Tierras de los Andes logo

Churches and Temples in Cusco

Home » Blog » Churches and Temples in Cusco
Home » Blog » Churches and Temples in Cusco

The city of Cusco stands out for the beautiful architectural composition of its main streets.

Throughout the historic center, the presence of multiple temples and churches stand out, many of them finely ornamented internally with canvases, sculptures and beautiful altarpieces with fine finishes in gold leaf, not to mention the fine architecture in Baroque style.

If you want to know the colonial religious art in an interesting way, visit and know the Churches and Temples in Cusco.

What is the name of the main church (temple) in Cusco?

The cathedral of Cusco has the full title La Catedral Basílica de la Virgen de la Asunción. The title of Basilica was granted by Pope Pius Xl 1928.

The title of Basilica gives it a much higher rank in hierarchy with other Catholic temples and churches.

It is important to note that there are only 4 Major Basilicas and 1500 Minor Basilicas in the world.

Churches and temples of Cusco

With the arrival of the Spaniards in 1532, the Inca lands were distributed among the conquerors, and many of these lands were donated to the different religious orders, such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits, Carmelites, among others.

Thanks to the writings of the chroniclers we know that on December 8, 1535, by order of the Queen Doña Juana Governor of Spain, Fray Vicente Valverde was commissioned to build temples and churches in the city, also with the donations of the crown each temple was to be decorated with fine works of painting, sculpture and altarpieces.

Making the historic center much more striking, by the presence of various temples and each of these, with the correct internal ornamentation.

Here is a list of the most important temples and churches of the imperial city, with a brief historical review of each of them, it is certainly an extra option to know the city from another perspective.

The Cathedral of Cusco

During the year 1559 the architect Veramendi begins the construction of the cathedral, moving the lithic pieces from the Sacsayhuaman complex to the main square.

The construction of the Cathedral took many years so there were several architects and masters who were in charge of the construction of the most important temple of the city, in addition to the fact that the temple suffered the ravages of the strongest earthquakes, a fact that was captured in a painting of 1650.  

Among the most impressive pieces of art are 256 pieces of pure silver, highlighting the float of Holy Week, the Anda of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, the Anda of the Lord of the Tremors, Crowns, a silver monstrance adorned with 331 pearls, 62 rubies, 89 amethysts, 5 sapphires, an agate, 43 topaz. 263 diamonds, 221 emeralds and 17 brilliants. It is 1.20 meters high and weighs about 27 kilos.

In addition to multiple altarpieces worked with gold leaf, sculptures and canvases of the Cusco school.

Bethlehem Church

The church of Our Lady of Bethlehem was originally founded as an Indian temple called ''Los Reyes Magos'' in 1559 in the Inca quarter of Cayocachi.

In a painting of the Cathedral Mayor is the story of how this virgin was found by two fishermen in Callao, in a box floating in the sea, when they opened it they saw the image of the mother of Christ with a note that said ''Image of Our Lady of Bethlehem, for the city of Cusco''.

 It was then when the bishop of Lima began the whole process to bring the image to the city of Cusco. Once the Virgin arrived to the imperial city, lots were drawn to decide which temple would receive the sacred mother of Jesus, so it was chosen the church of ''The Magi'', which would change its name to ''The Church of Bethlehem''.

It is known that this temple suffered great damages during the earthquake of 1650, but thanks to the bishop Manuel de Mollinedo, it could be rebuilt by the Cusquenian architect Juan Tomas Tuyro Tupac, being completely finished in 1715.

Unfortunately the new earthquake of 1950 again wreaked havoc on the monument knocking down one of its towers. The final reconstruction was in charge of the Cusquenian architect Oscar Ladron de Guevara.

Church of La Merced of Cusco

The Church of La Merced, belonging to the order of Mercedarios, founded by Father Sebastian de Trujillo in 1535, time later in 1538 Francisco donated the adjoining land of Cusipata for the construction of the first Mercedario Temple in the city of Cusco.

This temple keeps one of the richest custodians of the city with 1.20 meters high 22 kg. weight has an exquisite ornamentation of 1538 precious stones including rubies, emeralds, sapphires and others, additionally has the second largest pearl in the world.

Formerly the temple had 4 cloisters, which currently because of the earthquakes of 1650 and 1950, only 2 remain today, one of them is the current boys' school La Merced.

Church of the Society of Jesus

The Temple of the Society of Jesus, belonging to the Jesuit order, is built on what was the ancient Amarucancha, palace of the Inca Huayna Capac.

The construction was completed in only 15 years, it began in 1578 with the support of the wife of Diego Silva, the conqueror, Doña Teresa Ordoñez, finishing the temple in 1593.

This temple is located in the main square of Cusco, has many pictorial treasures among them highlights the painting of the marriage of Martin Garcia de Loyola with the Coya Beatriz Clara, one of the first marriages between Spaniards and members of the royal Panacas, in addition to its altarpiece, which was worked by Bernardo Bitti with fine finishes in gold leaf.

Monastery of the Nazarenas

 The beaterio de Las Nazarenas Descalzas was founded in the city of Cusco in the year 1695, under the Adjudication of the Santísimo Jesús Nazareno.

The Nazarene Sisters in 1745, received a new beaterio in the house of the Sierpes, located in the street Amaru Qhata. During the year 1900 it also functioned as a school for girls, considered the best in Cusco. Until it closed after the inauguration of the schools for girls, Santa Ana and María Auxiliadora.

In 1978, there were less than 10 Nazarene Sisters left, so they decided to leave the monastery and were taken in for a time in the church of La Merced.

Some time later they moved to the Church of St. Francis, where they were permanently welcomed until today.

Nowadays the Monasterio de las Nazarenas is a hotel belonging to the Belmond chain.

Recoleta Church

The Church of the Poor Christ of the Recoleta, belonging to the Franciscan Order, is located in the Recoleta Square, inside the historical center of the city, being now part of the Monumental Area protected by UNESCO.

 The construction began in 1559, under the direction of Father Francisco de Velasco, concluding with the construction in 1601.

Unfortunately during the year 1650 the earthquake left great damages in the walls, so Nicollas Huallpa hired Juan Tomas Tuyro Tupac, to raise the temple again.

Church and Seminary of San Antonio Abad

This is a religious building located in the Plazoleta de Nazarenas, on the opposite side of the old street Amaru Qhata, built in 1598 by order of Bishop Manuel de Mollinedo y Angulo, the architecture has a Baroque style, with a beautiful facade, which is one of the best preserved today.

Currently, this building was given in concession to the Hotel Monasterio, which offers the service of celebrating weddings in this church in coordination with the Hotel. They also offer masses, at which time you can visit this beautiful Seminary.

Church of San Blas Cusco

It is probably the first church of Colonial Cusco, made of adobe on a stone base in the old Inca neighborhood called Toco Cachi, according to some theories this temple would have been built on a huaca of worship to Illapa, Inca God referred to lightning.

The most outstanding feature of this church is undoubtedly its famous pulpit that according to oral tradition was carved in a single piece of wood by a cabinetmaker from Huamanga, who suffered from leprosy, in dreams he had a vision of Mary with the child Jesus in her arms and a rosary in her hand, who told him:

''If you wish to cure your illness, look for me in Cusco''. 

Coincidentally he was hired by the bishop to work in the convent of Santo Domingo in the city of Cusco, he immediately accepted the job hiding his illness, but the disease worsened and when the time came when his wounds could no longer be hidden, no one wanted to give him asylum for fear of catching that terrible disease.

Finding no shelter, he decided to enter a small and humble chapel where he recognized the image of the Virgin who appeared to him in his dreams.

Immediately he knelt down to pray asking the Virgin to cure his ailments, immediately rose petals came out of the rosary that cured his wounds and left him healthy.

The miracle was soon news, giving the new name to the Virgin of Buen Suceso and the cabinetmaker in gratitude to the Virgin carved in a single trunk a new pulpit where there is the image of the Virgin with the Child and the rosary, working 4 years without rest until the end of his work for the Virgin who had saved him.

Church of San Cristobal

The Church of San Cristobal is built on the grounds of what in Inca times was the great Colcampata, Manco Capac's palace.

The temple was built in the XVI century, by initiative of the Inca Prince, Paullu Inca, who was the brother of Manco Inca, Huascar and Atahuallpa.

Paullo supported the Spanish conquerors against the revolts caused by the conflicts of his brothers, so that the colonizers themselves gave Paullu the land and plots of Colcampata, also he was baptized in the Catholic religion, receiving the new name of Christopher Paulo Inca.

He built a small Indian chapel in the esplanade of the colcampata, dedicated to the patron saint San Cristóbal.

During the earthquake of 1650 the chapel suffered great damage, so the bishop Manuel de Mollinedo financed the reconstruction that was in charge of the Cusquenian master Marcos Uscamayta, only the tower and the wall of the entrance are made completely in stone the rest of the construction was kept in adobe.

Church of St. Francis

The Franciscans arrived in Peru during the year 1534, they had small provisional chapels until finally 1549 when they moved definitively to the lands of Hernando Pizarro where the hospital of San Lazaro functioned.

The viceroy Francisco de Toledo in 1572, ordered the construction of a temple for San Francisco de Asis, currently is the church of San Francisco.

The original temple was dismantled to start a new, more modern complex in 1645, but progress was delayed by the famous earthquake of 1650. Finally, after great efforts, the temple was completed in 1653.

Part of the convent and cloister of the church was given to the boys' school ''Ciencias'', the school ''San Francisco de Asís'', and for a while during the 19th century also to the girls' school ''Educandas''.

Among the most outstanding attractions are the polyglot bible, written in 5 languages, Catacombs in which multiple human remains were found, a canvas entitled ''Genealogy of the Franciscan Order'' which compiles 683 characters of the 12 branches of the Franciscan order, considered the largest canvas in America.

St. Peter's Church

In the year 1556 the Hospital de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios was built, known mostly as the ''Hospital de los Naturales'', unfortunately during the earthquake of 1650 this hospital was devastated, leaving only one room of the hospital standing.

Because of the earthquake there were many wounded, and victims so the hospital had to continue functioning, the pastor of the small chapel began the partial reconstruction of the hospital ending in 1657 to accommodate the sick and injured, but it was in 1688 with funding from Bishop Manuel de Mollinedo under the direction of the architect Juan Tomas Tuyro Tupac Cusco that the current imposing temple of San Pedro with two front towers and a facade of 3 bodies.

During the 1950 earthquake the temple suffered no major damage other than some cracks in its right tower, these cracks can still be seen today.

Church of Santa Ana

The temple of Santa was one of the first 5 indigenous churches of the city of Cusco. Built precariously in adobe in 1559 on a sacred waka in the old Inca neighborhood of Qarmenqa.

The temple of Santa Ana was the most affected in the earthquake of 1650, nothing was left of the temple, as its walls were already in poor condition as can be seen in the first plan of the city of Cusco in 1643.

Bishop Mollinedo, patron of Cusco, was the one who informed the Spanish crown of the terrible situation of the temple of Santa Ana, so that sufficient funds were sent for its restoration.

The church of Santa Ana is one of the simplest at present, with adobe walls covered with white plaster, simple tile roof, the former Mayor Daniel Estrada Perez ornament the courtyard of the temple turning it into a square with a viewpoint to the city of Cusco. They celebrate the feast of the Lord of the Cabildo and the patron saint of the temple participates annually in the feast of Corpus Christi.

Church of Santa Catalina

The convent and temple of Santa Catalina, of the Dominican order was built on an old Inca enclosure, the AcllaWasi or ''Casa de las Escogidas'', these Inca lots were given to Antonio de la Gama, time later they were acquired by the Bishop Fernando de Mendoza who, donated the lands to the Dominican nuns.

Thus in 1605 the convent of Santa Catalina was inaugurated receiving Melchora Clara Coya who was a descendant of Huayna Capac, as one of the first aspirants to religious life, and this was an exceptional case since mestizo women were not allowed.

The convent was damaged during the earthquake in 1650, so the reconstruction of the cloisters and the church of Santa Catalina was started and finished in 1669.

At the moment and from the year 1975 it opened its doors to part of its facilities as a museum, in which important paintings of the School Cusqueña are exhibited, that portray scenes of the Life of Santa Catalina de Siena, in addition to imposing altarpieces carved and finished in bread of Gold.

The museum has representations of the daily life of the Dominican nuns, as well as all the activities they learned and developed in their religious life.

Church of Santa Clara

The church and convent of Santa Clara was one of the first shelters in the imperial city that welcomed orphans, half-caste and Inca descendants, during the year 1560 it was elevated to the rank of Monastery fulfilling the double function of beaterio and shelter for orphans.

Then in 1602 and thanks to the donation of the Cusquenian Beatriz Villegas who financed the construction of the temple that we currently see in the imperial city. This temple during the earthquake of 1650 and 1950 suffered no damage except in the bell tower, which was restored instantly.

Church of Santa Teresa

The Monastery of the Discalced Carmelites of St. Joseph and St. Teresa, nowadays more popularly known as the Convent of St. Teresa.

The land was originally owned by Diego de Silva y Guzmán and was known for its majesty, as the Silva house. This great construction was donated in 1649 to erect a Mercedarian school, which was never carried out.

Many years passed until in 1672 Antonio de Zea obtained the Silva House with the help of Queen Maria of Austria and with her authorization, he founded the monastery of the Order of Saint Teresa in Cusco, who also granted 100 thousand pesos for the construction of a temple and to initiate the procedures and processes for the arrival of the Teresian nuns to Cusco.

Finally in the year 1675 the first founding nuns arrived in the city of Cusco, while the construction of the temple and monastery concluded in 1678.

Church of Santo Domingo

The temple of Santo Domingo is built over what was the most important religious precinct of the Inca time, the Qoricancha.

During the Spanish colonization in 1532, the space of the Qoricancha was given to Juan Pizarro, brother of Francisco Pizarro, who before his death left in donation

Qoricancha to the order of Dominicans, so that in that place the Convent of Santo Domingo was built in 1534, being the first Dominican Convent in Peru.

Currently you can see how the Inca walls and the colonial construction merge, part of the Inca temple is now an exhibition as a site museum, where you can see the Inca rooms where they worshiped the different Inca Gods such as the Sun (Inti), the Moon (Killa), the Lightning (Illapa), among others.

Several chroniclers have referred to the Qoricancha as the most important temple of the Inca Empire, and the richest in terms of gold and silver works.

Church of Triumph

At the time of the arrival of the Spaniards, there was the distribution of the Inca lots and fields among the colonizers, they took part of the Suntur Wasi, as a barracks and refuge, giving origin also to the legend of the appearance of the apostle Santiago and the Virgin Mary that gave the triumph to the conquerors, during the fire caused by Manco Inca.

Thus, the fire consumed a great part of the city, leaving the Suntur Wasi intact. The story goes that the apostle Santiago had descended from the heavens mounted on his white horse, defending the place, while the Virgin Mary covered the space with her cloaks protecting the Spaniards from the fire,

Being the conquerors the ones who won in the confrontation, this same place would be where they raised the church of the triumph, the Bishop Vicente Valverde celebrated there the first mass of Cusco, the wooden cross that they brought from Spain was placed in the main altar, today known as the cross of the conquest.

This was the first catholic construction in Cusco, and it was considered the cathedral of the city until 1654 when the main cathedral that we know today was built.

Church of San Sebastian

This church is located a little further away from the center of the city of Cusco, in the district of the same name.  District in which were exiled different royal Panacas of the Inca empire, which over time were disappearing, and it is also for them that is ordered to build this Catholic temple.

 Its construction began in 1560 and concluded in 1799, it contained important works of painting of the Cusquenian school, of the Cusquenian painter Diego Quispe Titto, who was the only indigenous painter of Cusco who came to the Vatican to learn and improve his techniques, some of his works are still preserved in the temple of San Sebastian. 

Church of St. Jerome

The church of San Jerónimo was erected in an area called Waqoto, where the royal panacas were exiled, as well as in the district of San Sebastián.

This temple was built at the end of the XVI century, being specifically directed to start the evangelization of the natives.

It is so it was one of the first to be built and for its good structure is a temple that has not suffered alterations in terms of its architecture, so it is the right temple to appreciate the primary constructions of the city of Cusco, with adobe walls and a roof of 2 waters. a bell tower on the outside, the style of the temple is Renaissance.

Leave us your answer or if you have a question, let us know:
form contacto EN
Our certifications
Our Collaborators
Footer Terandes