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An enclosure of faith and wealth
House of gods, mummies and huacas



    The base and the walls of the most visited sanctuary of Tawantinsuyo: The Koricancha, the Sacred Sun Temple, are found a few metres away from the Main Square of Cusco (3,360m.a.s.l.), the "Archaeological Capital of America" inca.


    It had its walls covered with gold, a place of unimaginable wealth and a reason of deep respect and veneration. That was "Koricancha" of the Incas, a luxurious temple built to honour the Inti or Sun God, their maximum divinity. Only those people doing abstinence or bringing heavy load over their shoulders as a sign of humility could enter.

    The first Incas, inheritors of Manco Capac, were the ones who claimed the Sun as their Supreme God, and ordered the quick construction of an austere temple to adore it.

    It was Pachacutec ("the one who change the land" as it is translated) who ordered its remodelling and called it Koricancha (enclosure of golden), giving it refined finish and the magnificent wealth described by the Spanish.
 
 
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    A story based on the information provided by a historian as Cieza de Leon who went along Cusco between 1547 and 1550 collecting the information about the Inca Culture from the same "Panacas" or royal families. On his stories, he described the Koricancha as one of the richest houses in Cusco, the Sacred Capital of Tawantinsuyo.

    In its interior, says Cieza who has also been a soldier, it sheltered the mythic figure of the Sun made all in gold, and it was so big that it covered its walls from side to side.

    Another historian, Garcilazo de la Vega, who was not a soldier nor Spanish but a student and Hybrid, referred to this sumptuous image as a great gold disk that was two times bigger than any other vestige. The God had the rounded face with thunders and flame of fire.

    The Sun God was not the only one living in the temple but also the mummies, wealthy decorated, of some governing Incas that were taken out in procession by different points in the Imperial City during the days of celebration.

    During the Prehispanic period, the mummies of the Incas were venerated as much as or maybe more than when they were alive. In the Koricancha, they would live with the Gods or "huacas" of the defeated towns by the Children of Sun. On this way, they controlled them making them unable to rebel because of what could have happened to their divinities.

A change of divinity
    The harmony of a religion in this sacred place was broken in the morning of 15th November in 1533 when Francisco Pizarro entered Cusco leading his troops. Then a new God arrived at the "Center of the Inca World". A God who would bring disaster and death to the Sun worshippers.

    It did not pass too long before the "Sacred Inca City" was plundered when the Spanish arrived. Spanish hands, greedy for gold, took the endless and exquisite treasures of temples and palaces, including those from the Koricancha. Dreams of wealth became true in the capital of Tawantinsuyo.

    The west men did not leave anything. The plunder was complete and the Koricancha that had huge quantities of gold was the ideal target for the Spaniards. All the venerated images including the respectful mummies of the Incas were taken out as ordinary spoils of war, without respecting anything in front of the indignant powerlessness of the devotees.

    But the disassembling of the Temple had started before that, when part of its treasures were sent to Cajamarca in order to pay the rescue that meant the freedom of Atahualpa who was captured by Pizarro. Freedom that never came. The Spanish did not keep their promise. The Inca was death punished and he died broken into pieces.

A legend begins
    This was such a famous sanctuary that, for a long time even after its plunder, the Spanish wishing to find any hidden treasure, visited it. A piece of gold to fill their pockets and satisfy their desires of wealth.

    They continued digging around it because they were motivated by their greed. They believed that the Incas had hidden good part of the gold images, as they may have preferred to lose them instead of seeing them in foreign hands.

    The supposed existence of these lost goods caused the beginning of a series of amazing stories. There is one that says about an entrance called "the great Chingana" that lead to Sacsayhuaman: an amazing Inca building to the north of Cusco, and the "Gran Paitití: the city of wealth hidden behind the heavy forest.

    According to the myth, the Prince Choque Auqui or "golden prince", brother of Huascar and Atahualpa, took this way when running away from the palace of Amarucancha and before the beginning of the war for the succession of his Father Huayna Capac. He took the mummy of his progenitor, the gold estatute and the Sacred Sun Image.

    His retinue was formed by the "Amautas" (teachers), the quipucamayocs (the accountants of the Empire), the "Ajllas" ( the Sun's virgins), the priest and part of the Quechua royalty. All were going to the mysterious Paititi. Fact or fiction? Nobody knows so far.

    We do know that after the arrival of those strange barbarian men, the Spanish houses and churches were built over the Inca temples and palaces not only to use their strong stone walls but to take advantage of their sacred aura in order to catechise to the "Pagans of the new world".

    And the Church and convent of Santo Domingo was built over the Koricancha. We can still admire the beautiful stone blocks of the Inca Temple finely carved and contrasting the baroque style of the Spanish construction. This is a perfect example of the cultural merge between two worlds that after the brutal contact let the beginning of a particular hybrid city.

    Despite all, the Andean citizens never forgot their divinities. They always remember them and renovate their believes during the famous Inti Raymi or Sun Party that starts in Koricancha, the enclosure that is not made in gold anymore but it still preserves the greatness of its stone walls.



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