Cusco's Historical Churches (Self Guided), Cusco

Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire, is one of the oldest cities in the world. In the 16th century Spanish missionaries brought Catholicism to Cusco. Take this tour to learn about fascinating Inca religious buildings and rituals and to see some of the beautiful religious art in Cusco's Colonial-era churches.
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Cusco's Historical Churches Map

Guide Name: Cusco's Historical Churches
Guide Location: Peru » Cusco (See other walking tours in Cusco)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Author: Nick
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • San Blas Church
  • The Church of Triumph
  • The Cathedral of Santo Domingo
  • Church of the Company of Jesus
  • Santa Catalina Monastery
  • Coricancha Temple
  • La Merced Church
  • Santa Clara Monastery
San Blas Church

1) San Blas Church

San Blas is a small adobe church located on a picturesque plaza of the same name. It was built in the middle of the 16th century on the site of an Incan ‘Illapa’ temple dedicated to the god of lightning and thunder. The church is famous for its 17th-century pulpit of San Blas. It is an intricate wooden carving made from a single tree trunk and is considered one of the most elaborate engravings of Christ in the world. Visit San Blas, one of the oldest churches in the city, to hear the legend of the carving and to enjoy the attractive area surrounding the church.
The Church of Triumph

2) The Church of Triumph

The Church of Triumph was built in 1536, just three years after the conquistadors settled in Cusco. At one point, presumably between 1533 and 1536, the Spanish were cornered by a besieging army of Incas, led by Manko Inka. Just as it seemed that they were on the verge of defeat, the Spanish miraculously managed to drive back the Incas. The Catholic conquistadors attributed this victory to Saint James who was reported at the time to have descended from heaven to drive back the Quechua Incas. This improbable victory is why the church is called the Church of Triumph and why there is a statue of St. James atop a horse within the church, depicting him slaying an Inca.
Sight description based on wikipedia
The Cathedral of Santo Domingo

3) The Cathedral of Santo Domingo (must see)

The Cathedral of Santo Domingo, also known as Cusco Cathedral, is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cusco. The cathedral is located on the main road of Cusco, Peru, called the Avenida de Sol. Building was completed in 1654, almost a hundred years after construction began.

Adjacent and joined to the cathedral is the smaller Iglesia del Triunfo, the first Christian church to be built in Cusco. The Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus, also on the Plaza de Armas, was built at a similar time as Santo Domingo.

The Cathedral, in addition to its official status as a place of worship, has become a major repository of Cusco's colonial art. It also holds many archeological artifacts and relics. The cathedral was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the City of Cuzco listing in 1983.

The Gothic-Renaissance style of the cathedral reflects that of Spain during the period of the Spanish conquest of South America and also Cusco. There is also evidence of baroque influence in the facade on the Plaza de Armas. The Incas incorporated some of their religious symbolism into the cathedral, for example, the carved head of a jaguar (an important god or religious motif found widely through much of ancient Peru) is part of the cathedral doors.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Church of the Company of Jesus

4) Church of the Company of Jesus (must see)

During construction on the Church of the Company of Jesus in 1571, the Jesuits, who were building it, decided that it should be the most magnificent church in Cusco. The archbishop of Cusco argued that it should not be allowed to compete with the splendor of the cathedral, and the conflict became so heated that Pope Paul III was called on to deliberate over the matter and give a verdict. By the time the message had reached the pope in Europe and his decision reached South America, the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus was almost complete, which is why it has such an ornate frontal facade.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Santa Catalina Monastery

5) Santa Catalina Monastery (must see)

The Monastery of Saint Catherine is a monastery of nuns of the Domincan Second Order, located in Arequipa. It was built in 1580 and was enlarged in the 17th century. The over 20,000-square-meter monastery was built predominantly in the Mudéjar style, and is characterized by its vividly painted walls. There are approximately 20 nuns currently living in the northern corner of the complex; the rest of the monastery is open to the public.

The foundress of the monastery was a rich widow, Maria de Guzman. The tradition of the time indicated that the second son or daughter of a family would enter a life of service in the Church, and the monastery accepted only women from upper class Spanish families. Each family paid a dowry at their daughter's admission to the monastery. The dowry expected of a woman who wished to enter as a choir nun-indicated by wearing a black veil—and who thereby accepted the duty of the daily recitation of the Divine Office, was 2,400 silver coins, equivalent to about $150,000 (U.S.) today. The nuns were also required to bring 25 listed items, including a statue, a painting, a lamp and clothes. The wealthiest nuns may have brought fine English china and silk curtains and rugs. Although it was possible for poorer nuns to enter the convent without paying a dowry. At its height,the monastery housed approximately 450 people (about a third of them nuns and the rest servants) in a cloistered community.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Coricancha Temple

6) Coricancha Temple (must see)

The Coricancha (from the Quechua words Quri Kancha meaning "Golden Temple"), originally named Inti Kancha ("Temple of the Sun") or Inti Wasi ("Sun House"), was the most important temple in the Inca Empire, dedicated primarily to Inti, the Sun God. It was one of the most revered temples of the capital city of Cusco.

The walls and floors were once covered in sheets of solid gold, and its adjacent courtyard was filled with golden statues. Spanish reports tell of its opulence that was "fabulous beyond belief". When the Spanish required the Inca to raise a ransom in gold for the life of the leader Atahualpa, most of the gold was collected from Coricancha.

The Spanish colonists built the Church of Santo Domingo on the site, demolishing the temple and using its foundations for the cathedral. Construction took most of a century. This is one of numerous sites where the Spanish incorporated Inca stonework into the structure of a colonial building. Major earthquakes severely damaged the church, but the Inca stone walls, built out of huge, tightly-interlocking blocks of stone, still stand due to their sophisticated stone masonry.
Sight description based on wikipedia
La Merced Church

7) La Merced Church (must see)

La Merced Church was originally built in 1536, but it underwent restoration work at the end of the 17th century. Its beautiful facade, the Gonzalo Pizarro crypt, the former prison of Salamanca and the courtyard carvings that depict the life of the Merced Order members attract many tourists to La Merced. The church's valuable collection of statues, carvings, paintings and other religious art can be viewed in the museum of the church.
Santa Clara Monastery

8) Santa Clara Monastery

Santa Clara Monastery was founded by women of the Franciscan Order in the mid-16th century. The church has survived multiple earthquakes and still retains some of its original Baroque features. The interior of the church is covered with mirrors, which were used in the Colonial era to attract native people to join in worship. Visit Santa Clara to learn about religious sacrifice and to see the harsh conditions nuns once endured.

Walking Tours in Cusco, Peru

Create Your Own Walk in Cusco

Create Your Own Walk in Cusco

Creating your own self-guided walk in Cusco is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Cusco Shopping Tour

Cusco Shopping Tour

Cusco has many excellent opportunities for shopping. Here you can find beautiful clothing, most of which is made from 100% alpaca wool. You can also purchase handmade jewelry, Inca pottery, quilts, textiles and more. Take this tour to explore some of the best stores in Cusco.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles
Cusco Introduction Walking Tour

Cusco Introduction Walking Tour

The rich historical legacy of Cusco is known well beyond the city's borders. The streets of the capital of the once mighty Inca Empire tell a fascinating story of life in the pre- and post-Columbus eras. This tour invites you to visit some of Cusco's most noteworthy attractions, prominent reminders of the city's eventful past.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles