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History, Religion and Art: The Cathedral of Cusco

It was built between 1560 and 1664 on Quishuarqancha, the ancient palace of the Inca Viracocha. the Cathedral of Cusco, built with huge stone blocks brought from Sacsayhuaman, is one of the most beautiful and important monuments of the Americas; this historical construction is also considered Nation’s Cultural Heritage and has a combination of unique features such as Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance style.

When the Spaniards arrived in the city, they requested the creation of the Cusco Bishopric in charge of the Friar Vicente de Valverde. For this reason, they began building churches in the city. However, the construction of the cathedral took more than 100 years due to the sites, chosen for construction. First, it was erected where the Iglesia del Triunfo (Church of Triumph) is located now, then it was erected on Cusipata area because of its size, and finally the land of Quishuarqancha was acquired in 1553 where it is today.

The church

The building has the shape of a Latin cross with a façade and interior of Renaissance style. Inside, you can find the best colonial goldsmith and a valuable collection of paintings from the Cusco School. Due to the period when it was built, it was erected in the Gothic-Renaissance style of the great Spanish cathedrals, adding the Baroque style represented in its great front altarpiece and monumental towers

Architecture of the Cathedral of Cusco

The basilica Cathedral of Cusco has a rectangular shape and three sides: Epistle side, Gospel side and Central side matching the three entrances. It also has 15 pillars in the shape of crosses which define the layout of the 24 entrance vault and crossing.

The High Altar is entirely made of silver; the Sacristy consists of forty paintings of Bishops and Archbishops of Cusco. Next to the Cathedral, there are two auxiliary chapels: the Iglesia del Triunfo on the right side and Sagrada Familia on the left side.

Learn more about the churches around the Cathedral

– Jesús, María y José (Temple of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph): It is a small temple which construction began in 1723, and finished within 1733-1735. It has images of the Holy Family on the main façade and its high altar has a Baroque style which is depicted in altarpieces and paintings. It was finally completed in 1737.

– El Triunfo (Church of Triumph): It was named as a memorial of the final victory of the Spaniards against the troops of Manco Inca as it is believed that the Spanish troops were supported by the Virgin and the apostle James, during the time of the conquest. It was built in 1729 – 1733, and inside there is a high altar made of finely carved stone and the “Cross of Conquest”, where the ashes of Inca Garcilaso de la Vega lie.

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