temple (of the Society) is from Cusco in spite of its intense Spanishness (…) The imafronte, armed as if it had silver pieces, the original composition of the towers with their naked bases, just like all the bases in Cusco, and its central cupola covered by enameled bricks and surprising that monument”.
The original church was constructed in 1571 on the plots of the ancient Amarukancha, palace of Inca Wuayna Qhapaq. The earthquake of 1650 caused a terrible damage to the building and it had to be reconstructed about 1688. The original design and the façade are examples of the Andean baroque. The altarpiece-type front is decorated with medium-height towers and its stone walls had been carefully worked. The main altar of three sections and wreathed columns, the wooden pulpit and the numerous baroque, plateresque and churrigueresque altarpieces stand out in the entrance. Among the most important art pieces that are kept in the church “El Matrimonio de Martín García de Loyola con Beatriz Clara Coya” (“The Marriage of Martín García de Loyola with Beatriz Clara Coya”) is remarkable. The construction dates from 1576. It was started by the Jesuit order at Amarukancha or Palace of Inca Wuayna Qhapaq. Due to its architecture, the Compania de Jesus Church is considered one of the best examples of the colonial baroque in America. This is reflected in its spectacular façade entirely made of stone and a beautiful altar covered by gold leaf that has been constructed over an underground chapel. The church also has a collection of sculptures and paintings that are worth admiring. One of most significant works is about the marriage of Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s nephew and a Ñusta of Incan lineage.
One of the most modern and largest palaces that surround the main square of the great Qosqo belonged to Wuayna Qhapaq. This palace, called Amarukancha, was granted to Hernando Pizarro after the Spanish invasion.
Later on, this property was purchased from the conqueror’s inheritors by Diego de Silva and his wife Teresa Orgoñez, who donated it to the Jesuits after their arrival to this city in 1571; so they could be able to build a church. The founder of the “Compania de Jesus” or the Jesuit Order was Saint Ignatius of Loyola.
Together with other regular clergymen, he supported the accountant’s reform that tended to strengthen the church and fight against the heretical and schismatic thesis. The Jesuits arrived in Peru in 1568 and consequently to this city. Just after their arrival, they started to build their first chapels for the “Indians”, one of them is called “Nuestra Señora de Loreto” (“Our Lady of Loreto”). The main church was constructed then, but in 1650 it was destroyed by an earthquake. We don’t know designed the current church, which was constructed during 17 years and was inaugurated in 1668. Jesuits became materialists and cruel persons, their main fortunes were acquired through malicious and dark ways. Due to this situation, in 1767 it was requested the eviction of King Carlos III and the confiscation of all its properties, art pieces and jewelry. The most valuable objects were sent to Spain.
Even though the Jesuits order was one of the last religious congregations that arrived in the city, they could get this privileged place in the main square thanks to the participation of viceroy Toledo himself. Their first church, destroyed by the earthquake of 1650, was erected on the Amarukancha or palace of Wayna Qhapaq. This allowed them to start, on the next year, a more ambitious construction. After its inauguration in 1668, this temple had a great influence on the development of the South-Andean baroque architecture.
Defying the Cathedral
The Jesuit temple significantly establishes a defying counterpoint regarding the Cathedral due to its accentuated verticality, which seems to rise up over the main temple. Despite of the council meeting’s protests, the works continued according to the plans. It is said that a Flemish Jesuit, Juan Bautista Egidiano, was the author of the design. At all events, the façade works were conducted by Diego Martínez de Oviedo.
The front-altarpiece skillfully integrates with the rest of the temple. Its towers are divided in two sections, being the lower one free of any decorations, whereas the upper part flaunts different “balconies” with projecting corbels. At the belfry’s foot, a great projected cornice joins together the towers and the façade, bending trilobite over its finial. Finally, the upper section of the towers has a square ground plan, its “ox eyes”, the small octagonal cupola that (oración incompleta) and the surrounding pinnacles define the typical profile of Cusco belfries.
The inner part
The inner part of the church has a single aisle, set as a Latin cross, clearly privileging the transept area that is covered by an enormous cupola. Despite of its archaic groined vaults, the general concept of the building is completely baroque and the hewn stone work displayed on its walls is the finest in the entire city.
The main altar
Its magnificent main altarpiece, which is decorated with wreathed columns and is entirely golden, has significant paintings and carvings, such as an old image of the Virgin and a panel representing The Transfiguration, attributed to the Flemish Jesuit Diego de la Puente.
We can appreciate a similar sumptuousness in the carved galleries and the remaining altarpieces, some of which belonged to the disappeared temple of Saint Augustine. The temple also exhibits important paintings of Marcos Zapata, such as the well-known marriage scenes between Incan ñustas and descendants of the houses of Loyola and Borja, which can be seen under the choir.
The church was mainly constructed with andesite and it has the most beautiful façade among the churches of the city. At the main entrance we can find the Immaculate Conception Virgin carved in marble and very close to this image there are two external chapels that lean against the main church. Towards the north, is located the Virgen de Loreto chapel (Virgin of Loreto) (since 1894 it is known as the Virgen de Lourdes chapel), which is still used for the worship and is the place where people almost always revere the Señor de Burgos (Lord of Burgos) (which was brought from the Saint Augustine church). To the south is located the Saint Ignatius of Loyola chapel, which was granted to the Qosqo Society of Craftsmen. Inside the church there is a wide aisle, and at one end we can find the High Altar that was carved in cedar with a hybrid style by Diego Martínez de Oviedo and was also totally covered with gold foils by Cristóbal Clemente in 1670. This altar is 21 meters (69 feet) high and 12 meters (39 feet) wide, in the centre there is a sphinx of the Immaculate Conception Virgin and in the upper part there is a canvas representing the Transfiguration of the Lord. Above this image there is a statue of the same Order of an unidentified personage. The main aisle has also a path that communicates the two lateral chapels; there are six altarpieces of divers’ style and an entirely golden pulpit.
At both sides of the High Altar there are 4 cedar altars, being three of them very rich. Once the restoration works were finished in 1986, they discovered a pretty interesting subsoil under the High Altar.
At the upper side, around the alabaster (Huamanga) windows there are canvases that represent the life of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, painted by Marcos Zapata and his assistant Cipriano Gutiérrez. Inside the building, at both sides of the main grating there are two canvases representing Saint Ignatius of Loyola. One of them shown him healing sick persons and in the other one he appears triumphant above the heretics and the schismatic persons that caused the religious reformation. Around them there are also two canvases that have an enormous historical value: the one that is located on the northern wall represents the wedding of the Spanish Captain Martín García Oñas de Loyola, who was nephew of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and captured the last Incas of Tupac Amaru, and Clara Beatriz Qoya, daughter of Sayri Tupac and consequently niece of Tupac Amaru. Clara Beatriz was the only inheritor of the Oropesa Marquisate. As a result of this marriage Lorenza Ñusta de Loyola was born, and afterwards she married to Juan Borgia, son of Saint Francis Borgia. This wedding is also represented in one of the canvases. At one side there is a painting of Tupac Amaru and Sayri Tupac, and a painting of Clara Beatriz with native clothes. Behind them there is a possession of native men called “achiwa”, which is like an umbrella made of bird feathers of different colors and was only used by the Inca. The canvas placed on the southern wall represents the weddings of Beltrán García de Loyola with Teresa Idiaquez and Juan de Idiaquez with Magdalena de Loyola.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola Chapel
Next to the University we can still find the old chapel building that, since the end of the XIX century, housed the famous Craftsmen Society of Cusco. It is small and austere; it has a single aisle entirely made of stone with a front that is much more sober than that of the main temple. It is currently used as an exhibition room.
To the north is located the Saint Ignatius of Loyola chapel and the building of Universidad Nacional de San Antonio de Abad del Cusco (San Antonio de Abad University). This building was originally used by the Saint Ignatius of Loyola University that was part of the Transfiguration University, created by the Pope Gregory XV in 1621. After the Jesuits’ expelling in 1767, the building turned into the quarters of the Army and this is where José Gabriel Tupac Amaru was imprisoned.
Next to the church, the Jesuits constructed their own Saint Ignatius of Loyola University, which nowadays constitutes the premises of Universidad Nacional San Antonio de Abad.
Paradoxically, both institutions played the lead of an intense rivalry at the end of the XVII century. The stone façade dates of that time and it harmonizes with the temple’s façade, but its treatment is much freer. Its constitution, like an altarpiece, is decorated with a profuse boss and with purely decorative blind windows in the second section and the crown. Its ample hall, crowned by a cupola, is unique in its kind in Cusco. The inner cloister, with an austere stone arcade, served as a model to other cloisters of the city. One of the building’s attractions is the Natural Sciences Museum that is located there.
The Seminario Universidad San Antonio de Abad (San Antonio De Abad Seminary University) was founded in 1598 in a building located at Nazarenas street (nowadays the Monasterio Hotel). One century later, in 1692, the San Antonio de Abad University was created through a document granted by the Pope Inocent XII.
Chapel of Loreto
On the left side of its church, the Jesuits constructed this Indian chapel between 1651 and 1654. Just like the Saint Ignatius of Loyola Chapel, the Chapel of Loreto is located on a more remote plane and its sober decoration does not compete with the main building. Unfortunately, none of the original decoration has been kept inside of it.