The cathedral is the most important Christian monument in Cusco, and one of the most impressive in Peru. It is located right in front of the Main Square of the city, so there are many tourists who are photographed outside. Inside, the church offers treasures, paintings, sculptures and other precious objects of great value. Most people visit the cathedral as part of the ‘City Tour Cusco’.
All about the Cathedral of Cusco
What is it?
The Cathedral is the most important and impressive Christian construction in the city of Cusco. It is made up of three contiguous buildings: the Cathedral Basilica, the Temple of Triumph and the Temple of the Sagrada Familia. It was built between 1560 and 1654 following the Baroque style. Its interior has objects of great value such as paintings from the Cusco school, sculptures, objects made with precious stones and many more. Due to its location in the historic center of Cusco, it is part of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity declared by Unesco.
The Cathedral of Cusco is located in the heart of the city, just north of the Main Square. From any part of the city it is possible to appreciate this imposing building up to 32 meters high.
How to get?
All the roads that lead to the Main Square of Cusco also lead to the Cathedral. There are several access roads such as Loreto Street, Mantas Street, Del Medio Street, Espaderos Street or Cuesta del Almirante Street. The latter is the most direct way to get there. Any taxi service can take you there for an approximate cost of 2 to 5 US dollars. Although the most common way to get there is walking.
Map to get to Cusco Cathedral
In the time of the Incas, the Cathedral of Cusco was part of the famous Huacaypata square where the Incas performed their main religious and military ceremonies. There were also the main Inca palaces and temples. As was the custom in colonial times, churches were built on the basis of Inca temples and palaces. Thus, the Church of Triumph (which symbolized the triumph of the Spanish over the Incas) was first built in 1539, on the ruins of the palace of the Inca Viracocha.
In 1560 the construction of the Cathedral Basilica began. The nearby stones of the place were used as well as those located in the fortress of Sacsayhuaman. The Spanish architect Juan Miguel de Veramendi was the first of many others who led the construction of the three buildings that make up the cathedral. Finally, in approximately 1654, under the direction of Miguel Gutiérrez Sencio, the work was completed. During the time that its construction lasted, the works had to be stopped in some periods of time, due to various reasons such as earthquakes (1650), political problems and others.
The 1650 earthquake was one of the strongest historically recorded in Cusco. This telluric movement originated the first procession of the figure of the “Moreno Christ” of the cathedral. According to the chronicles, after this procession, the aftershocks stopped, so this figure acquired devotion in the city. Over time, he was renamed ‘Lord of tremors’ (or ‘Taitacha’ of tremors), the sworn patron of Cusco. Every year at the beginning of June (the date is movable), this and 14 other images are taken to the cathedral and carried in procession through the city on the famous religious festival of ‘Corpus Christi’.
Corpus Christi is a Christian religious festival whose origins in Cusco go back to the Inca custom of walking through the city to the mummies of the Inca rulers. The Spanish replaced the mummies with the figures of saints and virgins of Christendom. Today, tradition means that 15 of these images are carried in a procession until they all rest in the Cathedral of Cusco and then return to their respective churches.
The Cathedral of Cusco presents a typical baroque architecture with mixed-race elements. Its structure is made up of three naves and their correspondence with the three churches. The floor plan is rectangular in the basilica type. It has up to twenty-four Gothic-style vaults. These are distributed in up to four rows of columns that give it an admirable solidity. The main nave is made up of seven arches. Its façade has two towers and a Renaissance-style façade.
The interior of the Cathedral has several engravings and canvases from the late seventeenth century, coming from Europe and, above all, from the famous painters of the so-called ‘Cusco School’ (Cusco painters influenced by the techniques of the time), who added Andean themes to his paintings. Among the Cusco painters, one of the most famous is Diego Quispe Tito (1611 – 1681) with his famous paintings of the ‘Zodiac of the Cathedral of Cusco’. Among the many canvases that adorn the cathedral are: the Virgin of the little bird (by Bernardo Bitti), the Canvas of Our Lady of Almudena (by Basilio Santa Cruz Pumacallo), the series of ‘San Lucas, San Marcos, San Juan and San Mateo ‘(by Antonio Sinchi Roca) and many more.
The Cathedral also offers a series of sculptures in wood, maguey and other materials, as was the use of the time. Some indigenous techniques such as corn paste, clay mold and light wood base were also used. In all cases representations of saints, virgins and Christ were made. Some of the most notable works are the choir stalls as well as the sculptures of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception (La linda), the altarpieces of the main altar of the churches of all the churches but, above all, that of the ‘Lord of the Tremors’, the most revered image of Cusco whose Spanish origin. The mestizo color of this image, similar to that of the natives, is due to the catechizing zeal of the time.
The Cathedral presents an ostentation in precious stones, gold objects but, above all, silver. This is mainly due to the abundance of this material at the time of the Viceroyalty of Peru (mainly in the deposits of Potosí). In the Cathedral there is a register of up to 256 objects and ornaments made of silver and other precious materials. Stand out are the platforms, vases, crowns, cruets, racks, lecterns and more. These objects, in addition to religious motifs, also feature Andean themes such as birds, flowers, and more. One of the best kept treasures is the ‘Custody’ carved by Gregorio Gallegos (donation from Bishop Pedro Morcillo Rubio. This monstrance has 331 pearls, 62 rubies, 89 amethysts, 5 sapphires, 1 agate, 263 diamonds, 221 emeralds, 17 diamonds and 43 topaz.
Cost of entry
The entrance to the Cathedral is free during mass hours (from 6 to 7 in the morning / 6 to 7 at night).
The cost of entry during tourist visit hours is:
- Foreign adults: 25 Peruvian soles (approximately 8 US dollars).
- Foreign children: 13 Peruvian soles (approximately 4 US dollars).
- Foreign students with a university card: 13 Peruvian soles (approximately 4 US dollars).
Hours of Operation
From Monday to Sunday from 10 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon.
Images of the Cathedral of Cusco
Important information for your visit
During the visit to the Cathedral of Cusco, it is not allowed to take photographs or film inside. Likewise, it is not allowed to touch the works of art or make annoying noises. Remember that it is a religious place and silence must be kept.
One of the most popular paintings is ‘The Last Supper’ (by Marcos Zapata), which, to the classic religious painting of Christ with the twelve disciples at the table, shows some typical aspects of the Andes such as: fruits, chili peppers, corn and guinea pig as a main dish.
If you like religious art, a good option during your visit to Cusco is to acquire the ‘Religious Circuit Ticket’. This ticket includes the visit, not only to the Cathedral, but also to other religious temples with important treasures such as: the Museum of Religious Art, the Church of San Blas and the Church of San Cristóbal. The cost of the tickets is 30 Peruvian soles (10 US dollars, approximately).