Church of the Compañia de Jesus of Cusco
On one side of the Main Square of Cusco stands out the imposing church of the Companiña de Jesus, one of the Christian temples built during the colonial era. Like many colonial monuments, this temple was built on the old Amarucancha (palace of the Inca Huayna Cápac). Currently the church is part of the ‘Andean Baroque Circuit’, a visit to the baroque temples of Cusco that also include the Church of San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas, the temple of San Juan Bautista de Huaro and the chapel of the Purified Virgin of Canincunca .
All about the Church of the Compañia de Jesus of Cusco
The church of the Compañia de Jesus is a baroque temple of Catholic worship that was built by the Jesuit religious order approximately between 1571 and 1593. It is one of the most important churches in Cusco along with the Cathedral. The architecture of the temple harmonizes symmetry and beauty. Its façade with ornamental decoration, its main altar, its canvases created by the ‘Cusco school’, the dome, the silver and gold objects and more stand out.
The church of the Compañia de Jesus is located in the Main Square of the city of Cusco.
How to go?
To visit the church of the Compañia de Jesus in Cusco you must walk to the Main Square. Another option is to take a taxi. Two enormous churches stand out in the square: the largest is the Cathedral of Cuzco. The other, the church of the Society of Jesus.
The Spanish conquerors replaced the religiosity of the Incas with the new Christian religion through the use of force and the work of religious companies. The Jesuits fulfilled an evangelizing and educational function in the Andean and jungle region of Peru. The church of the Society of Jesus was built on an Inca palace. Thus, the settlers saw the most important temples and palaces of the Inca period replaced by the new colonial religious architectures.
Like most churches in the city of Cusco, the Temple of the Compañia de Jesus was built on the foundations of an Inca palace (the royal house of the Inca Huayna Cápac, also known as the ‘Amarucancha’). According to the chronicles of the time, the Jesuits arrived in the city in 1571. The first works began in 1578 and had the support of Dona Teresa Ordoñez, wife of the conqueror Diego de Silva, who acquired the land belonging to Hernando Pizarro. The work was completed in 1593, although the main altar (by Bernardo Bitti and Pedro Vargas) was placed in 1605.
In 1650 a strong earthquake destroyed the western wall, causing several damage. In the following years, the necessary repairs were made to maintain the shape of today, with two towers and bell towers, a large nave with columns and a Baroque decoration where the canvases and the beautifully decorated main altar stand out. The chronicles mention the authorship of the work to the Dutch Juan Bautista Egidiano. The dimensions of this church are not as large as the Cathedral of Cusco, although both are brightly decorated.
Currently, the church of the Compañia de Jesus is one of the most important and imposing Christian temples in the city of Cusco. It is part of the ‘Andean Baroque Circuit’ along with other churches in the region such as: the church of San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas, the temple of San Juan Bautista de Huaro and the chapel of the Purified Virgin of Canincunca.
The temple is made up of two side chapels crowned by two bell towers. It has a single nave supported by columns. The entire building is made of andesite stone and pink balsato. The facade consisting of windows, balcony, openings and niches; it is a sample of colonial baroque art. On both sides of the church there are two side chapels called: ‘Capilla de Indios’ (also called Chapel of the Virgin of Loreto) and the ‘Capilla de San Ignacio’. Its solid but beautifully decorated structure has made it one of the most beautiful temples in the city of Cusco.
Treasures of the Compañia de Jesus
- The facade – The facade is considered one of the best examples of the colonial baroque style in Cusco. It consists of two cubic towers that support the bell towers. In the middle there is a central façade that is repeated in other churches in the city. The upper part of it has a decoration with cornices, central windows on a balcony without railing. The niches, openings, and pilasters that give the temple strength and beauty stand out. The side towers have clocks. At the top and in the middle, a cross stands out, a symbol of Christianity.
- Painting – Like most churches in Cusco, the temple of the Society of Jesus has beautifully created canvases by artists belonging to the famous ‘Cusco School’ (mainly during the 17th century). The temple has canvases and sculptures by the artists Cristo de Burgos, Marcos Zapata and Diego de la Puente. The canvas that represents the marriage of Martín García de Loyola (San Ignacio’s nephew) with Beatriz Clara Coya (Inca princess) stands out.
- The main altar – The main altar of the church of the Company of Jesus in Cusco is made of cedar and covered with thin sheets of gold. It is divided into three bodies where the set of Solomonic columns stand out. It was placed in 1605 by the artist Cristóbal Clemente. In the upper central part, the sculptural figure of the Immaculate Conception stands out. Various ornaments such as canvases and decorations in precious stones also stand out.
How much does the visit cost?
The price of admission to the church of the Society of Jesus is 16 Peruvian soles for adults (5 US dollars, approximately). The visit during mass hours (from 7 am to 8 am) is free.
The ‘Andean Baroque Circuit’ tour offers a visit to the church of the Society of Jesus, the Church of San Pedro Apóstol (Andahuaylillas town), the San Juan Bautista temple (Huaro town) and the Virgin Chapel Purified (town of Canincunca). Includes complete transportation and tour guide service. The price of the tour is 60 Peruvian soles (20 US dollars, approximately).
What is the attention hour?
The church is open to tourist visits every day, except Sunday and Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 11.30 a.m.
The church is built on the remains of the palace of the Inca Huayna Cápac, known as the ‘Amarucancha’ (house of the great snake, in the Quechua language). According to the chronicles, the name is due to the fact that an immense snake that the Inca brought from his conquests in the Antisuyo (jungle region) would have been kept there.
Take advantage of your visit to Cusco to see the church of the Society of Jesus and other colonial temples of the city such as: the church of San Cristóbal, the church of Santo Domingo (Coricancha), the church of Santa Clara, the church of San Pedro, the Cathedral of Cusco and others.
The facade of the church is one of the most beautiful in Cusco so it is also one of the most photographed. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a photo at this religious temple. From the Main Square you can get good shots.
Remember that you cannot take photographs or film inside the church of the Compañía de Jesús del Cusco. You can visit and appreciate the treasures of this temple but always keeping silence because it is an important Christian temple.