Qorikancha (alternatively spelled Coricancha, Koricancha, Qoricancha from Quechua quri gold; kancha enclosure) is often called the House of the Sun. It was the most important temple in the Inca Empire. What remains of the original structure, probably built in the late 15th century, is now part of the Church of Santo Domingo. The Spanish colonists demolishing this important temple and used its foundations for the cathedral. Construction took most of a century. This is one of numerous sites where the Spanish incorporated Inca stonework into the structure of a colonial building, which saved part of the structure for posterity. Interestingly, major earthquakes severely damaged the church, but the Inca stone walls, built out of huge, tightly-interlocking blocks of stone, still stand due to their sophisticated stone masonry.
The day I visited, I have to say that I wasn’t in a position to truly appreciate what remains of the Qorikancha. I saw the sight as part of the worst tour I’ve ever been on in my life. The tour guy seemed like a nice enough guy, but he had two failings: 1) He didn’t know much history and he knew even less English. It was a recipe for a bad afternoon.
Originally named Intikancha or Intiwasi, the Qorikancha was dedicated to Inti– the ancient Incan sun god and probably the most important god in the empire. The structure is located at the old Inca capital of Cusco, now located in the historic old section of the modern city. Mostly destroyed after the 16th century war with the Spanish conquistadors much of its stonework forms the foundation of the Santo Domingo church and convent.
Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui rebuilt Cusco and the House of the Sun, enriching it with more oracles and edifices, and adding plates of fine gold. He provided vases of gold and silver for the Mama-cunas, nuns, to use in the veneration services. Finally, he took the bodies of the seven deceased Incas, and enriched them with masks, head-dresses, medals, bracelets, scepters of gold, placing them on a golden bench.
The walls were once covered in sheets of gold, and its adjacent courtyard was filled with golden statues. Spanish reports tell of its opulence that was “fabulous beyond belief”. When the Spanish required the Inca to raise a ransom in gold for the life of the leader Atahualpa, most of the gold was collected from Coricancha.