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Let's go to the Coricancha, the main temple in the Inca Empire!

Home / Travel Blog / Let's go to the Coricancha, the main temple in the Inca Empire!
Let's go to the Coricancha, the main temple in the Inca Empire!

Possibly the most sacred and important building in the Tahuantinsuyo empire was the Coricancha, also known as the Temple of the Sun. During the time of the conquest, the temple was destroyed and looted. On its base, the church and convent of Santo Domingo was built. Currently, there is a museum with all the Inca pieces that were found there during the excavations.



The Santo Domingo square is located in the current precinct of the Santo Domingo temple and convent, built on the remains of the Coricancha and extends to Av. El Sol.



According to the Inca conception, the Coricancha was the religious center of Cusco, geographic and political center. The temple of the Qorikancha, was the place where he paid homage to the highest Inca god the "Inti" (sun). "Qori" means worked gold, its Castilianized form is cori. "Kancha" means fenced place, bounded by walls. Hence, the name corresponds approximately to "fenced place that contains gold."



Research suggests that the Coricancha existed before Inca times. Its original name was Inticancha (Temple of the Sun) and its original walls were made by the Ayamarcas in the 13th century, approximately.


In the 15th century, when the Inca emperor Pachacutec assumed power, beautification works were carried out throughout the city of Cusco. The Inticancha was renamed Coricancha. Huge walls were built (the finest in the entire empire) and lined with sheets of gold, silver and precious stones.


The Coricancha housed shrines to the different Inca gods. The most important was the shrine to the sun. It is believed that it was surrounded by gold while the temple of the moon, silver.


In the 16th century, after the Spanish invasion, the Coricancha was looted. Some chroniclers suggest that the gold was transferred to Cajamarca to pay for Atahualpa's ransom.


The temple was owned by Francisco Pizarro who assigned it to the Dominican order who built the church and convent of Santo Domingo.


Throughout their history, both structures (the Coricancha and the Santo Domingo church) suffered up to three earthquakes of intense magnitude. Only the Christian temple suffered considerable damage. The Coricancha is still intact.


The Coricancha during the time of the Incas

According to historians, the first name of this religious site was Intikancha, which means Temple of the Sun. Although the date of its construction is not established with certainty, it is believed that it occurred during the government of the Inca Pachacútec -15th century- who, as part of the remodeling and beautification of the city of Cusco, ordered the name change to Coricancha and its restoration that included the construction of enormous walls (the finest in the entire Empire) and the cladding with gold sheets; this in order to give a greater majesty and a sacred character to the enclosure.


Before the arrival of the Spanish, the temple housed a large number of rooms that fulfilled different functions and a vast open courtyard located in the center. Only religious and members of the nobility entered the interior, while the rest of the population could worship the gods through offerings - gold utensils, spondylus shells and coca leaves - in the gardens on the ground floor. Over time, citizens were allowed to enter on the condition of being on an empty stomach, barefoot and with some bundle or weight loaded on their back, as a sign of humility.


Templo del Qoricancha Coricancha Koricancha



The description made by Garcilaso is in harmony with what is still standing today. Although this is only a pale reflection of what the Qorikancha actually was in Inca times.


The temple of the Sun

It was the main Temple of the entire Qorikancha, it occupied more than half the width of the current Church of Santo Domingo. Garcilaso tells that inside this temple the embalmed bodies of the children of the Sun were found, placed by antiquity on chairs and on gold tables, the walls were covered with gold plates, there being a disk representing the figure of the Sun from a gold plate thicker than the other plates that covered the temple. At the western end it corresponds to the current drum overlooking Av. Sol; its eastern end reached up to the current atrium of the church.


The Temple of the Moon

This temple was closer to the Temple of the Sun, since the Moon was considered the wife of the Sun. This building was lined with silver planks, with a representation of the Moon made in silver. Inside the mummies of the Coyas were kept, arranged in order of antiquity. Approximately half of the Temple was demolished by the Spanish to build the nave of the Santo Domingo church. It occupies part of the western side of the inner courtyard of the Qorikancha.


The Temple of Venus and the Stars

It is located near the Temple of the Moon, but separated by a beautiful alley, dedicated to Venus and the seven white goats and all the other stars. The Incas called Venus "Chasca" which means star. In this temple the Inca was located, according to references by historians, to be divinized or to witness festivals or sacrifices made in the rectangular courtyard. It occupies part of the western side of the inner courtyard of the Qorikancha.


The Temple of Illapa or Chuki Illapa

Illapa or ChukiIllapa mean lightning, lightning and thunder at the same time. The temple in question is in front of the temple of Venus, it has three simple jamb doors, equidistant and slightly trapezoidal, also has a window on each side wall.


The Temple of K'uychi or Rainbow

In this temple the Rainbow was worshiped, which according to ancient belief came from the Sun. It has the same architectural characteristics as the Temple of Illapa. A part of this temple was demolished by the Spanish to build the buildings of the Dominican Convent. It is north of the Temple of Illapa and opposite the Temple of the Moon, on the eastern side of the inner courtyard of the Qorikancha.



Almost all the peoples of the world, in all ages, in front of their temples built wide squares. Intipanpa or Intipampa (name that translates as Plain of the Sun) is the place where the nobles stayed, their courts, service personnel, dancers, etc. when in the course of festivals the Inca and the nobility moved to the Qorikancha. This place currently corresponds to the Plaza de Santo Domingo, apparently its limits and extension have hardly changed. It is located the North of what was the Qorikancha.


The Solar Garden

It became the great depository of offerings that all the subject and confederate nations brought to the Sun god, the offerings consisted of representations of flora and fauna of the Tahuantinsuyo. According to some historians, these offerings made of gold and silver were life-size and there were so many that they filled the terraces in such a surprising way that the Spanish called it The Solar Garden. In colonial times it became a garden for the Dominican friars. It is located in the western part of the Qorikancha, it can be seen from Av. Sol in its entirety.


The sources

There were 5 sources of water, the origins of the water from the sources was a kept secret. The fountains had religious significance and were decorated with precious metals. They were located in the entire extension of the Qorikancha, currently we can see a fountain with octagonal corners in the courtyard of the Qorikancha.



Monday to Saturday: 08:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. - Sunday: 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Cost: S /. 10.00 (Not included in the Tourist Ticket)


Coricancha: site museum

After the excavation work carried out in the archaeological site of Coricancha, the site museum was created with the objects found during the works. The museum consists of five rooms with different ceramic pieces, tools and even bone remains. The museum also displays informational panels that explain the Inca lifestyle from its beginnings to its conquest.


Where is?

The museum is located under the esplanade of the archaeological site of Coricancha. It can be reached by walking from the Plaza de Armas of Cusco following El Sol Avenue for a few blocks.


Its exact address is: Avenida El Sol 526, Cusco.


How much is admission?

Entrance to the Coricancha site museum is included in the Cusco Tourist Ticket. The cost of this ticket is 70 Peruvian soles (22 US dollars) and also includes access to: Regional Historical Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Monument to Pachacutec, Museum of Popular Art, Qosqo Center for Native Art, Tipón Archaeological Park and Archaeological Park of Piquillacta.


What is the attention hour?

The museum is open from Monday to Sunday from 9 in the morning until 6 in the afternoon. The maximum stay time is 1 hour. It also offers access to the Coricancha esplanade of green areas.


What objects does it display?

  • Ceramic pieces.
  • Ceremonial vessels (keros).
  • Stone tools for warfare.
  • Seashell ornaments.
  • Royal mummies of the Incas.
  • Inca textile mantles.
  • Skulls
  • Wooden tools for household use.
  • Knitted alpaca wool ponchos.

Coricancha: Convent of Santo Domingo



The Santo Domingo Convent is located next to the entrance door to the Coricancha Temple. You can get there walking from the Plaza de Armas of Cusco.


The exact address is: calle Ahuacpinta 659-A, Cusco.


It is open every day of the year from 6 in the morning until 8 at night.



After the sacking of the Coricancha temple by the Spanish in the 16th century, as happened with all Inca temples, a religious order was in charge of the construction of a Catholic religious temple to replace the Inca gods with those of the West.


It was Juan Pizarro (Francisco Pizarro's brother) who gave the Coricancha to the Dominican congregation in 1534. They built the church on the ruins of the Inca site. The construction of the religious temple took approximately one hundred years.


The church of Santo Domingo del Cusco suffered severe damage after the earthquake of 1650. The same happened with the earthquake of 1950. The reconstructions took several years to take its current form in 3 naves with a dome and various ornaments of wood, gold and silver .


Despite all the earthquakes, the Inca site of Coricancha did not suffer any damage.


What to see?

The baroque architecture of the exterior of the temple.


Canvases of the walls made by the ‘Cusco school’. They highlight ‘The life of San Vicente Ferrer’ and ‘The life of Santo Domingo de Guzmán’.


The stone church tower, a masterpiece of colonial stonework.


How to get to the Santo Domingo Convent?

The entrance to the church of Santo Domingo is free during the hours of mass that are: in the mornings (7 a.m.) and at night (7 p.m.).


Outside of mass hours, an entrance ticket must be paid at the same door. The approximate cost is 15 Peruvian soles (5 US dollars).


At the entrance door there are tourist guides who offer a tour of the temple explaining every detail of the architecture, canvases and more.


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