Possibly the most sacred and important building in the entire Inca Empire, Korikancha was the name given to the Inca Temple of the Sun. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived in Cusco, the temple was torn to the ground and its valuable items taken. Nowadays the colonial structure of the Church & Convent of Santo Domingo sits on top of the original Korikancha foundations, but inside many of the original temple buildings remain.
Korikancha – “Kori” meaning gold and “kancha” meaning open ground or place – was dedicated to the worship of the Sun God – Inti. Ancient chronicles describe Korikancha as having a garden of golden plants with leaves of beaten gold and stems of silver, solid gold corn cobs and twenty life-sized llamas with herders. The temple itself was lined with solid gold sheets that reflected sun light, and other golden objects including a solid gold disc studded with precious stones and bearing a human face representing the Sun God – Inti.
The building is aligned closely to the sunrise of the June solstice. At that time of the year the sun’s rays fall directly onto a large niche on the south-west side of Korikancha. According to accounts by Garcilaso de la Vega, this niche was likened to a tabernacle (the holiest of holy places) in a Hebrew church. Garcilaso reported that it was here that the Sapa Inca sat during important Inca festivals.
After the fall of Cusco to the Spanish, the riches of Korikancha were plundered and most likely melted down and sent back to Spain. The Spanish were also keen to completely remove Korikancha – a magnificent Inca icon – and replace it with something more in tune with their own catholic beliefs. In 1534, the Order of Santo Domingo arrived in Cusco, and a few years later the construction of the Catholic Church and Convent of Santo Domingo had begun.
Nowadays only part of the original curved wall can be seen from outside Korikancha, with the colonial Church and Convent of Santo Domingo sat over the top.
Visiting Korikancha & Church and Convent of Santo Domingo
Entrance to both Korikancha & Church and Convent of Santo Domingo is on Calle Santo Domingo (facing the luxury Palacio del Inka Hotel). A guided tour takes about 1 hour, but 2 hours should be allowed to full appreciate everything at the site. Guides are dotted around the main entrance, and can be hired for a few hours for about S/. 40 – 60 (US$ 14 – 22).
The main ruins of the Inca Temple of the Sun are located around the inner colonial patio of the convent. A recently opened second floor houses several art exhibitions including photos by the world renowned Martin Chambi and the Concurso Predicarte – a collection of contemporary paintings by local artists inspired by the theme of water.
Visitors can also access the gardens of Korikancha by a small stairway in the southern side of the ruin. Don’t forget to access to the rear of the curved outer wall, where the large mysterious niche is located. Access to the rear of the wall can be gained from doorway leading to the outside, just past the large astrological painting.
Entrance to the Church Santo Domingo is free. The entrance can be found adjacent to the main entrance of Korikancha (outside on Calle Santo Domingo).
Opening Times & Entrance Fee for Korikancha
Monday – Saturday: 8.30 am – 5.30 pm
Sunday: 12.00 pm – 17.00 pm
Adult Price: S/. 10 (US$ 3.50)
Child Price: S/. 5 (US$ 1.75)
Opening Times & Entrance Fee for Church of Santo Domingo
Monday – Saturday: 7.00 am – 7.30 pm
Sunday: 7.00 am – 11.00 am & 6.00 pm – 8.30 pm
Times of Mass for Church of Santo Domingo
Monday – Saturday: 7.00 am & 6.30 pm
Sunday: 7.00 am, 6.30 pm & 7.30 pm
Price: Free to enter