Maravilla del Mundo

We were not disappointed by our tour of Cusco today. We began at the Santo Domingo Convent, which actually houses one of the ancient and sacred sites of the Incas, Qorikancha ((from the Quechua words meaning "Golden Courtyard"). Originally named Inti Kancha ("Temple of the Sun"), this was the most important temple in the Inca Empire, dedicated primarily to Inti, the Sun God. The walls and floors were once covered in sheets of gold and silver, and the courtyard was filled with golden statues. The Church of Santo Domingo was built on the site, using the ruined foundations of the temple that was flattened by the Spanish in the seventeenth century; while earthquakes in 1560 and 1860 (I think) destroyed colonial structures, the Incan construction survived fabulously.

We proceeded next to the Cathedral of Cusco, on the main square. On the way there, we encountered a couple children who obviously wanted us to take their picture and pay them for we did. Then I noticed the mother and an infant on the other side of the alley and so took their picture....and paid them.

We couldn't take photos inside the cathedral, so had to content ourselves with the exterior.

But it was fascinating, from the solid silver of the main altar to the stories of the Inca workmen who incorporated their nature-worship themes into the art and sculpture and design of the cathedral's interior (like the Virgin Mary statue robed in the shape of a mountain, and the black Christ--"Lord of the Earthquake"--who resembles the native people, not the Spaniards).

From the cathedral, we rode to the famous "Saqsayhuaman" (pronounced much like "sexy woman," and a woman we met on the tour could not quite get it right, habitually calling the place, "Sexy Mama"), the sacred valley of the Incas, with monolithic stone constructions on two peaks flanking a broad valley.

I hiked to the top of one of the hills, and from there the view is not only breathtaking, but the design of Saqsayhuaman, perhaps shaped to resemble lightning, is much clearer.

The Sacred Valley is the site, every June (around the summer solstice) of a "Festival of the Sun," replicating the Incan rites and attended in droves by nature-lovers and pantheists and others interested in nature religions.

We also visited Tambomachay (or "Baths of the Inca")...

and Q'enqo, similarly striking sites of Incan construction:

In addition to sitting on the "throne" at Q'enqo, it was fun slipping through the narrow passage in the rock there, too. Reminded me of Hezekiah's tunnel in Jerusalem. Except it wasn't underground. And there was no spring running through it. And it wasn't pitch black. And it was in Peru, not Israel. But other than that, it was JUST like it.

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