This morning I was a little bored and decided to take my camera over to the Q’oricancha (also sometimes spelled Qoricancha, Koricancha, or Coricancha) just to walk through and see if I could find some new perspectives for a few photos.
The Q’oricancha was the center of the Inca civilization and the main temple of the empire. reports from Spanish chroniclers said it’s wall were covered in gold and that is housed unimaginable treasures that were taken by the Spanish conquistadores and melted down to be sent back to Spain.
Consisting of multiple temples, it now consists of a handful of rooms with perhaps the finest stonework in all of the empire and a curved wall that still inspires awe. (Hiram Bingham claimed that curved wall of the Sun Temple – “El Torreon” – in Machu Picchu was modeled after the outer wall in the Q’oricancha, but, in truth, there is really no relationship at all except that both are curved.)
Now it sits on the grounds of the Santo Domingo Church and Convento and is run by the church. It is not a part of the normal Boleto Turistico that, when purchased, allowed entrance to most of the region’s major sites, but is still a “must see” site for any visitor to Cusco. It only costs 15 soles (about USD $3.75) to enter the site and is more than worth the price.
After a quick tour of a room with some introductory panels to give the visitor an idea of the site’s history, you walk out into the courtyard around which much of the site is located. Beautiful paintings line the portales on the east and west while the beautiful original Inca rooms are located on the north and south sides of the courtyard.
Keep your fingers crossed for an overcast day as it makes it much easier to get some beautiful photos. Sunny days make it almost impossible to get good photos as the contrast can be overpowering.
I’m always fascinated with the stonework that makes up the Spanish colonial columns. I can’t help but think about the Inca stoneworkers who carved such intricate designs centuries ago for their new rulers.
There are three beautiful ceramic urns on three of the corners that are worth a look.
The original rooms themselves are impressive, but aren’t much different from each other. It’s hard to imagine the walls being covered in sheets of gold and the many niches containing religious treasures which long ago were melted down and sent back to Spain as gold ingots.
I always laugh at the myth that still persists that Inca stone masons and engineers designed walls that unaffected by earthquakes unlike the later Spanish buildings. The truth is, though they were much less effected by tremors, even Inca walls show the effects of centuries of earthquakes. (You can find examples of this in virtually every remaining Inca construction.)
The outside gardens are spectacular places for taking some breathtaking photos. The juxtaposition of the Incan, Spanish colonial, and modern worlds can’t be ignored. Sometimes the flowers fill the gardens with amazing color, but today there wasn’t the normal spring/summer display that is normally seen this time of year. Of course, there are always some nice photos waiting for anyone with patience and an eye for beauty.
Whatever you do when you visit, please don’t act like these two who showed zero respect for their selfish desire to get some selfies. Despite multiple signs asking visitors to stay off the ancient Inca wall, they decided to pull of their masks and take a series of photos over a long period of time in complete disregard for any decency that a normal visitor would show. I couldn’t believe no one came up to tell them to stop or even to immediately escort them out.
The famed curved wall is one of my favorite places to visit. It likely was one corner of the original complex, but contained a likely altar on the inside. Sadly, that spot is also blocked off to keep tourists from sitting there for photos. Most people are probably surprised at just how thick is the wall — nearly one meter — which further indicates the importance of the site.
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Walking through the Q’oricancha is always a nice way to spend an hour or so. I have no idea how many times I’ve visited, but it’s always a fascinating experience to stroll through the center of the Inca world centuries ago.