Church of the Week: Cusco Cathedral

I've planned for some time to feature a weekly photo and description of some of my favorite churches from the many I've seen and visited, and so why not start with one of the most recent, the Cusco Cathedral in Cusco, Peru?

Cusco Cathedral is a Baroque-style cathedral built on the foundations of the palace of the Inca Wirachocha in Cusco. Construction began in 1550, using many stones looted from the site of the nearby Saqsayhuamán fortress, and was completed a century later. It is considered one of the most splendid Spanish colonial churches in the Americas.

Inside the cathedral are some examples of the Cusqueña school of painting, including a Marcos Zapata painting of the Last Supper with a local specialty, cuy (guinea pig), as the main dish. Among its most striking features are its massive, solid-silver altar, the cedar choir (with carved rows of saints, popes, and bishops, all in stunning detail down to their delicately articulated hands) and the "black Jesus," or Nuestro Señor de los Temblores (Our Lord of the Earthquakes) which tradition says minimized damage to the chapel during a 1650 earthquake. There's non-Christian imagery in Cusco Cathedral, too, created by the natives the Spaniards used as craftsmen, such as figures of pumas, the Inca representation of the earth, carved on the enormous main doors, and the Virgin Mary statue robed in the shape of a mountain.

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