Spend even a short amount of time in Cuzco Peru and you are bound to see its beautiful Cathedral (La Catedral) in the central Plaza de Armas again and again, as you move from point A to point B.
Built in part with stones pillaged from the nearby Sacsayhuamen military outpost, it sits atop what was once an Incan palace. If you find photographs of the opulent interiors of La Catedral in books or on the Internet, know that these are NOT kosher. In order to safeguard the great treasures within from theft, you are asked not to take photos. You may want to tour La Catedral more than once, as this writer/photographer team did—once with a guide, and once on our own.
Cuzco Cathedral Mystery!
Our guide** infused the tour with his viewpoint—shared by many others similarly brimming with Andean pride—of how you are looking at the ever ready Andean spirit of insurrection at work to dupe their colonial masters. The most famous example is the painting of “The Last Supper” by Marcos Sapanca Inca. Here you see not only a substitute of cuy (guinea pig) for the lamb at the feast, chincha (purple corn beer) in lieu of wine, but also especially the visage of Pizarro as Judas, and a noteworthy clutch of gold in his hand. We also are told to look for Andean religious imagery in a famous painting portrayal of Virgin Mary, where her shape is akin to a mountain, and her dress sports distinctly Andean symbols of a condor, snake and puma. When we look at the elaborately carved wooden choir we are told to zoom our sights to the potato and pregnant women carved at the base of each seat.
How exciting! One wonders if The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown had toured La Catedral to “borrow” elements of his thriller plot lines. After taking in this tour, one wonders also what one has already missed in earlier tours of Museo Pedro di Osma, Museo de Arte Religioso, and more.
A return tour lets you savor the art still standing in this Cathedral, a victim of serial earthquakes. You get a chance to ogle the many Cuzco style religious paintings, the intricacy of its wood carvings, and elaborate gold and silver altarpieces.
In a lower basement area, you will find the remains of Garcilaso. He is said to be the first mestizo—the son of an Incan princess and Spanish military commander—one of the most important chroniclers of Incan history. It was only in relatively recent modern history that the King and Queen of Spain returned his remains to the Peruvian people.