the sector and some archaeological works were carried out. The aim was to uncover our past and make known the so little that is left from the complex’s greatness; which as Spanish soldier Cieza de Leon wrote “… finally, it was one of the rich temples existing in the world.”

In the middle of the cloister’s central patio is an eight sided fountain carved in a single andesite piece that according to some historians it has Inkan manufacture. However, its shape and characteristics are not classical in Inkan stonemasonry. Therefore, if it was carved in Inkan times it must had another shape that was transformed in colonial times. Also today, around the archways there is a collection of canvases representing the life of Saint Dominic Guzman painted by anonymous local Cusquenian School artists.

After the distribution of houses and palaces during the Spanish invasion, the Qorikancha corresponded to Juan Pizarro who donated it to the Dominican Order represented by the first bishop of Qosqo City Fray Vicente Valverde. He immediately executed construction of their church and convent over the most important Inkan Temple demolishing it almost completely for adapting it to its new use. That original church was destroyed by an earthquake on March 31, 1650. Subsequently, the present-day structure was raised as well as the tower in 1780 with an elaborate baroque under direction of Fray Francisco Muñoz. On May 21st. 1950 another violent earthquake destroyed a large part of the convent and church as well as its tower leaving uncovered many Inkan structures and the interior area of the “Solar Round Building”. By that time a strong “Indigenist Movement” suggested the relocation of the church and recovery of the Sun Temple; it is a pity that Catholic Church’s political power did not allow that attempt for clearing the ruins of the major Tawantinsuyo’s sanctuary.


Qosqo Inca’s Sacred Capital


San Blas is today a downtown neighborhood in the city known as the ” Artists’ District”, with narrow and writhing streets, most of them steep. In Inkan times it was one of the most important districts of Qosqo and its name was “T’oqo-kachi” (T’oqo = hollow; kachi = salt). Like the other districts it was inhabited by the Quechua nobility. It seems that the church was erected over an Inkan Sanctuary devoted to cult of the “Illapa” god (Thunder, Lightning and Thunderbolt). It was possibly opened for the first time in 1544 by the city’s second Bishop Juan Solano. Although some other versions say that it was after 1559 as consequence of viceroy Andres Hurtado de Mendoza’s order by which “Indians” had to built churches for their indoctrination in the districts where they lived. Its structure was simple with a rectangular floor plan and mud brick walls, but after the earthquakes in 1650 and 1950 it was partially reinforced with stone walls. It has just one nave and two gates before which there are big plazas; and a stone bell tower constructed after the 1950 earthquake instead of the original made with mud bricks.

Inside the church is one of the greatest jewels of colonial art in the continent: the Pulpit of Saint Blaise; which is a filigree made in cedar wood by expert hands managing a gouge. It is not known with certainty who was the artist or artists that made it, how long the work lasted, neither any other details about it. However, the pulpit is over there as a mute witness of a great Catholic devotion and devoted work. There are enough proofs to assert that it was made carved with funds given by art protector Bishop Manuel Mollinedo y Angulo; therefore, it was by the end of the XVII century. There are serious discrepancies about the identity of the performing artist.

Most authors suggest that it was made by the most famous Quechua woodcarver: Juan Tomas Tuyro Tupaq, that was contemporary and protected of Mollinedo y Angulo, who entrusted him the manufacture of several works. It also could have been work of some other artists contemporary with Mollinedo such as Martin de Torres, Diego Martinez de Oviedo who made the monumental High Altar of the Compañia de Jesus Church, or the Franciscan Luis Montes that made the San Francisco Church’s choir. Oral tradition has its version gathered by Angel Carreño who in his “Cusquenian Traditions” manuscript had stated in writing the name Esteban Orcasitas as the pulpit’s author; but, for the 1st. edition of his book the name was changed by that of Juan Tomas Tuyrutupa. Tuyrutupa was Quechua and Cusquenian, but according to that traditional version he was a leper woodcarver from Huamanga (Ayacucho). The story tells that once he had in his dreams a revelation of the “Holy Virgin of the Good Happening” who told him that if he wanted to get healed from his leprosy he had to look for her in the small plaza of Arrayanpata in Qosqo City. After a long journey and many mishaps, one day he found her painted on a wall after that the roofing of the “Lirpuy-Phaqcha” chapel fell in. Falling on his knees and weeping he invoked her, as the Virgin’s rosary became rose petals with which he rubbed hard his whole body remaining thus completely healed. The piece of wall containing the painting was cut and moved to the Saint Blaise Church, then people agreed upon to build an altarpiece and a pulpit for the Virgin. The grateful Quechua woodcarver committed himself to make the pulpit without charging any money for the work estimated in 1400 pesos. The work took him 4 years of hard labor with wood from an enormous cedar tree that was cut in the Kusipata square (present-day Regocijo). But, when finishing his work the woodcarver failed his oath as he asked the church’s curate for 70 pesos in order to lionize a Cusquenian half-breed woman. After fastening the Saint Paul statue over the pulpit’s sounding board, he stumbled and fell off dying soon after. His corpse was buried under the pulpit but some time later it was taken out and his skull placed before the feet of the Saint Paul sculpture, where it is seen today.

As any other normal pulpit, that of Saint Blaise has a balcony (basin), a thorax (main body), a sounding board (cupola), and a gallery (entrance). The Basin is spherical and supported by a bronze structure

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