Church of La Merced of Cusco
The church of La Merced is one of the religious temples of Cusco built during the colonial era. It is famous for its beautiful architecture with stairways, domes and bell towers. However, its greatest attraction is its internal relics, where a 22-kilo, 1.25-meter high monstrance stands out, which is made of gold, diamonds, pearls, rubies and emeralds. It is one of the most valuable jewels of Peru. It is located a few steps from the Main Square of the city.
All about the Church of La Merced in Cusco
The church and convent of La Merced (also known as the minor Basilica of La Merced) is a colonial religious temple built in the city of Cusco during the 16th century but, due to the earthquake of 1650, it was rebuilt in 1670. It belongs to the Mercedarian order , which arrived in Cuzco in 1535.
The architecture of the temple has baroque characteristics. It consists of a single nave with a large dome and a side door. The cloisters of the convent display museum pieces where relics stand out such as canvases from the ‘Cusco school of painting’, colonial furniture, a tabernacle, a candelabrum and a silver tabernacle. However, its greatest treasure is its custody, 22 kilos and 1.25 meters high, adorned with: gold, diamonds, pearls, rubies and emeralds.
Every ‘Holy Monday’, the image of the Lord of the tremors (the most important avocation of the city) is carried on a litter to the church of La Merced where it stops for 1 hour. During this period, a mass is celebrated and the effigy’s habit is changed.
According to some chronicles. The convent and church of La Merced was built on the foundations of an important palace belonging to an Inca princess “coya”, which was venerated by the inhabitants of Tahuantinsuyo. Like most colonial churches, this one was built on places venerated by the Incas. Thus, the Spanish sought to supplant indigenous worship by the new Christian religion.
The church and convent of La Merced is located in front of the Espinar square, 250 meters southwest of the Main Square in the city of Cusco.
How to get there?
The best way to get to La Merced church is to go on foot. You can walk from anywhere in the historic center of Cusco (250 meters from the Main Square).
The Mercedarian order arrived in Cusco in 1535. Thanks to the initiative of Fray Sebastián de Castañeda y Trujillo, the donation of the lands granted by Francisco Pizarro located in the Cusipata square was obtained. Then the construction of the house and temple began, modest constructions at first. Diego de Almagro (father and son) and Gonzalo Pizarro were buried there in the 16th century.
In 1650 a strong earthquake shook the city of Cusco causing damage to the original church of La Merced. Between 1651 and 1670, the reconstruction of the temple was carried out. In later years the tower and one of the cloisters of the convent were implemented. The site was used as a site for the Mercedarian order in Cusco. Finally, after the 1950 earthquake, the final renovations were made to its current form.
Currently, the church and convent of La Merced is one of the most visited churches in Cusco. It has an important collection of canvases and treasures, where its custody stands out, made of gold and precious stones (one of the most valuable pieces in Peru and South America). The place offers different types of events such as dinners, masses, weddings, anniversaries and more.
The church and convent of La Merced are built following the baroque tradition. There are two entrance gates (the main one in front of the Espinar square). Its only tower is crowned by a bell tower with Corinthian columns. The main cloister, the most important, is made of stone, although it was decorated following the characteristics of wood carving. There currently is a set of museum objects. The entire set of buildings reaches several blocks and adjoins Mantas, San Bernardo, Almagro streets and El Sol avenue.
The church of La Merced
The interior of the La Merced church has some of the most valuable pieces of Cusco. Among his most important paintings are: ‘Pedro de Nolasco in the arms of angels’, ‘Coronation of our mother’, ‘Representation of our mother from La Merced’.
Among the works of gold and silver, the following stand out: ‘Menora or Jewish candelabrum’ (made of silver), ‘The tabernacle’ (with Solomonic columns and covered in silver) as well as ‘La Custodia de La Merced’, which is made with gold 24 carats and inlaid with up to 1,518 diamonds, 615 precious stones (including emeralds, rubies and topaz) as well as a large mermaid pearl, the second largest on the planet. The custody measures 1.25 meters and weighs 22 kilos.
The main altar has Corinthian columns covered with gold leaf. In the center, the image of the Virgen de las Mercedes stands out as well as the images of the Lord of Huanca, the Cross of Father Urraca and more.
How much does the visit cost?
The visit has a cost of 15 Peruvian soles per person (5 US dollars, approximately). Admission to the church is free during mass hours (Saturdays and Sundays 7 am and 7 pm).
What is the attention hour?
Monday through Saturday from 8 in the morning until noon. Also from 2 in the afternoon until 5 in the afternoon.
Photos of the church of La Merced in Cusco
The tourist visits inside the church of La Merced have an optional tourist guide service (for a cost of approximately 15 Peruvian soles).
Inside the convent of La Merced, one of its most famous enclosures is the ‘Cell of Father Salamanca’, the cloister where Francisco Salamanca lived and died. The walls of this cell are covered with murals of biblical scenes. Father Salamanca died with a reputation for holiness.
The canvases that adorn the walls of the church and convent of La Merced were works of the artists of the ‘Cusco school of painting’ (from the 16th century). The most recognized artists are: Diego Quispe Tito, Bernardo Bitti, Martín de Loayza, Francisco de Padilla, Juan Espinoza de los Monteros, Basilio Santa Cruz, Marcos Rivera, Pedro Vargas and others.
During your visit, keep in mind that you cannot take photographs as the site is a sacred place. Nor should you take a seat on the colonial furniture or touch the relics that are kept there. It is recommended to remain silent during the tour, which takes approximately 35 minutes.
If you are interested in the colonial religious temples of Cusco, do not miss the opportunity to visit, in addition to the church and convent of La Merced, other temples such as: the church of the Company of Jesus, the church of Santo Domingo, the church and convent of San Francisco as well as the Cathedral of Cusco.