Of the numerous attractions in Cusco, this should be on the top of your list. Once home to nearly 4,000 of the Empireâ€™s highest ranking priests and their attendants, Qoricancha was an extraordinary display of Inca masonry and wealth. Dedicated to the worship of the sun, the Temple of the Sun was the main astronomical observatory for the Incas. The complex also included smaller temples and shrines dedicated to the worship of less important deities of the moon, Venus, thunder, lightning and rainbows. In Quechua its name means Golden Courtyard, which is an appropriate title for a temple once adorned with gold panels, life-size gold figures, solid gold altars and a gigantic golden sun disc all intended to reflect sunlight and drench the entire temple in golden light. During the summer, light enters a strategically placed niche, where only the Inca Chieftan was allowed to sit.
When the Spanish ransacked the city during their conquests, this glorious shrine to the sun was stripped of its golden accoutrements and most of its aesthetic glory. The Temple of the Sun was awarded to Juan Pizarro, younger brother of Francisco, who willed it to the Dominicans after he was wounded during the siege of SacsayhuamÃ¡n. Eventually the templeâ€™s carefully constructed stones were used as the foundation for the Convent of Santo Domingo, a baroque church built in the 17th century.Modern Qoricancha and Santo Domingo
Today the site of Qoricancha and Santo Domingo is a magnificent testament to the cultural collision that occurred when the Spanish descended upon the Inca Empire. Recent excavations have uncovered five chambers once belonging to the temple, in addition to some of the best stonework visible in Cusco. The 6-meter curved wall beneath the west end of the church, which has withstood repeated earthquakes, is perhaps the best example of Inca masonry this site offers. Excavations below this wall have uncovered a garden of gold and silver animals, as well as maize and other plants. Another remarkable stretch of Inca masonry extends from Calle Ahuacpinta, located outside the temple to the east of the entrance. Though not as spectacular as either Qoricancha or Santo Domingo, the nearby Museo de Sitio Qoricancha offers visitors a chance to further investigate and explore the development of Inca and Spanish cultures in the area.
Plazoleta Santo Domingo
Historical Building Types:
Site of historic significance, Historic architecture, Spiritual/Religious
Relative price: Budget
Open Hours from:Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m., Sunday, 2 p.m.
Open Hours to:Monday-Saturday, 5 p.m., Sunday, 4 p.m.
Travel Skills: None