Qoriqancha - Santo Domingo Convent, Cusco
Koricancha (Inca Temple of the Sun):
Santo Domingo was built in the 17th century on the walls of the Koricancha Temple of the Sun. The uninspiring Baroque decoration of Santo Domingo makes a poor contrast to the superbly crafted Inca masonry - infact much of the cloister has been gutted to reveal four of the original chambers of the great Inca Temple. The finest Inca stonework in existence today is the curved wall beneath the west end of the Church. In Inca times the walls of the Koricancha were lined with 700 solid-gold sheets weighing two kilos a piece. There were life-size gold and silver replicas of corn, golden llamas, figurines and jars. All that remains is the stonework; the conquistadors took the rest - unfortunately all the exquisite treasures ended up in the crucible; nothing survived. However the fist conquistadors to arrive did not remove the holiest religious symbol of the empire, the golden sun disc, though they reported its existence. This solid gold disc, far larger than a man, mysteriously vanished before the main party of Spaniards arrived. It has never been found to the present day. The disc was positioned to catch the morning sun and throw its rays into the gold-lined temple, filling it with radiant light and bathing the mummies of the dead Inca rulers in sunshine which were seated in niches along the walls.
The entire temple complex was also an intricate celestial observatory. Every summer solstice, the sun's rays shine directly into a niche - the tabernacle - in which only the Inca was permitted to sit. Along with the main temple dedicated to the Sun, there were others for the adoration of lesser deities - the Moon, Venus, Thunder and Lightning, and the Rainbow.
This was the main temple of the Quechuas in the Valley of Cusco, dedicated to the Agriculture Gods. When the Spaniards came, they proceeded to destroy Inca temples and build churches in their place. However, when the earthquake of 1650 came, it destroyed all the churches and none of the remaining Inca temples. They thus learned that the Incas had a special way of putting the stones together, sort of like a puzzle, that "survived" earthquakes. After that, they kept the foundations of the Inca temples and built churches on top, just like they did with Qoricancha.
The most amazing place I visited within Cusco is probably the Church of Santo Domingo, which was built on top of the Temple of the Sun. The mix of Spanish Architecture and Incaic Architecture, both on the inside and outside, is stunning. The actual temple of the sun lies on top of a nice curved circular Incaic wall outside with perfect Imperial Incaic stonework (accessed from the inside of course).
The Temple of the Sun was the principal and probably the most imposing edifice, not only in Cuzco, but in all Peru.
The Temple of the Sun was constructed on an elevation with several terraces which formed the Coricancha (Enclosure of Gold). On the top there were a group of tempels dedicated to diferent gods, and the greatest of them was the Temple of the Sun (Inti-Huasi). Its length was 296 feet and its breadth about 52 feet.
The Christian church built on the top of the Inca Temple dates from the 16th century. Very little is left of the original Inca building, but you can still admire the exquisite work on the black polished stones.
Santo Domingo, like most of Cusco, is built on the foundation of Inca walls. This photo of the grounds of Santo Domingo clearly show the old Inca walls
The plaza in front of the convent is very representative of Spanish Colonial architecture. This shows the front of the chapel that marks the entrance to the convent.
Inside the courtyard of the convent, you can see the mixture of the Spanish convent and the Inca temple.
On the photo you see parts of the old wall of the Inca building that has been destroyed unto these basic walls by the spaniards and than overbuild as the Convent St Domingo.
Below the curved wall there was a sacred garden with animals, maize and other plants, all made of gold and silver.
Built on the former Inca ruins of Coriacancha and though destroyed twice by earthquakes, it has lovely gardens and was our favorite church visit.