Churches of Cusco

Cusco church

The Cathedral

The first cathedral in Cusco was built in 1539 in the "Suntur Wasi", and was known at the time as the church of victory. Later between the years 1560 and 1664 a new cathedral was constructed on the site of "Kiswar Kancha", the palace of Inca Wiraqocha.

The design is constituted by a latin-cross base, the façade has a Renaissance style, very ornamental, and it contains the best manifestations of colonial goldsmith and wood carving, as well as a valuable collection of canvases from the Escuela Cusqueña. There are two auxiliary chapels on its both sides: Capilla del Triunfo of Jesus, Maria and Jose. Located in the center of Cusco on the Plaza de Armas, Cusco's massive stone cathedral is well worth a visit. The Cusco Cathedral houses an impressive collection of art work, with over 400 paintings from the Escuela Cusquena. These paintings from the 16th and 17th century are unique in that they are European style with an obvious Andean Indian influence. This can be seen for example, in The Last Supper by Marcos Zapata, which shows the apostles dining on guinea pig. Also of note in the Cathedral are the 400 kg main altar made from silver, the cedar choir stalls, and other wood carvings.

Company of Jesus

The original church was constructed in 1571 on the plots of the ancient Amarukancha, palace of Inca Wuayna Qhapaq. The earthquake of 1650 caused a terrible damage to the building and it had to be reconstructed about 1688. The original design and the façade are examples of the Andean baroque. It is considered the best example of colonial Baroque architecture in America. The facade, all of carved stones, is spectacular. In the interior there is a beautiful gold altar, which is built over an underground chapel. The church also possesses a collection of sculptures and paintings, such as the wedding of Saint Ignatius Loyola's cousin and a Ñusta of Inca stock.

The Company of Jesus also houses various oil paintings (specially famous, is the one depicting the wedding of San Ignacio de Loyola's nephew with an indigenous princess), and we cannot forget the subterranean passages and galleries.

Church La Merced

Erected in 1536 and rebuilt in 1680 after the great earthquake, the Iglesia de La Merced ranks just below Cusco Cathedral and La Compañía Church in importance. The church and convent were founded by Riña Sebastián de Castañeda in 1535 on a plot donated by the Marquis Francisco Pizarro. La Merced has a beautiful facade and lovely cloisters with a mural depicting the life of the Merced Order's founder, the French St. Pedro Nolasco.

It was the second temple built in Ayacucho (1550). Very antique pieces of the Peruvian colonial art are found there such as Virgen de la Merced, San Pedro de Nolasco, la Dolorosa, and others. The temple was built with only one nave, and the walls as well as the front were built with gray stone and lime. There is an important door at the front of the temple and statues sculpted in rock. There are many colonial paintings inside. Next to the temple there is a Convent, built in 1540, one of the oldest built in the country.

Convent of Santo Domingo

The church of Santo Domingo is built on the ruins of the famous Inca site of Coricancha - Templo del Sol. Coricancha (Q'orikancha), meaning "golden courtyard", was in fact known literally for its gold. Solid gold sheets once lined the temple walls and golden statues and pieces decorated the interior. A large golden sun disc reflected the sun, casting a brilliant light on the temple. The chronicles affirm that they were covered with sheets of gold and silver, with idols and the representation of the sun. Its only tower is profusely carved in the Baroque style. Its interior possesses an excellent collection of paintings in the style of the Cusqueñas School.

Temple of San Blas

The Temple of San Blas was built in the old neighbourhood of "T'oqokachi" in 16th century. In the church you can see extraordinary examples of fine woodcarving in the Spanish churrigueresque style. The pulpit is carved from cedar wood and the main altar is Baroque style.

Located in the Plazoleta of San Blas, the district of the craftsmen, this is one of the eight parishes for "Indians" that the Spaniards built. Its interior is decorated with paintings of the Cusquenian school, with gold leaves and sculptures. The "Púlpito" simply dazzles; it is a most extraordinary example of artistic carpentry of Spanish churrigueresco style, and is carved from a single tree trunk.

Continues on next page »