The Inca civilization has heavily marked the Andean region, the famous culture left a prevailing legacy and impressive historical monuments that depict their engineering evolution. The Coricancha Temple was one of the most significant worship centers during the Inca era, where they portrayed an extensive astronomical knowledge and the sediments of their religious cults.
The so-called Temple of the Sun is one of the most visited attractions in Cusco, it comprehends a mixture of Colonial and Inca characteristics, where the immersion of these two cultures collide and gives us an extraordinary structure.
Due to the impressive engineering techniques used in this ancient Inca shrine, part of it has remained and withstood centuries of earthquakes. Although much of the Coricancha Temple was destroyed during the Spanish conquest, the chronicles have guarded the heritage of the site, which allows us to know even more of this lost-in-battle treasure.
Nowadays, the famous Inca temple serves as the foundations of the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo, a catholic structure built after the Spanish gained control over Cusqueñan lands. However, part of its remains have been preserved as well as astonishing gold ornaments that are showcased in the site’s museum.
During the pre-Columbian era, the ancient temple had another name. According to historians, its original Inca denomination was Inticancha (Temple of the Sun), given by the founder of the Inca Empire, Manco Capac.
The first Inca ordered the construction of this shrine, making it the most important cult center of the famous civilization. Later, it was reconstructed by Pachacutec who then covered the walls with pure gold. Therefore, he changed the site’s name to Qorikancha, a Quechua word that means Golden Temple.
Qoricancha was divided into four sectors where they used to worship the Inti (Sun), Killa (Moon), Chaska (Stars), and Illapa (Thunder/Lightning/Rainbow) Gods, the principal deities of the culture.
However, this ceremonial center was primarily dedicated to the Sun God “Inti,” where its main chamber was thoughtfully designed to allow sunlight during the solstice and equinoxes, making it one of the perfect examples of the ancient astronomical knowledge of the Incas.
The Incas were also known for their urbanistic organization since the prehispanic Imperial City of Cusco was built to resemble the shape of a cougar, where the Coricancha Temple was located in the symbolic heart of the animal.
In addition, the overall structure of the sanctuary was built to resist seismologic movements. Each wall had a mild inward inclination and each stone was perfectly carved and put together without the use of any type of mortar.
According to the Spanish chronicles, the Coricancha temple’s gold ornaments represented the sweat of the Sun god, whilst the silver decoration depicted the Moon’s tears. Unfortunately, most of these precious items were robbed by the Spanish colonizers.
During the Spanish conquest, Atahualpa, the last ruling Inca, was captured and the hispanic invaders asked for the remaining gold pieces of Coricancha in return. The ancient culture made the payment but the Spanish didn’t keep their word and executed Atahualpa in 1533.
As the Inca Empire’s power was dimming, the Spanish gained even more control over their lands, afterwards, they finally conquered Cusco and distributed the lots among the Spanish elite. The Qorikancha lands were owned by Juan Pizarro who donated it to the Dominican Order of the Catholic Church.
The Dominicans later constructed the current religious building we have today, the Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo, using the ancient temple as its sediments. It was finished in 1633 but was heavily struck by an earthquake in 1650 though the Inca structure survived the seismic activity, a late but renowned victory to this famous civilization.
As aforementioned, this was the principal cult center of the Incan empire, therefore, the site was composed of 4 temples dedicated to the divine Gods of this culture:
• Temple of the Sun: It was the most important shrine of the complex, where they used to worship the Sun God Inti, represented by the Wiracocha God, the principal deity of the Inca culture.
According to the chronicles, the Temple of the Sun was entirely covered in gold. Here was an important statue called Punchao, ornamented with encrusted jewels, a royal headband, with snakes and cougars carved on his body.
Another important item in this temple was a giant mask with zig-zagging rays that represented the sun. The Incas implemented their astronomical knowledge in this temple in a way that the sunrays of the winter solstice could hit directly to this monument and lit an specific part of the shrine, which was reserved for the current Inca emperor only.
• Temple of the Moon: In the Andean cosmovision, the moon was considered the “Wife of the Sun,” this female deity was believed to be the protector of women and marriage. This particular temple was covered in silver, which according to the Inca mythology, were the tears of the moon.
Unfortunately, there is not much information about this important shrine since it was completely destroyed and sacked by the Spaniards.
• Temple of the Stars or Venus: The Incas used to believe that the stars were the children of the Moon and Sun. This temple was used as a worship center to this small deity, and according to archeologists, the Incas performed sacrifices and offerings in this sector.
• Temple of the Rainbow: Another important shrine inside the Coricancha Archeological Site. During the Inca era, it was a enclosured room covered in gold, just as the Inti worship center. The rainbow used to be an important deity to this famous culture since it they believed it came from the Sun.
To visit the so-called Golden Temple is as easy as being in the Cusco Historic Center since it is located a few blocks away from Plaza de Armas, at a 10-minute walking distance to be exact. The Coricancha Temple is located within the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo.
The whole Inca-Colonial complex extends all the way to the Av. El Sol, the main street in Cusco’s old town. This imposing structure is an eye-catch to anyone that passes by it. However, the famous temple remains as a paid tourist attraction and it’s not included in the Cusco Tourist Ticket.
If planning to experience this authentic structure at its fullest, we highly recommend visiting it on a guided tour, so you don’t miss any details between the Inca and Colonial side of this historical monument.
- Address: Calle Ahuacpinta 192, Cusco.
- Entrance: To visit this archeological site, you must purchase the entrance ticket, which has a cost of S/. 15.00 per adult or S/. 8.00 per student.
- Operating Hours: Monday to Saturday from 08:30h to 17:30h / Sundays from 14:00h to 17:00h.
All our travel packages include an exclusive tour through the main archeological sites of Cusco, and the Coricancha temple is one of them. Uncover the enigmas of the Cusqueñan lands with Viagens Machu Picchu and live an authentic experience through Peru.
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