Well, we did really have plans to go to Cusco and Machu Picchu but even before the coronavirus put the kybosh on the whole trip, we hit a roadblock with Cusco. At an altitude of 3399 metres (higher, in fact than Machu Picchu) we were told by The Travel Doctor that we shouldn’t take a 15 month old baby there. (I’m sure that amongst its population of 428,450 according to Wikipedia, there must be a baby or two – but who is to argue with The Travel Doctor?) So, in real life we would have had to rethink this part of the trip – but sitting here on my computer chair, I can do whatever I like! So…off to Cusco!
Another city, another Plaza de Armas. This plaza looks huge, but fairly low rise. It has two prominent buildings, the Cusco Cathedral and the Church La Compania de Jesus. It looks gigantic now, but it was in fact just part of the Haukaypata, the Great Inca Square, that predated the arrival of the Spanish.
It is the site for important festivals, including Inti Rayma- the Inca Festival of the Sun, and the religious festival of Corpus Christi. The ceremony of Inti Rayma has three different scenes conducted in three different places. The first scene of the festival, is held at the Qoricancha Palace situated on Av. El Sol. (see below). It then moves to the Plaza de Armas and finally ends up at Sacsayhuaman 3 kms out of Cusco. It is held on June 24th, the winter solstice and the Inca New Year.
The original Inti Rayma celebration was first held in 1412. It went for 9 days, with dances, processions and animal sacrifices. The last one held in the presence of the Inca emperor took place in 1535. I’m sure that it comes as no surprise that the Spanish outlawed it and other Inca religious practices. In many places the celebration was interwoven into the Catholic festival of St John the Baptist (no doubt to appease the Spanish Catholics) which occurred at much the same time. In Cusco, the Inti Raymi was reintroduced in 1944 as a historical reconstruction, and has been conducted every year since then as a theatrical production.
Theatrical production notwithstanding- this would be amazing to see. (I guess it won’t go ahead this year, though)
Very close to the Plaza de Armas is Corichancha, variously spelt Koricancha, Qoricancha or Qorikancha. It is now the Convent of Santa Domingo, but it was built on the base of the Inca temple which was uncovered in 1953 when an earthquake destroyed the church but left the Inca walls intact. Corichancha was the centre of the Inca cosmos, from which 42 straight lines spread out on all directions, sometimes for hundreds of miles. It contained several temples within the complex, with the walls covered in gold plate. As you can imagine, the Spanish were quick to ship that gold back to Europe and, as was their wont, they quickly demolished the Inca temple and built a church on the site instead.
Now here’s a different take on Coricancha, presented by a tour group interested in megaliths, who are exploring the sonic and energy fields of the old Inca Temple. Apparently if you stick your head in the alcoves on the walls and sing ‘A’ it sets up a reverberation. Likewise, you can take your dowsing stick and detect a petal shape of energy in the centre of a courtyard. Hmmm.