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Cusco Attractions: Koricancha and the Temple of the Sun

Koricancha (meaning golden courtyard) located in Cusco was one of the most important sites of the Inca Empire. It was said to be a splendid place with gold doors, emerald studded wall; and courtyards filled with gold statutes.

Within Koricancha the Temple of the Sun was a holy site for the Inca. Dedicated to Inti, the walls were covered gold plated and the temple housed a jeweled-encrusted golden statue of the sun god. Each day the statue was taken outside and moved back inside the temple each evening. A gold and silver garden was created in Inti’s honor featuring a corn field, guinea pigs, birds, shepherds, jaguars, llamas, monkeys, insects and butterflies. What a sight to behold! Unfortunately all that remains today is a selection of corn stalks as proof of the people’s respect for the sun god.

In addition to the Temple of the Sun,  Koricancha housed five separate temples dedicated to Viracocha, the creator god, Quilla, the goddess of the moon, Illapa, the god of thunder, Cuichu, the rainbow god and Venus, the goddess of the dawn. Each temple contained a statue in honor of the god as well as art and other religious objects.

It is said that the original construction of Koricancha had been carried out under the orders of Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui and additional construction was done by Maco Capac in the early 12th Century. The site was built to resemble the sun complete with rays shining in all directions.

The Spanish colonists eventually built the Church of Santo Domingo demolishing the temple and using its foundations for the church in an attempt to obliterate the Inca beliefs. Any remaining gold was melted into ingots and claimed by the Spanish crown.

Little remains of the Koricancha original buildings or the temple other than sections of the stone walls for which the Inca are well known.  Their masonry skills were avant-garde. It is definite worthwhile visiting Koricancha and the Santo Domingo Church to admire the combination of Inca and colonial architecture.

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