From Saqsaywaman to Cathedral Santo Domingo

Saqsaywaman was begun some time after 1438. It is often referred to as a fortress, but it began as the House of the Sun, sitting on the spot where the head of the puma formed by the Cusco valley, lay. It was a place of sacrifice and ritual. Extremely holy. It would have been built by the people of the Inca, probably as payment of taxes since the Inca didn`t use money. The largest of the limestone blocks used to build the foundations of the triple-walled bulwark protecting the labyrinthine temple complex is 28` high and weighs some 140 metric tonnes. At the entrance you are greeted by women in Incan clothing and their alpacas. A photo-op that provides them with some income and tourists with picturesque shots.

They stand there for the tourists. Picturesque. I wonder what they think of it all.
They stand there for the tourists. Picturesque. I wonder what they think of it all.
The alpaca on the left makes me think of a 1930s movie star, ready for her close-up.
The alpaca on the left makes me think of a 1930s movie star, ready for her close-up.
I've posted her before, but I love her. This is such a strong image and she is so relaxed, leaning on her alpaca.
I’ve posted her before, but I love her. This is such a strong image and she is so relaxed, leaning on her alpaca.
One group of tourists gone, the women and their alpaca stand awaiting the next lot.
One group of tourists gone, the women and their alpaca stand awaiting the next lot.
Although they are massive in size and formed of beautifully cut limestone, the walls of Saqsaywaman seem to undulate, creating a characteristic zigzag. Whether they represent the teeth of the puma or the god of thunder is unknown.
Although they are massive in size and formed of beautifully cut limestone, the walls of Saqsaywaman seem to undulate, creating a characteristic zigzag. Whether they represent the teeth of the puma or the god of thunder is unknown.
This photo pretty much puts the size of this construction into perspective. It is stunning.
This photo pretty much puts the size of this construction into perspective. It is stunning.
He posed for us. What a beautiful bird. Somehow I found the one spot in the circle of cameras around him that doesn't include another photographer. He seems to be guarding the site in this shot.
He posed for us. What a beautiful bird. Somehow I found the one spot in the circle of cameras around him that doesn’t include another photographer. He seems to be guarding the site in this shot.

Oddly, the rest of my pictures at Saqsaywaman are slightly over-exposed. It does make me think of how rarified the air and light quality can become at altitude. What`s interesting in these is the rainbow effect that has appeared. I often wonder what touched my camera that afternoon.

The light played some interesting tricks with my camera. It was a Cannon digital, 10X zoom. Auto everything. But it looks as tho the light is pouring down , with a rainbow creating an 'X' on one of the boulders to mark the target.
The light played some interesting tricks with my camera. It was a Cannon digital, 10X zoom. Auto everything. But it looks as tho the light is pouring down , with a rainbow creating an ‘X’ on one of the boulders to mark the target.
The end of the rainbow is supposed to have a pot of gold, but in this case, it was a treasure much more important.
The end of the rainbow is supposed to have a pot of gold, but in this case, it was a treasure much more important.
A mix of llamas and alpaca are looked after by their humans. The camera was still having exposure issues, but it makes the animals glow, so I don't mind.
A mix of llamas and alpaca are looked after by their humans. The camera was still having exposure issues, but it makes the animals glow, so I don’t mind.

What happened to the magnificent black andesite walls of Saqsaywaman is a story typical of conquest. The Spanish began using them in the 1500s to build houses. Then, in 1559, the andesite was dedicated to building the Cathedral Santo Domingo on the Plaza de Armes not far away.

Locals rest on the steps of Cathedral of Santo Domingo.
Today`s Inca walk before the stones of Saqsaywaman at the entrance to the Cathedral.

Beside it rests the smaller but no less impressive Iglesia de la Compañía de Jésus. The Jesuits built this church around 1571, only to have to rebuild it after the earthquake of 1650. Similarly to the Cathedral and Convent Santo Domingo, it was constructed on an important Incan site, the palace of the last Emperor to rule over a complete empire, Huayna Cápac.

Carved in the early 1500s and still lovely.
Carved in the early 1500s and still lovely.

Viewed from the steps of the Cathedral, knowing that it is on the site of a major Incan temple and that the Iglesia to the left is on the site of a major Incan palace, it`s easy to imagine people moving about the square in those times as one watches the people of today gathering there.

The centre of city life, the Plaza de Armas glitters in this shot.
The centre of city life, the Plaza de Armas glitters in this shot.
A rare moment with no traffic around the Plaza de Armas.
A rare moment with no traffic around the Plaza de Armas.
The companion to the Cathedral.
The companion to the Cathedral.
It reminds me of a temple square in Bakhtapur.
It reminds me of a temple square in Bakhtapur.
Slightly over-exposed, it looks like the sunlight has spilled all at once, white with altitude.
Slightly over-exposed, it looks like the sunlight has spilled all at once, white with altitude.
The people speak so eloquently with their eyes, their looks.
The people speak so eloquently with their eyes, their looks.
I love the play of shadow and light in this detail shot of the cathedral.
I love the play of shadow and light in this detail shot of the cathedral.

Korikancha was the Incan Temple of the sun. Its walls were lined with gold and it was filled with gold statues and artifacts, most of which were used to pay ransoms to the Spanish. Its exquisite perfect walls were used to create, in part, the foundations of the Convent of  Santo Domingo and when restoration was being done after an earthquake in 1953, part of the Cloisters was removed to reveal part of the Temple.

Actually, the cloisters of the Convent of Santo Domingo, built by the Qurikancha.
Actually, the cloisters of the Convent of Santo Domingo, built atop the Qurikancha.
Open-air arches have been glassed in to protect what's inside.
Open-air arches have been glassed in to protect what’s inside.
The beautiful proportions and perfection of the arches allow a glimpse of a glorious past.
The beautiful proportions and perfection of the arches allow a glimpse of a glorious past.
I love this shot. Its composition, the colours fading into the distance. It seems perfect.
I love this shot. Its composition, the colours fading into the distance. It seems perfect.
The tiles and smaller stones of the bell tower create a wonderful juxtaposition of textures with the smoothness of the stonework in the arches.
The tiles and smaller stones of the bell tower create a wonderful juxtaposition of textures with the smoothness of the stonework in the arches.
These walls were once clad with gold. And then the Spanish arrived and they weren't anymore. The stones are perfect. A hair wouldn't fit between them.
These walls were once clad with gold. And then the Spanish arrived and they weren’t anymore. The stones are perfect. A hair wouldn’t fit between them.

When you get to the bottom of it, Cusco is an incredible melding of Incan and Spanish. The paintings in the Cathedral were done in Peru by locals, so you see imagery in them that does not exist in other Catholic churches. The churches are constructed of stone from other holy sites in the area, so other than having a slightly more garish (in comparison) style they probably resemble the monoliths from which they came.

I don`t imagine that it was a pretty time in the history of the Inca people; the conquered rarely come out of things well and the healing can take centuries. Around the same time as the Spanish conquest of Peru was happening, England and France were battling over the New World. To this day, Canada lives with the results of those wars – both with the First Nations peoples and between the English and French. One thing I fervently wish is that the First Nations peoples had left a physical history such that the Inca peoples did. We might have a better understanding of our own history.

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