All about the Church and convent of Santa Clara in Cusco
The church and convent of Santa Clara is a baroque religious temple that was built during the colonial era. It was built to house mestizo girls descendants of the Incas. The construction began in 1602 although, after the 1650 earthquake, remodeling work was carried out until it achieved its current shape. Its architectural characteristics belong to the Andean Baroque. It is currently in charge of the Poor Clare nuns. Inside you can see canvases from the Cusco school as well as other colonial relics such as furniture, wood carvings, altarpieces, liturgical objects of gold, silver and more. The visit takes place every day of the year during mass hours.
It is located on Santa Ana street, approximately 600 meters from the Main Square of Cusco (just a few steps from the famous San Pedro market).
How to get?
The best way to get to the church and convent of Santa Clara is to go on foot. From the Main Square of Cusco you walk for only 8 minutes. You can walk from anywhere in the historic center of the city.
The Spanish, by building churches, sought to impose the Christian religion on the Indians. These, for their part, adopted the new western faith although they did not stop practicing the Inca beliefs of respect for nature. Thus, today, the people of Cusco and many parts of the Andes embrace the Christian faith, although they also respect and worship the elements of nature, such as mountains, lagoons, etc.
Map to get to the Church and convent of Santa Clara
The church and convent of Santa Clara was founded in 1549 as a beguinage for mestizo girls descendants of the Incas. At first it was located in the Inca neighborhood of Chaquilchaca, near the current parish of the Santiago neighborhood. In 1558 a move was made to the Casa Cabrera in the Plazoleta de las Nazarenas. Finally, by order of the viceroy Diego López de Zuñiga, the construction of the church and convent was carried out as well as the final move in the Inca area of 'Qorpakancha', current Santa Clara street.
The convent and church of Santa Clara suffered damage during the two earthquakes that Cusco suffered, in 1650 and 1950. However, unlike other colonial temples that were severely damaged, the Church of the Poor Clares suffered only minor damage to the bell tower. Throughout its history, this religious complex continued to house and educate girls. The street that runs through the site was an ancient 'qhapac ñan' or royal Inca trail. Today, it is visited by tourists who come from the Main Square and go to the San Pedro market.
The church of Santa Clara is made up of a single nave made of stone and adobe installed on a rectangular ground plan. It has characteristics of the Andean baroque. Unlike other colonial churches in Cusco, its exterior does not present ostentatious ornamentation. However, the solidity of its walls has earned it a better resistance to the earthquakes of 1650 and 1950. Its high tower crowned by a very solid bell tower stands out. There are only two doors on Santa Clara street. At first, the monastery had numerous cloisters (they even covered the territory of the current San Pedro market). However, it currently only covers the first of them.
The church and monastery
The church and convent of Santa Clara is famous for its main altar full of mirrors, which is why it is known as 'the resplendent church of Cusco'. Its immense polychrome dome stands out where you can see multicolored flowers drawn with a brush. On the walls and altars of the temple, the sculptures of saints and virgins stand out, as well as canvases from the 'Cusco school of painting'. Some of the most famous paintings are: the Adoration of the Shepherds, the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Epiphany, the Flight into Egypt and more. It is the Cusco church with more mirrors and eyeglasses inside.
Cost of the visit
Admission to the church is free during worship time.
Photos of the Santa Clara convent in Cusco
The church and convent of Santa Clara is run by the Poor Clares, the female branch of the Franciscan order.
In total, the city of Cusco has 23 colonial churches. Most are built of stone and adobe and have Andean baroque characteristics.
Many of the churches of Cusco were built on the initiative of the Bishop of Cusco Manuel de Mollinedo y Angulo who also endowed the main temples with canvases. Due to his support for religious art, he is known as one of the great patrons of Cusco.
The church of Santa Clara is located within the area comprised by the historic center of Cusco. Therefore, it is part of an area declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco.
During your visit to the church and convent of Santa Clara, do not forget to visit some of the other colonial churches of Cusco, such as: the church of San Pedro, the church and convent of La Merced, the church of the Company of Jesus, the Cusco Cathedral and more.
Just a few steps from the church, you will find the famous San Pedro market. Do not miss the opportunity to know a little of the culture of Cusco in this food center. By the way, you can buy fruit.
Once inside the church of Santa Clara, do not forget that taking photographs is prohibited. In addition, it is recommended to keep silent since it is a religious site.