Cathedral of Santo Domingo, Cusco
Preceding the construction of the Cathedral was 'Kiswarkanchar,' on the foundations of which Santo Domingo was built. Kiswarkanchar was the Inca palace of Viracocha, (the king of Cusco around a century before the Spanish discovered Cusco) who was named after Viracocha, the creator figure in Inca Mythology. Near to the Kiswarkanchar was the 'Suntur Wasi,' which was an armoury and heraldry centre for the Inca royalty. When the Spanish Conquistadores arrived in Cusco, the palace of Viracocha was identified as a location for a Catholic cathedral, and therefore Kiswarkanchar was destroyed.
Cathedral of Santo Domingo
The Cathedral's construction began in 1559, and the foundations of Kiswarkanchar were used as foundations for the latin cross-shaped cathedral. The location of Viracocha's palace was chosen for the purpose of removing the Inca religion from Cusco, and replacing it with Spanish catholic christianity. Due to the fact that 1559 was only 26 years after the conquistadores entered Cusco in 1533, the vast majority of the population was still of Quechua Inca descent. Therefore, as the Spaniards had assumed power over the Cusco populace, the Incas were used as a labour workforce to build the Cathedral.
The original designs for the 1-acre (4,000 m2) large construction were drawn by the Spanish architect and conquistador, Juan Miguel de Veramendi. His design of a latin cross shape incorporated a three-aisled nave which was held up by only 14 pillars. Over the 95 years of its construction, the building work was supervised by more Spanish priests and architects, until its completion in 1654.
Most of the stones from the building were taken from Saqsaywaman, an Inca holy and defensive structure located on the hills above Cusco, although due to the large size of Saqsaywaman, a considerable proportion of the site remains intact.
The gothic-renaissance style of architecture employed in the design of the cathedral reflects that of Spain during the period of the Spanish conquest of South America and also Cusco. There is also evidence of a baroque influence in the magnificent facade facing onto the Plaza de Armas.
Due to the resentful feelings felt by the conquered Incas towards the Spaniards, the Inca workforce incorporated much of their religious symbolism into the construction of the cathedral, for example, the carved head of a puma (an important god or religious motif found widely through much of ancient Peru) on the cathedral doors.
There are many holy Christian artefacts within the Cathedral, some of which are incredibly fine pieces of antique colonial craftsmanship. Here is a list of some of these:
- Altar. There are two altars in the cathedral, the original lambran (alder-tree) one at the very back, and in front of that, the neoclassical beaten embossed silver altar being used currently. The silver altar was originally cedar wood covered in gold flakes, but in 1803 (according to the inscription on the front of the silver panel), Heras Bishop donated the silver to be beaten and applied to the altar.
- Maria Angola Bell. The right tower of the cathedral supports the famous 'Maria Angola,' a bell that is 2.15 metres high, and weighs approximately 5980kgs. Cast in 1659, and named, according to local tradition, after an Angolan slave who threw gold into the crucible where the bell was being made. Today, the bell is cracked and is only rung on special occasions, although it has been claimed that it was once heard ringing from over 20 miles away.
- Sacristy. The sacristy, a highly decorated part of the cathedral, displays a large collection of allegoric paintings by Marcos Zapata from the 18th century. Also, there are many portraits of Cusco's bishops, beginning with Vicente de Valverde (see 'artwork'), who was the very first resident bishop of Cusco. Within the sacristy, a large, dark painting of the crucifixion that is commonly attributed to the Dutch artist, Anthony Van Dyck, despite the claims of some local guides who believe it is the work of the Spanish Alonso Cano, from the 1600s.
Much of the artwork in the cathedral originated from the 'Escuela Cuzquena,' (Cuzco school) of art. This was a school that was built by the Spanish to educate the Incas and their descendants with the methods and disciplines of European renaissance style artwork. This school was famous throughout the colonial Americas, but the Quechua painters were limited to painting scenes of European and Catholic importance. The restrictions imposed on the Inca artists meant that they were not permitted to sign their own artwork, so much of it is unidentifiable. Here is a list of some of the most notable pieces found within the cathedral:
- Pintura Senor de los Temblores. The oldest surviving painting in Cusco, which depicts the whole of the ancient city during the 1650 earthquake. Many of the townspeople can be seen carrying a crucifix (see the 'Cathedral Artefacts' section) around the Plaza de Armas, praying for the tremor to end.
- Vicente de Valverde. A portrait of the friar who became a bishop at Cusco, after accompanying Francisco Pizarro on his conquests.
- Christ's 12 Parables. An incomplete collection of twelve paintings by the Quechuan artist Diego Quispe T'ito. There were initially twelve canvases (completed in 1681) to depict the twelve months and zodiac symbols of the year, incorporating the parables of Jesus into the pictures.
Iglesia de la Compania de JesusDuring the construction of this church in 1571, the Jesuits who were building it decided to make it the most magnificent of Cusco's churches. The archbishop of Cusco then argued that it should not be allowed to compete with the splendor of the cathedral, and the conflict became so large that the pope at the time, Pope Paul III was called on to deliberate over the matter and give a verdict. By the time the message had reached the pope in The Vatican in Europe, and his message had returned to South America, the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus was almost finished, which is why it has such an ornate frontal facade.
Iglesia del Triunfo
The Church of Triumph, to use its English translation, was built in 1536, just three years after the conquistadores settled in Cusco. It was built over 'Suntur Wasi,' which was an Inca ceremonial building adjoining the palace of Viracocha, in a similar way to the way that the Cathedral of Santo Domingo is now adjoined to the earlier Iglesia del Triunfo.
The name of the 'Church of Triumph' derives from the history of the Spanish settlers in Cusco. At one point, presumably between 1533, and 1536, the Spanish were cornered by a besieging army of Incas, led by Manko Inka. The final stand for the Spanish was in the Suntur Wasi, before its demolition, and just as it seemed that they were on the verge of defeat, the Spanish miraculously managed to drive back the Incas. The Catholic conquistadores attribute this victory to Saint James the Greater (the patron saint of Spain), who was reported at the time to descend from heaven to drive back the Quechua Incas. This is why the church is called the 'Church of Triumph,' and also why there is a statue of St. James atop a horse within the Church, depicting him slaying an Inca.
To view the cathedral in 'Google Maps' go here.
The Cathedral is on the Plaza de Armas of Cusco, which is economically central to the city, but geographically in the north-west area of the city, close to Saqsaywaman, atop the hill that rises above Cusco. Cusco is in the Cusco Province in south central Peru, which is on the west coast of South America.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Rough Guide to Peru, Dilwyn Jenkins, pp 254/255, 6th Edition, 2006.
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Cathedral of Cusco City
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Peru, Lonely Planet, Sara Benson, pp 230/231, 6th Edition, 2007.
- ↑ Peru, Lonely Planet, Sara Benson, pp 222/223, 6th Edition, 2007
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Cusco - Cathedral Of Cuzco - Peru
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Lat - Long Finder: This page helps you find Latitude and Longitude