Cuzco Churches

Cuzco is a colonial Spanish city built on the remains of the Inca city that was their “center of the world”. After spending several days just wandering the streets we purchased the tourist ticket to visit three of the local churches. Two of them are on the main plaza, The Cathedral and the Iglesia de Compañia. Both of these churches are built on the ruins of Inca Palaces that sided the large Inca plaza. The current central plaza occupies only about one third of the older Inca plaza, buildings and another smaller plaza cover the rest of the Inca plaza. The Spaniards destroyed many of the Inca structures when they conquered the Incas and then reused the stones (and sometimes whole walls) for their churches and other buildings.

The Cathedral complex is actually three churches with the Cathedral in the center. The Cathedral has a silver central altar with its older, carved wooden one hidden behind. It has many gilded side altars like we have seen in other Peruvian churches and on the walls hang many paintings. The two churches that are on either side of it and adjoining it are El Triumfo and Iglesia Sagrada Familia. El Triumfo is the oldest church in Cuzco and is currently used mostly for weddings.

The Jesuit Iglesia de Compañia, which fronts the plaza on the left of the cathedral, is almost as ornate as the cathedral but when the Jesuits were expelled from the New World by the Pope, they took with them major paintings and the organ from this church.

The third church on the ticket, San Blas, is on the hillside up above the city center. It is one of several churches built above the city for the Incas. San Blas has an interesting carved pulpit. We had guides at each of the churches, students from the university, and our guide at San Blas gave a detailed description of the pulpit carvings which contained Inca as well as Christian details.

San Cristobal is another of the hillside Inca churches that we visited, making the trek along the hillside from San Blas, but it was not open.

Cuzco was the center of the Inca empire and Qoricancha (Temple of the Sun) was its center. August 15 we purchased our 10-day tourist ticket to visit many of the museums and nearby archaeological sites. We then took off visiting. First was a little museum off the Qoricancha site. Then it was off to the big site!! The convent of Santo Domingo was constructed over the ruins of Qoricancha. An earthquake in 1950 destroyed enough of the convent that the Inca remains became visible. They began some archaeological digging and found intact Inca walls. The entire site is now open to the public. We spent over an hour looking over the colonial church and the Inca ruins found buried in the cloisters. Some very interesting intact Inca walls divided off Inca rooms that had been buried for years within the walls of the cloisters. Although all the gold and riches had long been melted down and transferred to Spain, a few small pieces were found by the archaeologists and the intricacy of the work showed, with a little imagination, what once was there. Some of the original gold pieces were reported to have been enormous.