Temple of the Sun

Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Fri 10 Sep 2010 20:27
The Temple of the Sun




The temple of the Sun or Koricancha is located in the southern part of the city of Cusco, called the Hurin Qosqo. It is surrounded by the Square of Santo Domingo, Ahuacpinta Street and the Pumacchupan (now Garcilaso Street). Seen from the South, it looks like a pyramid, because the temple was built on a natural hill that was in its time the main Huaca (temple). Below the temple the rivers Saphy and Tullumayo flow into the ditch at the edge of the temple. The Chroniclers say that the first temple of the Inca Empire was located on a hill called Huanacauri, in the Southern part of the city. Later, when the valley of Cusco was occupied, the Incas built another temple called the Inticancha (Enclosure of the Sun), the first temple was very modest.

Construction: Archeological explorations of the Koricancha were carried out by Rowe in 1941, Barreda in 1972, Valencia and Gibaja in 1975, (also 1977-79). From these explorations, it was concluded that there had been another occupation before the Incas built the temple, in a period called Inca Provincial or Killke. The temple was built during the reign of the Inca Wiracocha around the year 1200 A.D., and later with the Inca Pachacutec the temple was embellished or decorated. Around the temple there were many buildings like the Palace of Huayna Capac, the palace of Kusicancha, the Inn of Kunturpata and the Inticancha Plaza. Many chroniclers, historians, travelers and critics have written about this monument, and it's believed that from this temple the Incas took most of the treasure to pay the release of the Inca Atahualpa, when he was captured by the Spaniards. This treasure was made up of more than seven hundred plates of gold that weighed ten to twelve pounds each, and smaller ones that weighed four to five pounds. Also historians claim that idols, utensils and other objects were taken, in total they filled up one room with gold and two rooms with silver objects.

Architecture and Decoration: The architecture of the temple was excellent and flawless. It consisted of high walls that circled the temple. Inside, there were rectangular rooms with beautifully polished floors.  Surrounding the courtyard there were walls decorated with precious metals. The stones used by the Incas to build the temple were plutonic diorite rocks and calcareous rocks, they were brought from the quarries located ten to fifteen miles away, called Waqoto and Rumiqolca.



The walls were built using the biggest stones for the foundations, smaller ones at the top. The photo shows the tiniest stone, no bigger than the end of a thumb. The Incas used a thin layer of clay. These walls reached to the lintel of the niches and windows, and over the rocks the Incas put mud bricks. At the top of the walls, some wood was placed to hold a straw roof. Documents about temple say that on the wall there was a frame of gold, as decorative element, two palms wide and four fingers high. The trapezoidal walls and the vertical inclination is typical Inca architecture, indeed the Incas were masters of stonework. The stones were perfectly joined not even a needle could penetrate the space in between. The floors also of stone were covered with compacted clay and earth in some of the rooms, while others, dust was used. For the supreme beings, such as the God Wiracocha, the Sun, the Moon and Stars, and the mother Pachamama, had a room in Koricancha's temple. Priests and Acllas lived inside the temple. Acllas were selected women who honoured and served the Sun, called Women of the Sun, they kept a permanent fire, day and night.



According to the chroniclers, the Koricancha temple had four doors that led to the main streets; others say that it had only one door towards the North. There were five independent rooms around the courtyard, and other historians say that there were only four. The walls and doors of these rooms were covered with golden and silver plates. Once inside people entered a small courtyard where there was an image of the Sun, made of gold. In this chapel, under the figure of the sun, were the embalmed corpses of the past rulers and Incas, seated on golden chairs. Only Huayna Capac was in front of the figure of the Sun, facing East. The morning sun filled the room with shining light.


Inside, there was a drawing with images that represented the Inca’s vision of the cosmos, told by the chronicler Santa Cruz Pachacuti. In these drawings (in gold) we could see the god Wiracocha, the Sun, the Moon, Venus, the Rainbow, Lightening, a man and a woman, a tree and stars. This room was called the Solar Drum, now it's known as the Main Altar of the Christian Church that was built over the Inca structure. In front of this room, there was a fruit garden, or a garden of gold, with golden corns, trees, animals, fruit, butterflies, birds and tools for the land. It is said that Pachacutec cultivated the land. The image of the Sun was given to the Spaniard Mancio Sierra de Leguizamo, who gambled with the image and lost it.



This ornamental mural painting is a fragment of the Colonial period (17th Century) decoration of this building which until the 1950's was used as a Chapter House (hall for community meetings) of the Saint Dominic Priory. In Colonial times many of the Inca constructions of the Qorikancha, were covered on their interior side with plaster and mural paintings, of which only this detail survives, it was restored in May 2005.



Lavish paintings adorn the walls of the corridors


Other chroniclers say that the image was smaller. There were also other statues of the Sun made of thick blankets that carried the llauto, and they say they were made like that, because once people saw three suns in the sky. One of the figures represented the real Sun, another represented the day and the last one represented the virtue to raise. These figures were known as the Apu Inti or Sun King, the Churi Inti or the Son of the Sun, and the other was the Inti Huauqui or Brother of the Sun. There was also a statue of a naked boy, wearing a golden lace. According to some chroniclers this figure represented the Inca Wiracocha and the others say it was the sun itself. Another room was dedicated to the Moon, sister of the Sun, covered with silver, with the shape and face of a woman. Next to her, there were some mummies of coyas or wives of the Incas. The wife of Huayna Capac was in front of the disc. Other rooms located next to those of the Sun and the moon offered to the stars the Lightening and the Rainbow. All of these rooms were covered with gold and on these plates there was a drawing of the Rainbow and of Venus.



The garden showing the Condor, Puma, and Snake, so important to the Incas.


There were small idols made of gold and silver among the sacrifices and gifts (found in the excavations made by Gibaja in 1975), there was also wool, cotton, coca leaves, llamas, huanacos, chaquiras (small beads) golden sheets, small clothes (the size of the idols) food, pins, and chicha. It's claimed that people sacrificed babies of both genders during the ceremony of coronation of the Inca, when he died, after his victories, or when a big construction was finished. Starting from the Temple of Koricancha emerged to the four cardinal points, about forty imaginary lines, in each one, there were located the sacred places or huacas, making a total of three hundred and twenty eight. The temple had five water springs, some of them with golden faucets, others made of stone. Chronicler Garcilaso saw only one.

Many Streets converged in front of the temple joining the downtown area. All of them converged at the small plaza called Intipampa, where the ceremonies took place with dances and sacrifices in honour of the Sun God. It's said that only the nobility could enter and no women were allowed. The chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega said that in order to enter into the temple, people had to have fasted for a whole year.



The church built on top of the Temple of the Sun, the dark grey area originally had a solid gold dome, removed cut up and lost in a bet.

The area of the Koricancha was given to Pedro Pizarro when the Spaniards divided the city among the conquerors. Pizarro was a religious man and gave the property to Padre Olias, for the construction of a church and a convent for the Dominican order. In the sixteenth century, the Christian temple was built over the Inca structure. The Spaniards destroyed some of the sacred temples, taking away treasures, melting some of the precious metal objects found to be distributed among the conquerors, one fifth of the wealth was sent to the King of Spain. At the end of the century the traveler Squir visited the temple and he was amazed with its beauty and quality.

At the end of the present century, historian Luis E. Valcarcel declared this monument a master piece of the Inca architecture. Alexander Von Humbolt said that the Inca architecture was solid, symmetric and simple. In 1950, during the earthquake, some of the church was destroyed especially around the Main Altar and the central Arch. Afterwards during the reconstruction workers found several waterways in the central courtyard and later in 1975 an 1979 other waterways were found near the Andenes.