Cuzco — the Inca capital city of Qosqo (“Navel”, or “Center” in English), Peru

Welcome to the Andes region of Peru -- postcard in Cuzco (in English, Cusco), Peru

Welcome to the Andes region of Peru — postcard in Cuzco (in English, Cusco), Peru

For many of us from homes outside of South America, Cuzco, Peru is almost synonymous with the Andes Mountains and is known as the “gateway” to Machu Picchu (where one boards the train for the ride to Machu Picchu).  For contemporary tourists, that is certainly true, but the significance of the city is much deeper.

 

Plaza de Armas, Cuzco's main square, in the heart of the city -- formerly the Center of the Inca's Andean World, Peru

Plaza de Armas, Cuzco’s main square, in the heart of the city — formerly the Center of the Inca’s Andean World, Peru

Cuzco (“Cusco” in English) is Peru’s historical “Capital City” and was given recognition by UNESCO as “Humanity’s Cultural Patrimony” in 1983.  While the city was already in existence before the Inca Empire (1400s to the mid-1500s when the Spanish conquerors defeated the Incas), for the Incas it was not only the capital of the Empire, but also the Andean world’s most important sacred city.  The Inca (“King”, in English) Pachakuteq, gave the city the shape of a puma (mountain lion or cougar) and was responsible for the construction of numerous temples and public buildings, in addition to the city wall.

Templo de la Compañía de Jesús (Church of the Society of Jesus), a historic Jesuit church in Cuzco, Peru

Templo de la Compañía de Jesús (Church of the Society of Jesus), a historic Jesuit church in Cuzco, Peru

After the Spanish conquered the Incas, they destroyed many of the Inca buildings and temples, using their foundations as the foundation of new Spanish churches and public buildings and “recycled” many of the cut granite stones and smaller natural stones for use as building materials.

A side entrance to Templo de la Compañía de Jesús (Church of the Society of Jesus), a historic Jesuit church in Cuzco, Peru

A side entrance to Templo de la Compañía de Jesús (Church of the Society of Jesus), a historic Jesuit church in Cuzco, Peru

 

A local Cuzco woman at the Templo de la Compañía de Jesús (Church of the Society of Jesus), Cuzco, Peru

A local Cuzco woman at the Templo de la Compañía de Jesús (Church of the Society of Jesus), Cuzco, Peru

 

Belfries of the chapel of the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin, also known as Cusco Cathedral, Cuzco, Peru

Belfries of the chapel of the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin, also known as Cusco Cathedral, Cuzco, Peru

 

The Cathedral was constructed from March 11, 1560 and took 94 years to complete (concluding in July 1654),  Many of the stones used in its construction came from the Incan temple above Cuzco, Sacsaywama, and the Incan palace, Kiswaekancha, upon whose foundations the Cathedral was built.

Local woman selling fruit on a street corner in Cuzco, Peru

Local woman selling fruit on a street corner in Cuzco, Peru

 

 

The Church and Convent of Santo Domingo which was built on top of the Inca Quorikancha temple, housing a portion of the Inca Temple of the Sun, Cuzco, Peru

The Church and Convent of Santo Domingo which was built on top of the Inca Quorikancha temple, housing a portion of the Inca Temple of the Sun, Cuzco, Peru

The Spanish did save a small section of the Quorikancha, or “Temple of the Sun”, when they built the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo on top of the Incan temple’s foundations.  That church is the oldest in South America.  The Quorikancha was the most important temple in the Inca Empire, dedicated primarily to Inti, the Sun God.  It was one of the most revered temples of the capital city of Cuzco.

A surviving wall of Qorikancha (the Inca Temple of the Sun in Cuzco, the most important, wealthy and sacred Inca Temple), now within the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo, Cuzco, Peru

A surviving wall of Qorikancha (the Inca Temple of the Sun in Cuzco, the most important, wealthy and sacred Inca Temple), now within the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo, Cuzco, Peru

While it is hard to tell from the photograph above, the Incan stone walls were built by fitting the stones tightly together (all carved by hand, many with mortise and tenon joints).  Archaeologists have come up with very plausible explanations of how the Incas quarried, moved, carved and erected the stones to create their stunning temples and royal buildings.  It should be noted that the more common buildings were constructed out of natural (undressed), smaller stones (not always granite), giving the religious and royal buildings the elevated status they warranted.

A gold relief sculpture in the Inca Temple of the Sun (Qorikancha), illustrating the cults of the Temple of Qorikancha, Cuzco, Peru

A gold relief sculpture in the Inca Temple of the Sun (Qorikancha), illustrating the cults of the Temple of Qorikancha, Cuzco, Peru

 

A portion of a foundation wall from the mid-1400s, illustrating the exquisite stone masonry, craftsmanship and architecture of the Incas, Cuzco, Peru

A portion of a foundation wall from the mid-1400s, illustrating the exquisite stone masonry, craftsmanship and architecture of the Incas, Cuzco, Peru

 

5 thoughts on “Cuzco — the Inca capital city of Qosqo (“Navel”, or “Center” in English), Peru

  1. Hello from Park City – Wonderful post and beautiful photography! Captures this amazing city perfectly. Have a merry Christmas! Ali and Mike

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment. More of the area to follow! We enjoyed our brief time together and hope our travels cross again in the future! Best wishes for the holidays. We can see snow now on the Chilean Patagonian fjord mountains and we’re homesick for Park City and CO skiing!
      Rich

      Like

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