The Cathedral was built on top of the foundation of Inca Wirachocha’s Palace. Stones from the Saqsaywaman site were used in its construction. The cathedral in Cusco is very impressive and ornate. It is surrounded by several chaples. In fact, you buy your ticket to enter at the Capilla de la Sagrada Familia. Then, you exit the Cathedral and pass through the Capilla del Triunfo which is the oldest church in Cusco. One thing to remember is the tourist ticket does not cover entry into the cathedral. You have to purchase a separate ticket to enter here.
The cathedral has various painting and other items covered in gold and silver leaf. The statues themselves have very ornate dress and have cloth clothing on most of them. At the center of the cathedral is a silver leafed altar and the famous Maria Angola bell that hangs in one of the towers. There is a choir made of cedar with intricately carved rows of saints, popes and bishops.
The Cathedral is full of contradiction and hidden meanings. The Cathedral was started in 1550 but not completed until 1669. The façade has a renaissance style, while the interior has a Baroque style because of this delay. The natives of the land tried to combine Christianity with their own culture and religion. This was very interesting for me to see. I looked for evidence of it as I walked through the church, while the guide pointed out the more plainly seen examples. This is most evident in the famous painting in the Cathedral by Marcos Zapata of the last supper. Here, the apostles sit around a table instead of sitting on one side of it. They are dining on Cuy (guinea pig) a staple for the Incas. They are drinking Chicha (a type of alcoholic corn drink which the Incas drank).
Another good example of this is the famous statue of "El Senor de los Temblones" or Lord of the Earthquakes. This has a figure of Jesus on a solid gold cross. The Christ on the Cross has Incan features, is darker in complexion and has profuse bleeding. There is a legend that states that in 1650 there was an earthquake. The townspeople were frightened so they started a procession and prayed with this statute. The tremors miraculously stopped after this.
Yet other example of this combination of religion and culture can be seen in the depiction of cherub and angel. The Peruvians thought that angels could not actually fly, they were just good climbers. When you look at painting in the cathedral of angels or cherubs they are seen hanging from curtains or clinging to beams.
Finally, there are wood carvings with hidden Incan symbols. Many carving have serpents and pumas. The Puma represents life to the Incans.
The cathedral is a must see. Try to do the Where’s Waldo thing and spot examples of the fusion of Christian and Incan influences in artwork the guide does not focus on.