This beautiful temple is known as Coricancha, Qoricancha or Koricancha and was one of the most important and sacred temples of the Inca empire. Its ruins are located in the Plaza Santo Domingo in the city of Cusco. When the Spaniards arrived they destroyed most of the Temple of Qorikancha, and the Church of Santo Domingo was built on the foundations and remaining walls of the temple, preserving only a small part of its indigenous beauty. The word “Coricancha” is formed through the combination of two Quechua words: “quri” meaning goldwork, and “kancha”, meaning temple or place enclosed by walls. This suggests that the name of the temple roughly translates as “Walls of Gold”.
History of the Qorikancha Temple
The walls of Qorikancha in the city of Cusco are made of indigenous rocks called calcite and andesite, which gives the structure the perfect finish expected of Inca architecture, and which also means that the structures withstand not only time but natural disasters. The temple has survived not one, but three different major earthquakes that have shaken Cusco. The Inca leader, Huayna Capac, attached special importance to the temple and ordered all wealthy citizens to travel there. This led to a concentration of powerful people in Cusco and ultimately strengthened the empire and allowed the state to favor revolutionary movements.
The architecture of the Qorikancha Temple
The Incas built Qorikancha in the city of Cusco using many of their common architectural techniques and styles. Some of the most prominent architectural styles include the vertical inclination of the walls, the trapezoidal shape of the structures, irregular shapes, and rounded edges, for example.
The stones used to build Coricancha include diorite, andesite and calcareous rocks. The Incas quarried the stones 20 miles from Cusco in the towns of Waqoto and Rumicolca. The Qorikancha Temple is representative of the precise stone masonry technique of the Incas known as sillar. The Inca cut and shaped stones to fit perfectly against each other without mortar. The stones are simply placed one on top of the other with no space between them.
Like all Inca Empire architecture, the Coricancha stone structure is brilliantly designed to withstand seismic activity. The greater width at the bottom, together with a 3-5 degree inclination, give the walls remarkable stability that has withstood centuries of earthquakes. The staggered, mortar-free placement of the stones also makes them resistant to strong earthquakes. The stones can easily move into place, releasing seismic stresses. After an earthquake, they settle and return to their original position. These methods combine to make the structures essentially earthquake-proof.
Church of Santo Domingo
Above all, Qorikancha in Peru represents the meeting of two worlds. Western religion rises above the foundations of indigenous culture at this site. After the Spanish invasion, Juan Pizarro, younger brother of the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, obtained ownership of the site. Upon his death in 1536, he handed the site over to the Dominicans. In the 16th century, the church built the monastery of Santo Domingo over the sacred Inca temple. The Dominicans still own the site today.
To build the church of Santo Domingo, the Spanish used stones and other building materials from the sacred temple of Coricancha. Although the Spanish structure has collapsed several times, the Inca structure remains unchanged and is unaffected by seismic activity.
However, visitors should not ignore the architecture of the church. It is an impressive example of Spanish architecture with decorative baroque-style carvings and vaulted ceilings. Spanish arcades surround the inner courtyard. In addition, the wooden door features Mudejar (Moorish) style carvings. Santo Domingo is the only place in Cusco that represents this style.
Main attractions of Qorikancha in Peru
The Temple of the Sun
Of all the temples of Qorikancha, the Temple of the Sun was the most important. In fact, it was so large that it occupied more than half of the Santo Domingo Church, which now stands in its place. In this temple, even today you can see the embalmed bodies of the Sons of the Sun, resting on chairs made of gold, placed on a golden table. Several mummies were found here, and before it was destroyed, it was believed that the temple was protected by Mamaconas, the priestess of the Sun.
The Temple of the Moon
Not far from the Temple of the Sun is the Temple of the Moon. Considered the wife of the sun, the Temple of the Moon was an important part of Coricancha. The temple itself radiated beauty, dressed in silver and decorated with depictions of the moon. Unfortunately, most of this temple was also destroyed to make room for the Spanish church.
The temple of Venus and the stars
Just as the Sun was God and the Moon was his wife, the stars were the daughters of the Incas and servants of the moon. The temple to celebrate the stars was close to the moon but was separated by a small alley, dedicated to Venus. The Temple of the Stars is where the Inca was deified for festivals, ceremonies, and sacrifices, which took place in the courtyard.
The rainbow was also worshipped by the Incas and also had a dedicated temple. The Incas believed that rainbows were produced by the sun. Unfortunately, most of this temple was also destroyed to make room for the Dominican Convent buildings.
The Solar Garden
The Solar Garden became almost a storehouse for the offerings that the subjects brought to honor the Sun God. It consists of many things such as flowers and other foliage brought from Tahuantinsuyo. Research has suggested that these offerings were made of gold and silver. They were so abundant that they filled the huge garden. During colonial times it became a garden for the Dominican friars.
In the original Qorikancha in Peru, there were 5 different fountains and the origin of the water was a secret. Each fountain had a different religious meaning and, in true Coricancha style, was decorated with beautiful metals.
Admission to the Temple of Qorikancha is from Monday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., on Sundays from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.