NAME: Qoricancha (Golden palace)
ALTITUDE: 3 400 masl.
BRIEF HISTORY OF QORICANCHA
The famous Temple of Qoricancha in Cusco was and is in practice a synthesis of the Inkan organization, architecture, and religion; that had already reached the summit of their level by 1438. It possibly represented the “Navel of the World”; therefore, the world’s center in the pre-Hispanic Andean Cosmovision.
According to our history, it was the first Inka, Manko Qhapaq who built the original temple. But, it was the ninth, Pachakuteq who since 1438 reconstructed, enlarged, improved and modernized the most important religious complex of the vast Inkan Society.
There are certain discrepancies about the complex’s original name, which cause a relative confusion. Some chronicles from sixteenth centuries names the building as Intiwasi, (inti= sun, wasi= house); and also as Intikancha (Inti= sun, Kancha= palace. While most scholars today call the Inca temple as Qorikancha (Qori= gold, kancha= palace), and that would mean “Golden Palace”. Our renowned historian Maria Rostworowski suggests that the ancient temple was known as “Intikancha” and after Pachakuteq as “Qorikancha”.
According to chroniclers, this was a religious complex constituted by temples dedicated to different deities. It had a layout very similar to that of a classical “kancha”; with enclosures around a central patio where according to Cieza de Leon, every doorway was veneered with gold plates.
DESCRIPTION OF QORICANCHA
The Sun Temple stood out in the complex, covering the space occupied today by the Santo Domingo Catholic Church. Its eastern end was completely demolished while the western one still subsists partially forming what is known as “solar round building”, that is, the semicircular wall overlooking the present-day Arrayan street and the Avenida el Sol. The Sun Temple had its four walls and even the wooden ceiling completely covered with gold plates and planks, according to Garcilaso’s description it must had a rectangular floor plan, with a very high thatched roof for facilitating ventilation.
The Moon Temple was located on the eastern side of the Solar Temple; it had a rectangular floor plan with the best quality of architecture, unfortunately, it was almost completely destroyed in order to build the Catholic Church. One of its gates is still seen as well as its eastern wall with the classical trapezoidal niches. Among those niches is the horizontal dark stripe that is believed to be the support zone of the silver plates that covered completely its walls. In the center of the temple there was a silver Moon representation and on both sides of it the embalmed bodies of the dead Qoyas (Queens), according to their antiquity.
The Temple of the Stars (Ch’aska = Venus star). This was located in the eastern side of the Moon temple; divided by a narrow passage with an impressive double jamb doorway that has a stone with 14 angles on its outer faces. In Inkan times, stars were special deities, considered as “moon’s maids” that played a very important role in astral observation and future prediction with relationship to weather, agriculture, prosperity, welfare, etc. Even today Andean peasants (descendants of Inkas) observe the brightness of stars formed in constellations in order to foresee their future.
The Venus Temple has a considerable size; it is surrounded by 25 trapezoidal niches that as in most of the cases were used for keeping some idols, offerings, and elements related to the cult of stars. Also over here by the middle of the niches is the horizontal stripe that supported the silver “planks” covering this temple. Moreover, all the ceiling of this enclosure had star representations of different sizes “like the starry sky”. It has two very high entrance gates and in the wall, between them, are two very special trapezoidal niches having carvings of stripes and hollows around, to which Garcilaso call tabernacles.
The temple of thunder, lightning, and thunderbolt that was considered as “sun’s servant”. According to Inkan Religion Illapa was the “Storms God”, the ruler of rain, hail, and snow, the hurler of thunderbolts; its shrine was adorned with gold. It has 3 trapezoidal single jamb doorways and its present-day northwestern lateral wall was partially reconstructed following its original characteristics. That enclosure is smaller than the previously described temples, with walls having the classical trapezoidal niches and two windows in its lateral walls; on the upper side of the front wall, there are carved moldings which duties are unknown.
The Temple of the Rainbow, which original size and characteristics were similar to those of the previous; but, it was partially mutilated on its northwest portion in order to build the Dominican Convent. The Rainbow was another important divinity in the Inkan Society because it was considered that it came from the sun, therefore, the Inka Kings adopted it as their emblem because they boasted of being descendants of the Sun. In the “Tawantinsuyo” they used a Unancha, that is, an emblem or flag having the 7 colors of the rainbow; that banner was recovered and today is used as Qosqo City’s flag. That temple was completely adorned with gold and over one of its walls, there was a rainbow painted over the gold plates covering the whole temple.
On the lateral eastern side, there is a trapezoidal window coinciding exactly in size, shape, height, and level with the other two ones of the Illapa temple, creating an excellent perspective. Those three windows are leveled; for leveling Quechuas used water-based devices. Water was stored in a ceramic jar with two small holes as finders in two opposing ends that constituted an incipient but useful level.
Between the K’uychi and Illapa temples, there is an open area in which on the rear wall there are three finely carved channels to which tradition and popular imagination call “phonic channels” because when being hit they emit “different musical notes”. However, what is true is that those channels that are on the original ground level served for draining rain waters concentrated in the complex’s central patio, similar channels are found in all the complexes or buildings that did not have any roofs.
Undoubtedly, inside the whole complex, there were different enclosures for the High Priest and the other priests of less hierarchy; as well as spaces for sheltering the different idols coming from the submitted or incorporated nations that were concentrated inside the Qorikancha. Like this they allowed the cult of conquered people, so that if there were rebellion attempts in the conquered nations, reprisals in Qosqo were against their gods, producing thus the religious intimidation that gave many benefits to the Inkas.
In the middle of the cloister’s central patio is an eight-sided fountain carved in a single andesite piece that according to some historians it has Inkan manufacture. However, its shape and characteristics are not classical in Inkan stonemasonry. Therefore, if it was carved in Inkan times it must had another shape that was transformed in colonial times. Also today, around the archways there is a collection of canvases representing the life of Saint Dominic Guzman painted by anonymous local Cusquenian School artists.
After the distribution of houses and palaces during the Spanish invasion, the Qorikancha corresponded to Juan Pizarro who donated it to the Dominican Order represented by the first bishop of Qosqo City Fray Vicente Valverde. He immediately executed construction of their church and convent over the most important Inkan Temple demolishing it almost completely for adapting it to its new use. That original church was destroyed by an earthquake on March 31, 1650. Subsequently, the present-day structure was raised as well as the tower in 1780 with an elaborate baroque under the direction of Fray Francisco Muñoz. On May 21st. 1950 another violent earthquake destroyed a large part of the convent and church as well as its tower leaving uncovered many Inkan structures and the interior area of the “Solar Round Building”. By that time a strong “Indigenist Movement” suggested the relocation of the church and recovery of the Sun Temple; it is a pity that Catholic Church’s political power did not allow that attempt for clearing the ruins of the major Tawantinsuyo’s sanctuary.