Cusco, Peru – Incas’ stonemason art without gaps

700 plates of massive gold shall have covered the walls. The garden was filled with life-sized corn plants, llamas with herdsmen, babies, altars, a sun, trees and bushes, birds, snakes, and butterflies – all of them made from pure massive gold and silver, decorated with precious stones. Qorikancha with all its art treasures is said to have been the richest temple in the entire Inca Empire. Then the Spaniards arrived, robbed the treasures, melted them down and razed the walls to the ground as far as they could. They used the quarry to build church and convent Santo Domingo on the temple walls and plastered the rest discreetly. The temple sank into oblivion, and until 1950 Santo Domingo was a normal church and convent. Then a tremendous earthquake shook Cusco, and Santo Domingo collapsed. But some of the walls remained standing, and the humiliating realization goes: It was the Inca walls that weren’t torn down at the time.

Today Santo Domingo / Qorikancha is a museum, an odd combination of Inca architecture, colonial church, religious museum, art exhibit, and flower garden. The Inca walls were cleared of the rendering and can be admired in their entire perfection. The stone blocks are so perfectly worked that they could be assembled without any mortar. Not one sheet of paper can be pushed between them. All lines show lintel. Windows and doors narrow further up, even the walls themselves aspire to each other. Some of the blocks are exhibited to show the highly complicated dovetailing of the rocks. With annihilation of the Inca culture the knowledge about this earthquake-proof method of building was lost. During the earthquake of 1950 only one single stone in the remaining Inca walls moved for some millimetres.

Ten very rewarding Nuevo Soles per person brought us into this bizarre temple-church. It is not allowed to take photos of the exhibited oil paintings and the clerical robes. But who cares in the face of this stunning pre-Columbian stonemason art?

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