Our guide* grabs a notebook to sketch out just how vast the Inca empire was—covering large parts of what is now Latin America, from today’s Columbia to Chile...
Without benefit of trains, planes or automobiles, every good Incan throughout that kingdom was expected to make the journey to where you stand, in Qoricancha.
Qoricancha - Holiest Spot in Holiest Cusco
Part temple and part museum, it was the most holy spot in the most holy city of Cusco. Everything about the temple/museum was intended for the Inca equivalent of shock and awe. You were meant to walk away knowing that the Incas were your superiors in all senses.
Superior Inca Anti-Seismic Engineering
Were it not for earthquakes that toppled much of the Santo Domingo Church the colonials had built on top of it, using much of the original Inca building for the church foundation, we wouldn’t be able to admire the Inca architecture laid bare before us. While the cement and mortar colonial construction was toppled, the lego like fit together of the huge irregular stones in the Inca structure survived. The architect who figured out how to fit these all together we learn is the same one who put his mark on Machu Picchu. Unlike the uniform colonial structure that had collapsed, the Inca portion is sloped 3 – 6 degrees for stability.
Like the Raqchi ruins you always are getting a glimpse of how Inca architecture has a LOT to do with the sun and astronomy—specifically, according to our guide, making sure that it was the prime spot during the summer solstice, a day that marked the beginning of the Inca year. Qoricancha was not one but a complex of temples, each devoted to a different deity -- sun, moon, stars and Venus, rainbow and lightening.
The chroniclers of the Inca, and also the Spaniard colonizers, recorded the walls of gold, silver and jewels in Qoricancha. Even the gardens, which today are a green lawn, were said to be covered with gold and silver life-sized figures of animals. Actually, the greater sacred treasures here were, for the Inca, the mummies of their ancestors, who were said to be taken out daily and offered food.
Schedules permitting, this writer recommends that you tour Qoricancha after a tour of one or more expansive Inca ruins such as Machu Picchu or Ollantaytambo, and even better if your prior tours include taking in Inca innovations in bioengineering (Moray) or water engineering ( Tipón ).