The church of La Merced is one of the religious temples of Cusco built during the colonial era. It is famous for its beautiful architecture with stairs, domes and bell towers. However, its greatest attraction are its internal relics, where a monstrance of 22 kilos and 1.25 meters high stands out, which is made of gold, diamonds, pearls, rubies and emeralds. It is one of the most valuable jewels of Peru. It is located a few steps from the Plaza de Armas of the city.
The church and convent of La Merced, whose original construction dates back to the mid-16th century, is one of the oldest in the city of Cusco
The church and convent of La Merced (also known as the Minor Basilica of La Merced) is a colonial religious temple built in the city of Cusco during the 16th century but, due to the 1650 earthquake, it was rebuilt in 1670. It belongs to the Mercedarian order , which arrived in Cuzco in 1535.
The architecture of the temple has baroque characteristics. It consists of a single nave with a large dome and a side door. The cloisters of the convent exhibit museographic pieces where relics stand out such as canvases from the 'Cusco school of painting', colonial furniture, a tabernacle, a chandelier and a silver tabernacle. However, its greatest treasure is its custody, 22 kilos and 1.25 meters high, adorned with: gold, diamonds, pearls, rubies and emeralds.
Every 'Holy Monday', the image of the Lord of earthquakes (the most important dedication in the city) is carried on a litter to the church of La Merced where it stops for 1 hour. During this period, a mass is celebrated and the effigy's habit is changed.
According to some chronicles The convent and church of La Merced was built on the foundations of an important palace belonging to a "coya" Inca princess, who was revered by the inhabitants of Tahuantinsuyo. Like most colonial churches, this one was built on places venerated by the Incas. Thus, the Spaniards sought to replace indigenous worship with the new Christian religion.
The church and convent of La Merced is located in front of the Espinar square, 250 meters southwest of the Plaza de Armas in the city of Cusco.
The best way to get to the church of La Merced is to go on foot. You can walk from anywhere in the historic center of Cusco (250 meters from the Plaza de Armas).
The Mercedarian order arrived in Cusco in 1535. Thanks to the initiative of Fray Sebastián de Castañeda y Trujillo, the donation of the land granted by Francisco Pizarro located in the Cusipata square was obtained. Then the construction of the house and temple began, modest constructions at first. Diego de Almagro (father and son) and Gonzalo Pizarro were buried there in the 16th century.
In 1650 a strong earthquake shook the city of Cusco, causing damage to the original church of La Merced. Between 1651 and 1670, the reconstruction of the temple was carried out. In later years the tower and one of the cloisters of the convent were implemented. The enclosure was used as an enclosure of the Mercedarian order in Cusco. Finally, after the 1950 earthquake, the final renovations were made until it adopted the shape it currently has.
Currently, the church and convent of La Merced is one of the most visited churches in Cusco. It has an important collection of canvases and treasures, where its custody stands out, made of gold and precious stones (one of the most valuable pieces in Peru and South America). The place offers different types of events such as dinners, masses, weddings, anniversaries and more.
The church and convent of La Merced are built following the Baroque tradition. There are two entrance doors (the main one in front of the Espinar square). Its only tower is crowned by a bell tower with Corinthian columns. The main cloister, the most important, is made of stone, although it was decorated following the characteristics of wood carving. There is currently a set of museographic objects. The entire set of buildings reaches several blocks and adjoins Mantas, San Bernardo, Almagro streets and El Sol avenue.
The interior of the La Merced church has some of the most valuable pieces in Cusco. Among his most important canvases are: 'Pedro de Nolasco in the arms of some angels', 'Coronation of our mother', 'Representation of our mother from La Merced'.
Among the gold and silver works, the following stand out: 'Menora or Jewish candelabra' (made of silver), 'El sagrario' (with Solomonic columns and covered in silver) as well as 'La Custody of La Merced', which is made of gold of 24 carats and encrusted with up to 1,518 diamonds, 615 precious stones (including emeralds, rubies and topazes) as well as a large mermaid pearl, the second largest on the planet. Custody measures 1.25 meters and weighs 22 kilos.
The main altar presents Corinthian columns covered with gold sheets. In the center stands out the image of the Virgen de las Mercedes as well as the images of the Lord of Huanca, the Cross of Father Urraca and more.
The visit costs 15 Peruvian soles per person (approximately 5 US dollars). Admission to the church is free during mass hours (Saturdays and Sundays 7 am and 7 pm).
From Monday to Saturday from 8 in the morning until noon. Also from 2 in the afternoon until 5 in the afternoon.
Tourist visits inside the church of La Merced have an optional tour guide service (for a cost of approximately 15 Peruvian soles).
Within the convent of La Merced, one of its most famous enclosures is the 'Cell of Father Salamanca', a cloister where Francisco Salamanca lived and died. The walls of this cell are covered with murals of Biblical scenes. Father Salamanca died with a reputation for holiness.
The canvases that adorn the walls of the church and convent of La Merced were works by artists from the 'Cusco school of painting' (16th century). The most recognized artists are: Diego Quispe Tito, Bernardo Bitti, Martín de Loayza, Francisco de Padilla, Juan Espinoza de los Monteros, Basilio Santa Cruz, Marcos Rivera, Pedro Vargas and others.
During your visit, keep in mind that you cannot take pictures as the site is a sacred place. Nor should you take a seat on the colonial furniture or touch the relics that are kept there. It is recommended to remain silent during the tour, which takes approximately 35 minutes.
If you are interested in the colonial religious temples of Cusco, do not miss the opportunity to visit, in addition to the church and convent of La Merced, other temples such as: the church of the Company of Jesus, the church of Santo Domingo, the church and convent of San Francisco as well as the Cathedral of Cusco.
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