This beautiful temple can be known as Coricancha, Qoricancha, Qorikancha or Koricancha and it was one of the most important and sacred temples of the Inca empire. Its ruins are located in the Plaza Santo Domingo in Cusco. When the Spanish arrived in Cusco they destroyed most of Qorikancha Temple, and the Santo Domingo Church was built on the foundations and remaining walls of the temple, retaining only a small part of its indigenous beauty.
The word “Coricancha” is formed through the combination of two Quechua words: “quri” which means gold worked in English, and “kancha”, which means temple or place enclosed by walls. This suggests that the temple’s name roughly translates to “Walls of Gold”.
History of 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 eventually strengthened the empire and allowed the state to favor revolutionary movements.
Architecture of 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 styles seen at Qorikancha in the city of Cusco include the vertical slant of the walls, the trapezoidal shape of the structures, the irregular shapes, and the rounded edges, for example.
The stones used to build Coricancha include diorite rocks, andesites, and calcareous rocks. The Inca extracted 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 the architecture of the Inca Empire, the Coricancha stone structure is brilliantly designed to withstand seismic activity. The greater breadth at the bottom, along with a 3-5 degree incline, give the walls a remarkable stability that has withstood centuries of earthquakes.
The staggered, mortar-free laying of the stones also makes them resistant to strong earthquakes. The stones can easily be moved into place, releasing seismic stresses. After an earthquake, they settle and return to their original position. These methods combine to make the structures basically earthquake proof.
Church of Santo Domingo
Above all, Qorikancha in Peru represents the meeting of two worlds. Western religion rises on the foundations of indigenous culture at this site. After the Spanish invasion, Juan Pizarro, the younger brother of the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, obtained ownership of the site.
Upon his death in 1536, he gave the site to the Dominicans. In the 16th century, the church built the Santo Domingo monastery over the sacred Inca temple. Dominicans still own the site today.
To build the church of Santo Domingo, the Spanish used stones and other construction 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 complete with Baroque-style decorative 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 Qorikancha Temple, the Temple of the Sun was the most important. In fact, it was so large that it occupied more than half of the Church of Santo Domingo, which today occupies its place. In this temple, even today you can see the embalmed bodies of the Children of the Sun, which rest on chairs made of gold, placed on a golden table.
Several mummies were found here, and before it was destroyed, the temple was believed to be protected by Mamaconas, the priestess of the Sun. Unfortunately, most of the temple was destroyed by the Spanish to build the church.
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, clad in silver and decorated with depictions of the moon. Sadly, 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 Inca 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 were carried out in the courtyard.
The rainbow was also worshiped by the Incas and it also had a dedicated temple. The Inca believed that rainbows were produced by the sun. Unfortunately, most of this temple was also destroyed to make room for the buildings of the Dominican Convent.
The solar garden
The Solar Garden became almost a warehouse 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 sources and the origin of the water was a secret. Each fountain had a different religious meaning and, in the purest coricancha style, was decorated with beautiful metals.
The Qorikancha Temple admission hours are Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. m. until 5:30 p.m., Sunday from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. We recommend you to take the Tour to Cusco 3 Days that includes the Qoricancha Temple in the route.