Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Andean Sistine Chapel (Andahuaylillas, Peru)

To establish European thinking and religious beliefs with the indigenous Indian population three hundred years ago, the Spanish built a modest mud-brick and wooden church on the site of an old Incan temple in a small village about forty kilometres south of Cusco. Arriving late in the afternoon in dull light, the church certainly didn’t inspire any wonder, and I wished I’d stayed on the bus to Cusco. However the temptation was too great with descriptions likening this colonial church to the Sistine Chapel.

To open the doors is to unveil a dazzling array of wall paintings and frescoes contrasted by a richly glowing gilded altarpiece carved from wood. The artwork, rich in red and gold paint, tell powerful religious stories. One graphic painting highlights the punishments for going to hell and the rewards for getting to heaven. The ceiling is decorated in floral patterns and glitters with gold leaf.

andahuaylillas frescoNear the entrance is a baptismal prayer written in five languages including three local Indian languages revealing the Spaniards attempts to convert the population to Catholicism.

While lofty monikers like “the Sistine Chapel of the Americas” are a gross exaggeration, the modest travel wonder of Andahuaylillas is on the road between Lake Titicaca and Cusco and worth a brief stop.

Other Peru Posts
Pathways to the Gods (Nazca Lines)
Raiders of the Lost Tombs (Chauchilla Tombs)
Exploring the Incan Wonderland (Machu Picchu)
Trekking to the Lost City (Inca Trail)
Potatoes with your Guinea Pig, Sir?
Flight of the Condor (Colca Canyon)
Living in Reeds (Lake Titicaca)
Top Ten Travel Wonders of South America

Photo Credit: Fresco image kindly supplied by Ken at randomtruth


Gillian said...

I thought it amazing to find this overly decorated church quite literally in the middle of nowhere! And to hear the story of the layers of religion in it was very cool.

Smorg said...

I had never heard of this place before. Thanks a bunch for a good preview! It's too bad they oversell it, but I sort of like the smaller scale churches anyhow. :o)

Hope summer is going well!

Mark H said...

@gillian: Thank you - it is stunning inside.

@smorg: I hadn't heard of it till the bus was going past so a lucky find! I don't know who started the claim but it is worthy of a shrot stop to look inside though the guards are a bit excitable about cameras. It's winter for me (Australia).

Stuart said...

I hope you all noticed one of the other fascinating features of this little church. The stone blocks that were the Inca temple that stood here were reused as the church's foundations. Some still have visible markings and engravings from those times.

Mark H said...

@stuart: I hadn't noticed that but I do recall that a number of buildings in the Inca areas did do that.

Jean-Fran├žois de Buren said...

Great post. I think your site is great. Can't wait to read more.


Mark H said...

@jean-francois: Thank you.

Anonymous said...

ha, I am going to test my thought, your post get me some good ideas, it's really amazing, thanks.

- Norman

Anonymous said...

last week our class held a similar talk about this subject and you point out something we haven't covered yet, appreciate that.

- Kris

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