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The Cathedral of Cusco: All the Facts you need to Know

A tourist stares at the Cusco Cathedral

PeruAmazonTrips‘s today article focuses on Cusco Cathedral, a testimony of the complicated past that still finds its way to the moder Peruvian narrative.

Cusco’s Cathedral or Cathedral Basilica of Mary’s Assumption is the most important temple of Cusco’s city. It’s the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cusco’s headquarters, it’s divided in three temple. The central structure is ligated with the Triumph’s temple and the Sacred Family’s temple.

This space beholds a rich inheritance as it’s situated where the 8th inca’s palace (Viracocha Inca) was held before the conquest and the Suntur Wasi (Central House or Government’s House). It’s currently the most important religious building the city.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve deep into the Cathedral, uncovering its secrets, exploring its significance, and providing essential insights for a memorable visit in this UNESCO World’s Patrimony site.

Cusco's cathedral is supposedly over the 8th inca's palace.

History and Origins

This temple began as a project that only occupies a third of its current spacing. The first project was the Triumph’s temple, this section replaced the 8th Inca’s palace. Currently the Triumph’s temple is only an auxiliary section of the main structure.

The project for the cathedral itself began with Vicente de Valverde’s (Cusco’s first bishop) intention of replacing Pachacutec’s palace (which is also located in the current Cusco’s main plaza) or Qasana as it was called. After that, Juan Solano (Cusco’s second bishop) decided the current location of the Cathedral.

The project was really ambitious for its time, and for the construction many indigenous workers died while bringing Sacsahuaman’s giant stone blocks down to modern Cusco’s downtown.

The sacrifice was so significant that in total three architects worked on the Cathedral’s construction during their lifetimes. The project was delayed because of an earthquake in the year 1650 causing significant damages in the structure (and it was also an excuse for a remodelation).

The Role of Indigenous Labor

One street in Cusco has the sacrifice of the many unfortunate indigenous slaves that sacrificed to build this Cathedral. This street is called “Slope of bitterness” in memory of the many injustices that these people were obliged upon. The tradition indicates that many workers that had the job of bringing down Sacsayhuaman’s blocks for the Cathedral were crushed by these stones in this street because they had to do this labour manually depending only on their strenght that was already pushed to its limits by having to work without a rest.

Cusco's Cathedral with the fountain that's located in front of it.

Cultural Significance

Cusco’s patron is stored in the Cathedral. The “lord of the earthquakes” is a wooden sculpture that ressembles the image of a crucified Christ. Local artisans carved the sculpture (that’s why the sculpture bears a poor resemblance with an anatomically correct body).

Also, many paintings with religious themes are displayed in the three temples. Artists like the locally renowned Diego Quispe Ttito have their work here. There are pictures that still rise debate to this day, like the interpretation of the Last Supper with Andean elements.

Many valuable silver works made with Inca’s silver are in custody of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cusco. These items are used in particular events with zeal.

From the outside one can see an engraved text in stone that indicates that the Spaniards received help from Saint James the Moor Slayer, who came to kill the local rebels in aid of the Spaniards. But if one leans more on the hystorical facts, it was actually the sublevant indigenous that supported the Conquerors and black slaves, that saved the Conquistadors. This of course didn’t help the myth that Spanish Conquerors wanted to spread, so they reinterpreted history to their own convenience.

Through the ages that came after these events, many other events took place in front of the Cathredral, like the execution of Tupac Amaru II (famed half blood rebel) or the last Inca, Tupac Amaru I (from the unofficial dinasty of the Vilcabamba Incas).

All the city's main activities are celebrated in front of the Cathedral.

Practical Tips for Visitors

Prepare for your Cusco Cathedral visit confidently with insider tips and practical advice for maximizing your experience.

Guided Tours and Audio Guides

Elevate your visit with a guided tour or audio guide, providing intriguing insights into Cusco Cathedral’s history, art, and architecture. Delve into captivating narratives and anecdotes, enhancing your appreciation for this cultural landmark.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How old is the Cathedral?

Construction began in 1559, ending in 1654, showcasing almost a century of meticulous craftsmanship and unwavering dedication to completion.

What is the significance of the Cathedral?

The Cusco Cathedral holds immense cultural, historical, and religious significance. Spanish colonial influence, indigenous craftsmanship, and Catholic devotion in the Andean region are present here.

Cusco's Cathedral during the day.

Are there any special events or religious ceremonies held at the Cathedral?

Experience a variety of religious events, processions, and cultural celebrations at the Cathedral, showcasing Andean traditions and Catholic rituals throughout the year.


In conclusion, the Cusco Cathedral stands as a beacon of history, culture, and spirituality in the heart of Cusco. The Cusco Cathedral’s captivating history, architecture, and cultural significance allure visitors on a timeless journey of discovery.

For history enthusiasts, art aficionados, or spiritual seekers, a visit to the Cusco Cathedral offers leaving a lasting impact.

If you have any questions regarding the Cathedral or our blog, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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