Cusco Cathedral

Around the Imperial City, you will find numerous attractions and historical buildings to tour and appreciate. Among its most essential constructions, you can find the Cusco Cathedral, one of the most iconic churches in the city. The magnificent Cathedral was built in 1560 and took almost 100 years to complete. It was built on Quishuarcancha, the ancient site of the palace of the Inca Viracocha. The Cusco Cathedral was built with stone blocks brought from the fortress of Sacsayhuamán. It is one of the most famous churches in America and Peru. That’s why together with the travel experts of Machu Travel Peru, we want to tell you about this iconic monument of the Imperial City.

The Cathedral of Cusco is located in the southeastern center of Peru. More specifically in the beautiful imperial city of Cusco, in front of the iconic Plaza de Armas. It was designed in a Gothic-Renaissance style with Baroque touches. Even the plans of the church were designed in the shape of a Latin cross. This wonderful architectural example is known as the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site worth visiting. Inside you will find important archaeological relics, statues, artifacts, and hundreds of colonial paintings.

All you need to know about the Cusco Cathedral


description of the cusco cathedral

The Cusco Cathedral is one of the most emblematic buildings of the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. Besides, it is one of the main attractions to appreciate on a walking tour in Cusco. This historical construction is also considered a Cultural Heritage of the Nation and has a combination of unique characteristics. You will be able to appreciate the Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance styles that blend harmoniously. And the Basilica Cusco Cathedral is one of the largest deposits of colonial art that you can find in the Imperial City. The entire Cathedral houses an innumerable amount of artworks from the Cusco art school. Valuable examples of art that are worth knowing and admiring.

All works of art combine individual styles of painting. These are corresponding to the devotional Europe of the seventeenth century along with other symbolic techniques of Andean artists from Cusco. Two different but no less important churches surround the entire Cathedral. The Sagrada Familia is located on the left side of the facade of the Cathedral, while on the right side is the Iglesia del Triunfo. Being able to tour the interiors of the Cathedral is one of the best things to do in Cusco. In addition, no tour of the city is complete without knowing this wonderful architectural work.


Cusco Cathedral history

The history of the Cusco Cathedral begins in the year 1534 when it was decided to undertake its construction. The building was not finished for over a century due to the sites chosen for its construction. First, it was decided to start construction where the Iglesia del Triunfo is now located, one of the best old churches in Cusco. After that, it was decided to do it in the Cusipata area thanks to its size. But the land of Quishuarcancha was finally acquired in 1553, where today it is imposingly located.

The person in charge of the work was the architect named Juan Miguel de Veramendi. He was the one who ordered the destruction of the Inca Sacsayhuaman archaeological center. He did it in order to use the stones for the construction of the church. And it was the natives themselves who formed the main workforce for construction. Many of them died during construction, crushed by the rocks that fell from the top of Sacsayhuaman. It wasn’t until 1668 that the construction was completed.

The reasons for the construction of the Cusco Cathedral were not always benevolent. Since there was a clear intention to supplant the Andean religion with the emerging Christianity. The Church was built on the foundations of an ancient Inca temple called Quishuarcancha. This temple was the site of the palace of the Inca Viracocha, a 15th century Inca emperor. And the Spanish conquerors forced the Inca people to build the cathedral over the palace.

There is no doubt that the Cathedral of Cusco covers an extensive history full of mystical overtones. Its bell is quite famous and is known as “La Maria Angola. Legend has it that a very wealthy woman named Maria Angola lived in Cusco. When she became a widow, she decided to enter the convent of Santa Teresa, where she donated her greatest treasures. And it is said that the gems and jewels of it were melted to create the enormous bell of the church.


what to see in Cusco Cathedral

Fortunately, there is a lot to do at the Cusco Cathedral. Inside the Church, you can enjoy numerous attractions with unique touches. Even on some tours in Cusco, you can visit and appreciate the wonders of the Cathedral. The entire Cathedral of Cusco has splendid altars in the Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical styles. Under the right side of the main altar of the Basilica, there is a small arched crypt that contains the ashes of some deceased archbishops. There is also the Sala de la Plata, a small side chapel where you can see a collection of religious objects made of silver and dating back more than one hundred years. One of the most impressive elements in this room is the large temple-like trellis. This one is framed in wood and covered with more than 160 kilograms of silver. Often used during Corpus Christi celebrations and features a silver pelican.

what to see in cusco cathedral

The statue of the Lord of the Earthquakes or “Señor de Los Temblores” is another of the most notable statues in the church. It is said that for hundreds of years the smoke from the candles was what blackened the statue’s skin. Another of the must-see attractions of the Cusco Cathedral is the choir stalls, made entirely of pure cedar. The choir is located right in the lower central nave of the Cusco Cathedral. Last but not least, you can find a collection of canvases belonging to the Cusco school of art. This collection includes works by Diego Quispe Tito, Basilio Santa Cruz Pumacallao, Basilio Pacheco and Marcos Zapata. The latter was the creator of a particular “last supper” where the main dish is the traditional roasted guinea pig. Despite being a cathedral, it could be included in your visit to the different museums in Cusco.


Cusco Cathedral location

The Cusco Cathedral is found in the heart of the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. It is located in the Imperial City, on the north side of the Cusco main square, within the historic center of the city. The entire complex covers an area of ​​3,918 square meters and is one of the most essential and iconic religious monuments in the Historic Center of Cusco. Both tourists and locals can enter the church using the entrance of the Iglesia de la Sagrada Familia. This is located just to the left of the facade of the cathedral. In general, the Cathedral of Cusco is open seven days a week. And the available hours are from 10 AM to 6 PM. The entrance to the cathedral costs approximately 25 Nuevos Soles or approximately 7 US dollars.

To get to the Cathedral of Cusco, you just have to go to the well-known Plaza de Armas. You can get to it through the main avenue in the center known as Avenida Sol. The cathedral is located just on the north side of the square. It has a rectangular design and is one of the most predominant views of the Plaza de Armas. Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful and unprecedented churches on the Cusco tourist map.


cusco cathedral architecture

One of the must-see destinations on a city tour in Cusco is the Cusco Cathedral. In general, guided tours of the city offer the possibility of admiring the Cathedral from the outside, although it can also include a tour of the interiors. The cathedral is a visual spectacle due to its imposing architecture. The entire building is in the shape of a Latin cross, with a Renaissance-style facade and interiors. Due to the time in which it was built, it has an evident influence of a Gothic-Renaissance style that the great Spanish cathedrals used to have. You can even see some touches of Baroque style in its monumental towers and other parts of its facade.

The Cusco Cathedral has a rectangular shape with three large wooden doors on its facade. The main structure has 14 pillars, all in the shape of crosses. These pillars support 24 roofs in the shape of a star or snowy arch. Many of the stones used in its construction belonged to the nearby Inca site of Sacsayhuaman. The central nave is oriented by the main altar embossed in silver. While at the back of the central nave are the choir stalls. Besides, the main cathedral has 14 side chapels that contain different works of art, statues of saints and virgins, and paintings. Next to the Cathedral, there are two auxiliary chapels: the Iglesia del Triunfo on the right side and the Sagrada Familia on the left side. The Iglesia de la Sagrada Familia was built in 1723 and the Iglesia del Triunfo was built in 1536.


The Cusco Cathedral is a must for those looking to tour the beautiful Imperial City. It does not matter if you are exploring the city on your own or in a group, it is a must-see building. Especially if you are near the iconic Plaza de Armas. No visit to Cusco is complete without first touring its beautiful historic center. And a visit to the Cathedral of Cusco is a visit to the history of this cosmopolitan city. We hope together with the Machu Travel Peru team to have been helpful in your travel plans. If you want more information about our private tours of Cusco, you can consult with our qualified advisers. They will be happy to help you organize your dream trip!

Peru has so much to offer, it can be hard to know where to start. With many years of experience in the tourism sector, Machu Travel Peru is happy to help with anything regarding your trip to Machu Picchu and any tours around it. Make your Machu Picchu experience an unforgettable one!