Coricancha, the Sun Temple of Cuzco
The holiest Inca site. It was plated in gold.


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Coricancha, map. 18 17 8 9 1 10 2 11 12 4 6 5 3 13 14 7 16 15


1. Sun Temple
2. Thunder chamber
3. Rainbow chamber
4. Courtyard
5. Ahuacpinta street
6. Alcove
7. Largest building
8. Curved wall
9. Underground building
10. Chamber B
11. Hallway
12. Double-jamb
13. Venus chamber
14. Corner wall
15. Outside wall
16. Garden
17. Entrance
18. Divirgent Fountain

Coricancha, Qorikancha. Sun Temple. "The Golden Enclosure."

Coricancha was the 'center of the center of the universe'. Garcilaso Temple of the Sun walls were plated with gold. The site is an example of the Inca's perfect masonry. George Squier drew the first plans. Also studied and excavated by Max Uhle and John Rowe. Hemming

Said to have been built by Manco Capac. Prescott Major buildings: Sun, Moon, Stars, Lightning, Rainbow, chapter house for priests. The building was covered in massive gold plates, each weighing 4–10 lbs and gold straw was worked into the roof to catch sunlight. von Hagen. 700 plates of gold were removed by the Spanish, each 2 hand widths wide. Each weighed 4.5lbs after being melt down. Hemming Golden garden and walls possibly made by Chimu. Alva

The body of the dead Incas were kept here. They stayed dressed as normal. (Bodies of Viracocha, Tupac Inca Yupanqui, and Huayna Capac were moved to Lima, and lost.)

The western wall held a golden representation of the sun, a human face looking out of its center: engraved on a huge gold plate decorated with emeralds and precious stones. It was directly across from an easterly window, so the rising sun would strike it and light up the whole room. The image of the Sun was taken by the Spaniard Lequizano. He lost it gambling in a single night. Thus the Spanish proverb "Juega el Sol antes que amanezca." He plays away the Sun before sunrise.

The moon had a dedicated room, covered in silver, the mother of the Incas. Other rooms were dedicated to the stars, sister of the sun; thunder and lightning, ministers of vengence; and the rainbow. Prescott . There was a silver image of the god. Mummies of dead queens were kept here. Gullberg

Ayar Auca (enemy), an ancestor of the Incas, flew down to Cuzco to take possession of it. On landing at the site of Temple of the Sun he was turned into stone and called cozco – local language for heap of stone. Steele

A tunnel is said to connect Coricancha to Sacsahuaman. Poma

Illustration of Coricancha


The Coricancha was the Incas' most sacred building. First built in 1100s and then enlarged by each new Inca. Became largest compound in Cuzco. Sancuary of the Sun, Chapel of the Moon, Chapel to the Stars, Chapel of Lightning, Chapel of Rainbow, and residence of keepers of temple. Many walls, completely covered in gold. The temple held 4000 priests and attendants. Frost The Coricancha was rebuilt by Pachacuti after his vision at the shrine, Susurpuquiu. A god dressed in puma skins, serpents, and earspools with a headress of sun rays. The god told Pachacuti of his divine kinship and predicted his victory over the Chancas. Molina, Sarmiento, Betanzos, Burger. Hernando de Soto and 2 soldiers were the only Spanish to see it in original state. von Hagen

Francisco Pizarro entered Cuzco 5 months after executing Atahualpa and went to the Coricancha. Villac Umu, chief priest, said they must fast for 1 year, be barefoot, and carry a symbolic load. They entered anyway. Villac Umu continued the daily ritual. Inca mummies were taken to the square and offered food and drink. Villac brought the sun idol. Food was burned for the idol and a voice called out. All who heard, sat silently until complete. Then the mummies and idols returned to Coricancha. Hemming

At night the sun idol was kept in a room with many mamaconas, who claimed sex with the sun.Pedro Pizarro The golden child effigy was taken to Spain and on Charles V command, it was melted down to form coins. Hemming

El Convento y Templo de Santo Domingo. Juan Pizarro was given the Coricancha and he willed it to the Dominicans. Sayri Tupac was instructed in Christianity and attended Mass at Santo Domingo. He was accused of worshipping the sun instead. He willed a chapel to be built here and was buried here along with his wife-sister. Tupac Amaru was also buried here after his execution. Hemming Juan Pizarro's body is also held here. MacQuarrie

1533, Mar–Apr. Martin Bueno and Pedro Martuide Moguer, illiterate soldiers and Juan Zarate, notarary — traveled to Cuzco at Atahualpa and Pizzaro's request to encourage the removal of gold. See Cuzco History for more. The Spanairds went to the Qoricancha and removed the 700 gold plating around its outside walls. Each 2.5ft in length and weighing 4.5lbs — about 9 years of wages each. The spanairds returned to Pizarro with 178 loads of gold.5 They also collected a 190lbs gold altar, and 120lbs gold fountain. Frost

1538 July 8. Hernando de Soto has Almagro garotted in his cell at the Sun Temple. MacQuarrie


Main Temple, Hall G. Hemming
Foundations were found showing a building here. von Hagen

The walls were plated with gold to catch the rising sun. Rowe

The original Dominican church was built directly ontop. Rowe


Thunder chamber

Hall C.
Dedicated to thunder, and lightning. Walls were covered with gold. Hemming

Two rooms along Ahuacpinta St, "possibily held the hostage idols from around the empire." Frost

Two rooms to the right of the courtyard are thought to be dedicated to the Moon and Lightning. Frost


Rainbow chamber

Rainbow chamber, niches.

Windows align.

Hall E. "cuichu".

Dedicated to the Rainbow. Decorated with a colored arc. Garcilaso, Hemming

The wall on the street side is almost completely vertical, the other walls have the typical Inca-stlye angle. Rowe

See 2 for more info.

Windows. Windows align, looking north through the buildings.


Basin. Octagonal Porphyry basin—in center since 1600, but looks colonial. Hemming

4 tabernacles in the walls faced into the courtyard. Each were gold plated and had molding around the edges. Inset into the molding were emeralds and turquois. The sapa inca would sit here to watch festivals. Garcilaso

was the chief of the Pururaucas stones, that rose up to help Pachacuti defeat the Chancas. Removed by Spanish priests. It was in the courtyard of Santo Domingo.
The stone idol of him was kept in the niche of the Coricancha's curved wall. Hemming Ranney

Three channels on Ahuacpinta street.

5. THREE CHANNELS ON AHUACPINTA ST. Theories: drains for sacrificial blood or water, drainage, or for sound: when struck it produces the sounds re, la, mi. Hemming

These are 3ft above the street. They were made by cutting a notch into the lower stone and "capped by the next course." Rowe

Side alcove.

The stone in the center is fake, was placed by Dominicans and is transitional style, and upside down. Frost


Building is now gone but foundations have been found. Hemming


Curved wall.

Curved wall.

Curved wall, inside.

An earthquake leveled the original church, which was then rebuilt.

The actual sun temple is destroyed except for the curved outer wall, best seen from Pulluchapata St.

Curved wall niche. Maybe this held Subaraura, leader of the pururauca stones that rose to fight with Pachacuti. Hyslop


Hall I,
Under church. Hemming



10. ROOM B. Hemming
The room was painted gray with a 3in black band circling it. It mirrored Room A. Rowe

Temple of the Moon. Hemming Ranney




Double-jamb doorway.

Early imperial style doorway between two buildings on W side of courtyard. Niles



Venus chamber.

Colonial plaster.

Large niche.

Hall A
Dedicated to the planet Venus, Pleiades, and other constellations. To match Room B, it was probably also painted gray with a black band.

Large niche, "tabernacle," is in the center of the E wall. Moldings were cut into the stones in order to hold jewels. Garcilaso / Rowe The sapa Inca sat here to watch the rising sun.

The graves of Tupac Amaru I, Syiri Tupac, Juan Pizzaro are said to be here. Rowe

Plastering is from the original colonial pattern.

Niches held idols from around the country. When conquering a new territory, the local idols were transported to Cusco and displayed in these niches. The idols were given "due respect." But it also acted as a hostage to ensure good behavior from the territories.

There are 25 niches encircling the room. The roof was decorated with stars, the walls were silver plated. Hemming Ranney

Corner wall.



Outside wall.



This is not the Intipampa, which was north of Coricancha.

Entrance. 17. ENTRANCE
This was mostly likely the original entrance to the Coricancha. The original church was built directly on the Sun Temple and probably used its original entrance. Rowe
Coricancha fountain 18. DIVERGENT FOUNTAIN
Fountain with divergent stream is just outside the curved wall of the Sun Temple on the W side. Hyslop

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Cusco Area
Amaru Marcahuasi, huaca N of Qenco
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Chacan, water source of Cusco
Ceque map, huaca map of Cuzco
Cuzco, capital city of Incas
Coricancha, Sun Temple in Cusco
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Thomson : Locations based on material from Hugh Thomson, Mark Rose, John Hemming, Pedro Sancho, John Hyslop, Paul Fejos.

Bingham : Locations based on the books and writings of Hiram Bingham, Paul Steele, George Squier, Kim MacQuarrie, Richard Burger.

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