Temple of Three Windows


Member Rating 4 out of 5 by LenR on July 27, 2009

The Temple of Three Windows, together with the Principal Temple and the Intihuatana, make up what Bingham called the Sacred Plaza. He believed that the three windows framing the distant mountains represented the three mythological caves from which the Ayar brothers, children of the sun, stepped into the world. The explorer believed that the fact that a temple at Machu Picchu had three large windows, a rare feature in Inca architecture, was evidence of the city’s importance to the Inca.

Located west of the main square, this sacred temple of the Three Windows is known for its huge walls and three trapezoidal-shaped windows through which the sun's rays would pass illuminating the "Sacred Plaza" beyond. This wall is built from one gigantic stone.

The Temple of the Three Windows housed an altar which was possibly used to sacrifice children for Pachamama (Mother Earth) in times of desperation. In front of the Wayrana-style construction, on the large doorjamb next to the central column, there is a sculpted lithograph with carefully polished moulds and flat parts. Shards of smashed pottery were found beneath the temple perhaps indicating to some experts that pots would have been ritually broken here.

The view from Machu Picchu's Sacred Plaza makes one appreciate the superb craftsmanship of the Inca workmen. Surrounding the plaza are the most important buildings of the city. Nearby is the Principal or Main Temple. It is built of three walls and is 11m long and 8m wide. This is an example of excellent Inca stonemasonry, with its large stone blocks polished smooth and joined perfectly. At one end there is a rare example of a wall failure. It appears that the stones were placed on inadequate foundations and the earth has settled over the years

One of the highlights of a Machu Picchu visit is to see the Intiwatana stone. This is located on a highpoint made up of several terraces. You gain access to the stone via 78 well-crafted steps. At the end of the staircase you enter an open patio with walls equally well-sculpted, and where one can see an upper platform where there is a granite rock sculpted into three steps. In the central part there is a rectangular prism that is 36cm high and which is pointing from North-West to South-East.
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Its four corners are directed to the four cardinal points. The Intiwatana apparently had specific functions: it measured time (the solstice and the equinox) by using sunlight and shadow, and also served as an altar.


The Spanish did not find Machu Picchu so the Intihuatana stone here was not destroyed as many other ritual stones in Peru were. The Spanish destroyed them because they deemed them to be objects of pagan worship. These stones are arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. Intihuatana also is called "The Hitching Point of the Sun" because it was believed to hold the sun in its place along its annual path in the sky. At midday on March 21 and September 21, the equinoxes, the sun stands almost above the pillar—casting no shadow.
Machu Picchu Inca Archaeological Site
Above The Urubamba Valley
Cusco Region, Peru

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