Main Square, Cusco Plaza de Armas
The Plaza de Armas has always been the heart of Cusco, from the time of the Inca Empire when the square was called Huacaypata or Aucaypata, to modern day. The Cathedral, on the northeast side of the Plaza de Armas is the main attraction, where locals and tourists often spend time lounging on the stairs in front. On one side of the Cathedral is the church of Jesus Maria and on the other is El Triounfo.
Compania de Jesus, or La Compania as it is called, on the Plaza de Armas is a Jesuit church built in the 16th century. It was hit hard by the 1650 earthquake but was rebuilt and finished in the later 1660s. La Compania was the source of much controversy at the time it was constructed because of its grandeur which threatened to surpass that of the Cathedral located in the same square. The bishop of Cusco complained about the church and its lavish design and the argument was finally brought to Pope Paul III to arbitrate. The Pope sided with the Cathedral but by the time word of his decision reached Cusco, La Compania was almost completed. Consequently the Pope's decision had little influence and as a result, La Compania has an impressive ornate, baroque façade which rivals that of the Cathedral. It looks particularly beautiful at night when it is lit up.La Compania is built on the Inca foundations of the Palace of Huayna Capac.
Construction on the Cusco Cathedral was begun in 1559 and completed in 1669, in the Renaissance style. It is built on the site where the Inca Wiracochas Palace once stood.Adjoining the Cathedral is the church of El Triunfo to the right, and the church of Jesus Maria to the left.The Cusco Cathedral houses an impressive collection of art work, with over 400 paintings from the Escuela Cusquena. These paintings from the 16th and 17th century are unique in that they are European style with an obvious Andean Indian influence. This can be seen for example, in The Last Supper by Marcos Zapata, which shows the apostles dining on guinea pig. Also of note in the Cathedral are the 400 kg main altar made from silver, the cedar choir stalls, and other wood carvings.The Capilla del Triunfo houses the famous Alonso Cortes de Monroy painting of the 1650 earthquake that devastated Cusco.
Museum of Religious Art
The Museo de Arte Religioso (Museum of Religious Art) is housed in the impressive Archbishop's Palace (Palacio Arzobispal), which was once the residence of the Archbishop of Cusco. This colonial palace features Moorish-style doors and balcony, impressive carved cedar ceilings, stained-glass windows, unique tile work (although not the original), and life size recreations of Archbishops. It was built on the site of the Palace of Ina Roca.On display in the museum are colonial religious paintings, notable for the historical detail they present, particularly with regards to the conquistadors and Indians. There are also works by Juan Zapata.The Museo de Arte Religioso is located on the corner of the pedestrian street of Hatunrumiyoc and Palacio, northeast of the Plaza de Armas.
La Merced Church and Convent
The baroque-style colonial church and convent of La Merced was built between 1657 and 1680. The original church built on this site in 1536 was destroyed in the 1650 earthquake which devastated much of Cusco. La Merced is considered to be the third most important colonial church in Cusco, after the Cathedral and La Compania.Inside the church are paintings based on the life of San Pedro Nolasco, who founded the Order of La Merced. One of the most impressive treasures in La Merced is a gold shrine with precious gems, found in the sacristy. Also contained in La Merced are the remains of the conquistadors Diego del Almagro and Gonzalo Pizzaro.The church is located just south of the Plaza de Armas.