The Mystery of the Wiracocha Stone

Hiding in plain sight next to the door of the Cathedral in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas is perhaps the most significant artifact that still exists from the Inca civilization and almost no one knows it exists and every tour guide passes by it without a glance or mention.

Next to the main cathedral door is a small, nondescript egg-shaped stone that possibly carries centuries of reverence from the Incas people all the way to the present.

The earliest reference to the Wiracocha stone was in this drawing by the Inca chronicler Juan de Santa Cruz Pachacuti Yamqui Salcamayhua in 1613.

No one knows for certain the complete history of this stone, but it has certainly been revered by indigenous peoples of the region for a long time as being a gift from the creator God, Wiracocha, and a representation of the God himself. (Indeed, sometimes people still refer to the huaca, the Inca name for a sacred stone, as being the God himself.)

Over the centuries, leaders of the Catholic church have tried different ways to deal with the traditional associations with the stone. They’ve hidden it away, used it is a drain stop (!), and placed it behind ropes or under glass, but it appears that there is a grudging acceptance as previous attempts to keep it away from the people always resulted in strong opposition.

Outsiders often have a hard time understanding the concept of syncretism in modern-day Andean cultures which is a merging of ancient traditional beliefs with the Christian beliefs imposed on them centuries ago by their Spanish conquerors.

More than once I’ve seen people go up the stone — often shyly as if they are not supposed to be there — and make traditional offerings of coca leaves then place their hand(s) on the stone to accept the energy that it is said to provide. While I haven’t participated, I’ve been told that it is common for parishioners leaving mass to stop by the Wiracocha stone on their way out.

Interestingly, I’ve also seen representations of the same shape two different places in the next door Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus! Because much of the artwork of the colonial cathedrals was done by indigenous artists, I’m willing to bet that there are more representations hidden away within Cusco’s many churches.

There are actually many known Andean artificats hidden away in the religious art of the churches like the lion’s head in a coat-of-arms in one painting that looks nothing like a lion and remarkably like a cuy (guinea pig)!

One day I’ll go through the cathedrals with a notebook and take notes on the many interesting Andean cultural insertions in the many paintings to be views. It’s kind of like “Where’s Waldo?” in a church!

I’m certainly no expert on Inca cosmology or the Wiracocha stone so I would love to hear from Cusqueños about their knowledge of this subject.

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