Inca temple of Coricancha
The Coricancha was the most important religious temple in the empire of the Incas. It was destined for the sun god, the most important in the Inca worldview. It has the walls with the finest carving work. According to the chroniclers, it was adorned with relics of gold, silver and other precious stones. During the Spanish invasion, the temple was looted. On its foundations, the Dominican order built the Temple and Convent of Santo Domingo. Today both structures survive to this day. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Cusco.
All about the Inca Temple of Coricancha
- What is the Coricancha?
- Where is?
- How to get to the Inca Temple of Coricancha
- How to get there?
- Description of the Coricancha
- The Coricancha site museum
- The convent of Santo Domingo
- What to bring on the day of the visit?
- How’s the weather?
- Images of the Inca Temple of Coricancha
- More information for the visit
What is the Coricancha?
The Coricancha is an Inca archaeological site in Cusco. It was dedicated to the most important god, the sun. It also has several enclosures dedicated to the veneration of the other Inca gods: the moon, the stars, the rainbow, the lightning and more. On top and to one side of these structures, is the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo, a Christian religious temple of great architectural beauty. Due to the historical importance of these structures, it is highly visited by tourists who come to Cuzco.
The Coricancha temple and the Santo Domingo convent are located just 1.7 kilometers from the Main Square of the city of Cusco, Peru. His address is: 659 Ahuacpinta street. The place is 3,390 meters above sea level (11,122 feet).
How to get to the Inca Temple of Coricancha
How to get there?
Getting to the Coricancha is very easy. It can be reached on foot in only 15 minutes from the Main Square of Cusco. (there you can find most of the touristic hotels). You just have to follow El Sol avenue, one of the main avenues in the city, in a straight line. You can also take a taxi, which costs approximately 5 Peruvian soles (2 US dollars).
According to the chronicles, the Coricancha was an important temple of a predecessor culture to the Incas: the Ayamarcas. When the Incas settled in Cusco it enjoyed great importance, being called Inticancha (palace of the sun). However, with the appointment of Emperor Pachacutec in 1438, the temple began to be remodeled and adorned with precious stones of gold and silver. There various Inca deities were worshiped. However, the main one was the sun. Coricancha means: ‘golden palace’.
The temple was the scene of important ceremonies such as the famous ‘Wawa Inti Raymi’, a massive Inca religious celebration that today is represented by the people of Cusco through the ‘Inti Raymi’. Even there pilgrimages were made from different parts of the empire. To enter this temple you had to fast for several days. Only the priests and the Inca could enter the most important enclosures such as the ‘Enclosure of the sun’.
With the arrival of the Spanish to Cusco in 1533, the Coricancha was looted. Other chronicles indicate that a large part of his relics were carried on mules to the city of Cajamarca to pay the ransom of the Inca Atahualpa. The temple became the possession of the conqueror Francisco Pizarro who gave it to the Dominicans. They built on the walls of the Inca temple, the Christian temple called today ‘Church and Convent of Santo Domingo’. Since then, both structures have suffered three earthquakes: in 1650, 1749 and 1950. The Christian church suffered severe damage while the Inca temple remains unscathed.
Description of the Coricancha
The enclosure of the Sun
The most important venue of all. It was dedicated to the sun god and the god Huiracocha, according to the Andean worldview, the creator of the world. The interior is protected by the famous mamaconas, also called priestesses of the sun. Certainly the carving of the walls of this temple is the most sophisticated in the entire empire. No structure fits between its cracks. The sun god was the main divinity of the Incas. This enclosure would have been adorned with sheets of gold, a material related to the brightness of the sun.
The enclosure of the Stars
According to Inca belief, the stars were daughters of the union of the sun and the moon. Each of them symbolized an animal on earth, such as the llama, the vicuña, the puma, the snake. This enclosure was dedicated to these deities of the firmament. In this temple it is possible to appreciate what were niches where, according to research, precious stone ornaments were placed as well as skeletal remains of auquénids.
The Rainbow Enclosure
The rainbow was highly appreciated by the Incas since it came from the sun and the rain, two deities. That is why this site was one of the most revered and, consequently, ostentatious in the entire Coricancha. It is believed that all the walls of the enclosure must have been completely covered with gold. It is even believed that on its walls you could see an ornament with the colors of the rainbow, using precious stones.
The sacrificial enclosure
One of the most popular venues in the Coricancha is the sacrificial table. This structure is next to the rainbow enclosure. It is a stone platform, carved flat (in the shape of a table) where presumably sacrifices were made. Even in the lowest part of this lithic table, there are three holes that would have drained the blood of the sacrificed animal (preferably llamas).
The lightning enclosure
The ray, called ‘Illapa in Quechua, the language of the Incas; He was one of the most feared and revered gods of the incan. That is why the lightning enclosure, also called thunder or lightning, was one of the most important in the Coricancha. Access to this building is through three doors. The enclosure was adorned with precious stones. It is believed that human sacrifices were even made in his honor through the so-called ‘Capacocha’ rituals, sacrifices of boys and girls in the most distant snow-capped mountains of the empire.
The sacred gardens
The Coricancha gardens were the most beautiful in the entire empire. They were decorated with different species of flowers and shrubs such as the Kantu flower (currently recognized as the flower of the Incas and the national flower of Peru). There the offerings offered during the ceremonies in the Coricancha were gathered.
The ceremonial fountain
To the original Coricancha temple, the Spanish added some useful structures for the works in the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo. One of them is the water source, located in the middle of the Inca site. It is a colonial structure with an octagonal shape and a quadrangular base. It is believed before this structure, there was another one of Inca construction.
The sacred alley
One of the most famous structures in the Coricancha is the sacred alley. As its name suggests, it is a narrow alley made of stones that are finely polished and slightly inclined to withstand earthquakes. Through this alley one reached the enclosure of the sun, the most important of the temple. In this structure a rock stands out with more than twenty-four angles. The alley has a length of approximately 10 meters. Many tourists are photographed there.
The Coricancha site museum
The Coricancha site museum is a cultural site that exhibits some objects found in the research work in the Coricancha. It also includes other Inca objects found in Cusco. It has several rooms with educational materials that represent the Inca lifestyle well. Includes bone remains, ceramic pieces, metal objects, stone tools and more. It also includes rooms with panels, infographics and multimedia material. The museum is in the lower part of the Inca temple, right on El Sol avenue.
The church and convent of Santo Domingo
The church and convent of Santo Domingo is a baroque-style colonial Christian building built, like most religious temples in Cusco, on the walls of the Inca temple of Coricancha. It was built by the Dominican order in 1538. It was the first of this religious order in Peru. The religious temple suffered severe damage with up to 3 earthquakes. The last in 1950, destroyed many of its structures. Its reconstruction, under the supervision of UNESCO, was carried out in 1956. Inside this temple shows ornaments of gold and silver leaf as well as paintings of the famous ‘Cusco school’.
The entrance to the Coricancha temple is 15 Peruvian soles (5 US dollars). It can also be visited in the ‘City Tours Cusco’, whose approximate cost is 70 US dollars and includes a visit to the Cathedral, Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Pucapucara and Tambomachay.
The Coricancha opens its doors from Monday to Saturday from 9 in the morning until 6 in the afternoon. Sundays from 9 in the morning to noon.
What to bring on the day of the visit?
During your visit to the Coricancha do not forget to bring with you:
- Identity document or passport.
- Snacks or drinks.
- Comfortable clothes.
- An umbrella or poncho for the rain.
How’s the weather?
The Coricancha has a climate similar to that of the city of Cusco. The temperature during the day reaches 22ºC. (71.6ºF) while at night it can drop to 4ºC. (39.2ºF).
Images of the Inca Temple of Coricancha
More information for the visit
Unlike other Inca archaeological sites, the Coricancha Inca temple is inside a roofed structure so there is no need to worry about rain or strong sun. Of course, it is not allowed to take pictures inside.
The entrance to the Inca temple of Coricancha is not included in the Tourist Ticket of Cusco. This tourist ticket does include a visit to the Coricancha site museum. The entrance to the church and convent of Santo Domingo are free during mass hours.
Every June 24 in the Coricancha esplanade the mass staging of ‘Inti Raymi’ takes place. Appreciating this show is free although you need to find a good place early as many people congregate there.