The religious complex of Coricancha (Qorikancha) in the Inca capital at Cuzco contained the Temple of the Sun
Are you a business owner in Peru?
Promote your business 365 days a year with the #1 Guide to Peru.
- Gain MAXIMUM EXPOSURE with a 'Dedicated Business Profile'
Directions to Qorikancha
The religious complex of Coricancha (Qorikancha) in the Inca capital at Cuzco contained the Temple of the Sun which was not only the most sacred site or huaca in the Inca religion but was considered the very center of the Inca world. The site was also known as the Golden Enclosure and was dedicated to the highest gods in the Inca pantheon such as the Creator god Viracocha, the moon goddess Quilla and especially to Inti, the god of the sun. Little remains today except some sections of its fine stone walls which hint at the site's once massive size and the legendary stories which tell of the enormous quantity of gold used to decorate the temples and its golden garden.
Inside the temple
Layout & Architecture
The construction of the complex is commonly awarded to Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, the 9th Inca ruler (1438-1471 CE) who also embarked on a general rebuilding program in the capital. Despite excavations, though, the exact chronology of the site is not clear. In Inca mythology the first Inca leader Manco Capac (Manqo Qhapaq) built a temple at the site in the early 12th century CE and archeology does show evidence of pre-empire structures.
The lay-out of the site, as seen from above, actually resembled a sun with rays shining out in all directions. These were the sacred ceque (zeq'e) lines - physical and cosmic roads - of which there were 41 which led to an impressive 328 sacred sites. Cuzco itself was deliberately laid out to represent a jaguar and Coricancha was located at the tail. In typical Inca symmetry the second most important sacred site in the city - Sacsahuaman - was located at the head. Coricancha was also built where the city's two great rivers of Huantanay and Tullamayo met.
Built using the fine masonry skills for which the Inca have rightly become famous, the massive walls of the complex were built from large stone blocks finely cut and fitted together without mortar. The large curved western wall was particularly noted for its form and elegant, regular masonry. Most walls also leaned slightly inwards as they rose in height, a typical feature of Inca architecture. Many trapezoid doorways and windows allowed access and light to enter the interior spaces and a broad band of gold was added mid-way height around the walls. The interior buildings were of one storey and had thatched roofs. The doors were also covered in gold sheets, as were the interiors and exteriors of the various temples and the inner side of the perimeter wall was even said to have been studded with emeralds.
Temple of the Sun
The most important temple in the precinct was the Temple of the Sun, dedicated to the sun god Inti. The interior and exterior walls of the temple, situated in the northern corner of the complex, were covered in gold - considered the sweat of the sun - which was beaten into sheet plates. There were, reportedly, 700 of these half-meter square sheets, each weighing 2 kg.
Inside the temple, besides golden artefacts relevant to the god's worship, was a gold statue of Inti encrusted with jewels. The statue represented Inti as a small seated boy called Punchao (Day or Midday Sun). From his head and shoulders the sun's rays shone, he wore a royal headband and had snakes and lions coming out of his body. The stomach of the statue was hollow and used to store the ashes of the vital organs of previous Inca rulers. Everyday this statue was brought out into the open air and returned to the shrine each night. Another important representation of the god - a giant mask with zig-zag rays bursting from the head - was hung from the wall of a specially dedicated chamber within the temple.
Inca Gold Sun Mask
The garden of the temple was a wonderfully conceived homage to Inti. Just as land - sometimes even entire regions - were dedicated to the god, so too, this garden was constructed in honor of the great sun god Inti. Everything in it was made of gold and silver. A large field of corn and life-size models of shepherds, llamas, jaguars, guinea pigs, monkeys, birds and even butterflies and insects were all crafted in precious metal. And if that wasn't enough to please Inti there were also a large number of gold and silver jars all encrusted with precious stones. All that survives of these wonders are a few golden corn stalks, a convincing, if silent, testimony to the lost treasures of Coricancha.
Five other temples or wasi were placed around the main square courtyard of Coricancha. In order of hierarchy, one temple was dedicated to the creator god Viracocha (more or less equal to Inti), one to Quilla the goddess of the moon, one to Venus or Chaska-Qoylor, one to the god of thunder Illapa, and finally one for Cuichu the rainbow god. Just as Inti's temple was covered in gold, Quilla's temple was covered in silver, a metal thought to be the tears of the moon. Each wasi contained a cult statue of that particular god and precious art and religious objects connected to them.
There was also a dedicated space for the mummified remains of former Inca emperors and their wives, known as mallquis. These were brought out of storage during special ceremonies such as those celebrating the solstices. Offerings were made to these mummies dressed in fine clothes, and the great achievements they had made during their reigns were read out for all to hear. There were also living quarters for priests and priestesses and still other rooms of the complex were used as art and religious treasuries stuffed with artefacts taken from conquered peoples. These may well have been kept in order to guarantee compliance to Inca rule, just as conquered rulers were sometimes held hostage at Cuzco for periods of the year. Yet another interesting feature of the site was an underground channel through which sacred water flowed to the surrounding squares outside the complex.
Coricancha Curved Wall
Other important functions of Coricancha included the taking of astronomical observations, especially of the Milky Way (Mayu). There was, for example, a pair of towers which marked the Summer solstice and sightings were taken from the sacred ushnu stone against man-made and natural landmarks on the horizon to track the sun. Sacrificial victims (capacochas) were also made ready for their great moment in the precinct's courtyard and then marched along the ceque lines to be sacrificed in the various provinces in honor of Inti and his living incarnation, the Inca emperor.
The rather plain entrance doorway of the complex survives today with its typical double jamb, as do sections of the outer walls and some interior walls. The Christian monastery of Santo Domingo was built on top of the complex, no doubt, in a deliberate attempt to signify that one religion had been replaced by another. Most of the gold from the site was, of course, melted into ingots and taken for the Spanish Crown. The star piece, the golden statue of Inti, was taken to a place of safety when the Spanish arrived but it seems that they did eventually find it thirty years later in 1572 CE but it disappeared without trace, probably melted down like so many other Inca artefacts.
You may also like
Museum of the Royal Tombs of SipánLima, Lima
As of August 9th, 2003, Peru, Lambayeque and Chiclayo has a new museum. The Royal Tombs of Sipán exhibits the most important archaeological remains of the Mochica Culture, in an exceptional exhibition that combines maximum scientific accuracy, security and enjoyment to show the jewels, emblems and ornaments found in 1987 in the tomb of a Mochica government leader called the Lord of Sipán.
Larco MuseumLima, Lima
The permanent exhibition of the Larco Museum is a space that stimulates and inspires, and where you can enjoy and understand the fascinating history of ancient Peru.
Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del PerúLima, Lima
The National Museum of Archeology, Anthropology and History of Peru (MNAAHP) is the first museum in Peru; the largest, oldest and most representative of our country. He was the only one that Peru had in the first hundred years of the Republic.
Casa Museo José Carlos MariáteguiLima, Lima
One of the functions of the General Directorate of Museums of the Ministry of Culture is to ensure the dissemination, conservation and preservation of heritage to exhibit cultural property belonging to museum collections in their different modalities and ensure that Peruvians not only know their heritage but also Participate in her and her story.
Casa de la Gastronomía PeruanaLima, Lima
The House of Peruvian Gastronomy was inaugurated on March 24, 2011 in the former Post and Telegraph House of Peru, a few meters from the Plaza Mayor of Lima. It was born as an institution of the Ministry of Culture with the aim of spreading the values of Peruvian cuisine, the origins of our culinary and affirming our cultural identity, which in recent years has achieved fair recognition worldwide.
Museo de Historia NaturalLima, Lima
The Natural History Museum, founded on February 28, 1918, is a dependency of the Rector's Office of the University in charge of collecting, researching and exhibiting organisms and representative samples of the Natural Heritage of Peru and of humanity in relation to Flora, Fauna and Gea, in order to generate scientific knowledge and impart it at all levels
Museo InkaCusco, Cusco
It is one of the most notable colonial houses in Cusco. Built in the early seventeenth century, with Inca stones, by Lieutenant Corrector Francisco Aldrete Maldonado, called the Admiral East inhabited it until his death in 1643. Rebuilt by Pedro Peralta de los Rios after the earthquake of 1650 and was again restored by the University San Antonio Abad of Cusco after the earthquake of 1950.
Palacio de la ExposiciónLima, Lima
The Palace of the Exhibition, building that houses the Museum of Art of Lima - MALI, is one of the most beautiful examples of the eclectic architecture of Lima. Conceived and built as the headquarters of the first major public exhibition in our country, the "Great Exhibition of Arts, Sciences and Industries", held on the occasion of the fifty years of independence, easily adapts to the functions of the museum, since It was expressly built for exhibition purposes.
Tacna Historical MuseumTacna, Apurimac
Historical Regional museum of Tacna, is located in the Street Apurimac 202 (I Center of the city)
Pachacamac MuseumLima, Lima
The Sanctuary of Pachacamac is a place where the pre-Hispanic architecture moves us by his silence and scale; its long paths confined by impressive wall structures permanently confront us with the worship places. Its relationship with the environment is defined by traces organizing the occupation over time.