The Inca site of Qorikancha forms the foundations of the colonial church of Santo Domingo, creating an unusual combination of monolithic Inca and arched colonial architecture.
Qorikancha means ‘Golden Courtyard’, and in Inca times the temple walls were clad with 700 sheets of solid gold, proving a tempting lure for the conquistadors. The gold sheets and gold and silver statues are gone, melted down and recast by the Spanish, but the impressively hewn curved wall of basalt stonework remains.
The temple complex is thought to have been built by the first Inca emperor, Manco Capac, 100 years before the coming of the Spaniards. It was built as an observatory and religious temple to the sun, housing the mummified bodies of the Inca rulers.
When you enter the courtyard, imagine the octagonal front clad with solid gold, flanked by temples to the moon and the stars draped in solid silver.
Qorikancha is a couple of blocks southwest of Cusco’s city center, best reached by strolling down pedestrianized Loreto and Pampa del Castillo.