Qorikancha: Exploring The Golden Temple

Qorikancha Exploring The Golden Temple

The most important places to visit in Cusco are many, but one of them is Qorikancha, very close to the center, where you will find the Inca ruins that form the base of the church and convent of Santo Domingo. These ruins were once part of the richest temple in the entire Inca Empire. Today, only the expertly crafted stone masonry remains from the temple originally built in the mid-15th century during the rule of the tenth Inca leader, Túpac Yupanqui. After the Spanish invasion, Francisco Pizarro gave this site to his brother Juan, who then donated it to the Dominican order that still owns and maintains his remains today.

To start, you can see the incredibly well-built stone foundations and walls from the original Inca temple complex. These was literally covered with gold and despite being over 500 years old, exploring these ruins allows you to appreciate the grandeur of the greatest monuments of the mighty Inca civilization before the arrival of the Spanish.

Several important religious rites took place within its walls. It is said that the mummified bodies of former Inca rulers were kept here, brought out daily into the sunlight and presented with food and drink offerings that were later ritually burned. This site also functioned as an observatory, where high priests closely monitored celestial movements and activities. Much of these ancient practices have been lost to time. However, the remaining stonework is considered among the finest examples of Inca masonry in all of Peru.

You'll be able to marvel at the famous curved stone wall that measures over 20 feet tall from both inside and outside the ruins. This extraordinary piece of precision stonemasonry has withstood the many earthquakes that have devastated most colonial buildings in Cusco over the centuries. The original temples and ceremonial spaces no longer remain, exploring Qorikancha allows you to appreciate the incredible stone-cutting abilities of the Incas.

 

The courtyard of the Golden Temple

As you enter the Qorikancha complex, you'll find yourself in a central courtyard area. The octagonal stone basin in the middle was once completely covered in 55kg of solid gold; on either side of the courtyard are the remains of the main ceremonial chambers. The largest one to the right was possibly dedicated to worship of the moon and stars, its interior walls once sheathed in sheets of pure silver. The walls here taper inwards slightly as they rise, exhibiting the distinctive trapezoidal shape that is a hallmark of Inca architecture. The precisely cut and fitted stone blocks make it almost impossible to discern where one block ends and the next begins.

Across the courtyard are smaller chambers that were shrines to deities like thunder and rainbows. In the walls of this section, you'll notice three holes that some scholars believe were drainage channels for liquids used in rituals like blood sacrifices or offerings of chicha (a fermented corn beverage). Others hypothesize they may have been acoustic tubes to project sounds from inside the temple to the outside.

Another intriguing feature is the carefully cobbled stone floor made from river pebbles in front of these shrines – an original Inca surface that has remained intact for centuries.

A tip, as you explore, imagine the sight of the entire complex covered in gold and silver, reflecting the sun's rays. Let the amazing stonework and remaining relics transport you back to when Qorikancha hosted the most sacred rituals and ceremonies of the Inca Empire.

The least important thing is to see the paintings from the colonial era that adorn the walls. These depict scenes from the life of St. Dominic, the namesake of the Dominican religious order that took over this site after the Spanish invasion.

 

The exteriors of Qorikancha and the End

Finally, you will see the meaning of the garden that you saw at the beginning, the gardens or patio of the Qorikancha, this area once served as a sacred courtyard where the Inca people would present their lavish golden offerings during important rituals and ceremonies. Imagine this space completely filled with glittering piles of gold objects and materials given as tributes to the Inca deities worshipped here. The Qorikancha tour will be the starting point of your adventures in Cusco. Kenko Adventures is your best option.

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