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Monastery of Santo Domingo and Qorikancha

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The most interesting, and important, building in Cusco is the colonial monastery of Santo Domingo, built on the foundations of Qorikancha (courtyard of gold), which was the most important religious site in the Inca Empire. Although the colonial monastery and church are interesting, it is the remains of the Inca buildings that are the main attraction. This was the location of the most important temples in all of the Inca Empire, which included the Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Moon, Temple of Thunder and Lightning, Temple of the Rainbow and temples to various stars. Originally, the temples were covered in gold and silver, and there were many jewels throughout the buildings. There was an enormous gold disc, representing the sun, which was used to reflect the rays of the sun into the Temple of the Sun. This must have been an incredible sight, especially as the sun reflected off all the golden surfaces that previously covered the walls. Most of the gold and silver objects were removed from the temples when the Spanish were collecting the ransom for Atahuallpa's release, and were later melted down, destroying the amazing pieces forever. However, it is said that the Incas in Cusco did not hand over the giant sun disk, which is to this day hidden away somewhere in Peru. In addition to all the temples, there was a ceremonial garden by Qorikancha. It is said that this contained representations of crops in gold and silver. Today, a silver cob of corn can be seen in the nearby museum.

Most of the Inca temples were completely destroyed by the Spaniards, with many of the stones used to build the monastery itself. However, several of the walls of some of the temples remain. These include some lesser temples on the left-hand side of the monastery when you enter. Despite their status as minor temples, the stonework is amazing. The remains of the temples on the right-hand side of the church are supposedly those of the Temple of the Moon and the Temple of Thunder and Lightning. The stonework in these temples is outstanding, and this is probably the best example of Inca stonework still in existence. The joins of the stones are so perfect that you can run your hand over the unions and not feel any change. Unfortunately, there are no remains of the Temple of the Sun, the most important building in any Inca complex.

There is a small site museum under the park by Qorikancha. This houses a rather dull collection of ceramics, although the museum is rescued by an interesting collection of replica gold figures and a wonderful silver cob of corn, originally in the ceremonial garden of Qorikancha. There are also a couple of good scale models of the original Qorikancha temple.