The Cathedral of Cusco is one of the most beautiful and significant monuments in America. Built between the years 1560 and 1664 on the Quishuarqancha, the ancient palace of the Inca Huiracocha, with huge blocks of stones brought from Sacsayhuaman, this historic piece is also considered Cultural Heritage of the Nation and brings together a combination of unique characteristics such as its Gothic, Baroque style and Renaissance.
When the Spanish arrived in the city, they requested the creation of the Bishopric of Cusco by Fray Vicente Valverde, it is for this reason that the churches in the city began to be built. However, the construction of the cathedral took more than 100 years due to the locations they had to position it. First it would rise on the site that today occupies the Church of Triumph, then in the Cusipata area due to its size, to finally acquire the Quishuarqancha land in 1553.
The Cathedral of Cusco is located on the north side of the Plaza de Armas, in the historic center of the city.
The Cathedral of Cusco is divided into three temples: the church of El Triunfo (1536), the oldest, the temple of the Sagrada Familia (1723) and the Cathedral Basilica of Cusco (1560).
Construction in the shape of a Latin cross and with a facade and interior in Renaissance style, in it are the best expressions of colonial goldwork, as well as a valuable collection of canvases from the Cusco School. Due to the period in which it was built, it inherits in its construction the Gothic - Renaissance of the great Spanish Cathedrals, adding the Baroque style represented in its large altarpiece portal and monumental towers.
Rectangular in shape of basilical type, the Cathedral of Cusco has three naves: nave of the epistle, nave of the gospel and the central nave, which coincide with the three doors on the façade. It also has fourteen cruciform pillars that define the distribution of the twenty-four entrance vaults and that of the transept.
The High Altar is made entirely of silver, the Sacristy is made up of forty canvases of the Bishops and Archbishops of Cusco. Alongside it is accompanied by two auxiliary chapels, on the right side the El Triunfo church and on the left the Sagrada Familia.
Below the main altar you will find a small arched crypt. It contains the ashes of many deceased Cusco archbishops. It should be noted that in the church of El Triunfo the crypt is exhibited where the remains of the chronicler Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (author of ‘The Royal Commentaries of the Incas’) rest. The crypt has a portion of the ashes of the Cusco writer. The other half is in Spain.
The silver room - This section of the church is also known as 'The silver room'. It is a small side chapel that contains a varied collection of religious objects made of precious stones, gold and, above all, silver. Among these objects you will find an embossed silver coffin used to carry the statue of the 'Lord of tremors'. Another element is a large trellis used during the famous 'Corpus Christi' celebration that weighs up to 160 kilos.
The walls of the Cathedral are full of canvases from the famous Cusco school of painting, which originated during the colonial era. Highlights ‘The Last Supper’, a work made by the Cusco master Marcos Zapata. It measures 5 x 4 meters. The painting replaces some characteristics of the original work, due to Andean customs and beliefs, such as the vizcacha. This Andean rodent was considered the guardian of lakes and mountains.
The choir stalls are one of the most famous attractions of the Cathedral. It is located in the lower part of the central nave. It is made of pure cedar, in the ‘neo-archaic’ style, which was the style used in Spain between the 15th and 17th centuries. The seating is formed on three sides: by double-row seats on the sides and a single row on the central piece. The backs attached to the walls with half-relief carvings with figures of saints stand out.
The statue of a crucified brown Christ is an emblem of the Cathedral as well as of Christianity in Peru. An ancient legend tells that when the statue was transferred from Europe to Peru, a fierce storm threatened the lives of the people on board the ship. Despair at impending death caused the crew to put the statue on its feet. Instantly, the storm ended. Another legend tells that, after the devastating earthquake of 1650, the statue caused the aftershocks to cease. For all this, he became the main religious figure in the city of Cusco.
The sacristy is one of the most outstanding rooms in the Cathedral. It is located on the right side of the main altar. Its walls are dominated by the portraits of all the bishops of Cusco, from Vicente de Valverde (1499 - 1541) to the most recent bishops. Among the other treasures in this room, the ‘Cristo de la agonía’ stands out, a huge carved cedar altarpiece, which stands out for its realism, expressiveness and fine workmanship.