Churches of Latin America: Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús in Cusco, Peru

Continuing with our series exploring some of the beautiful churches of Latin America, we turn today to the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús in Cusco, Peru. Cusco is the ancient capital of the Incan empire and it is perhaps best known for a style of painting named after it.  The church in question is a Jesuit church, as its name suggests, having been designed by the Jesuit architect, Jean-Baptiste Gilles and Diego Martinez de Oviedo. 

The founding of the parish was in 1571, a few years after the arrival of the Jesuits in this region in 1568. Construction of the church began a few years later in 1576, but was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1650. As such, this particular structure was substantially built between 1651-1673. It is an excellent example of Spanish / Peruvian baroque.

The facade is classically baroque and made entirely from pink volcanic stone.

The interior is patterned off of the basic architectural layout of the historic Jesuit church in Rome, the Gesù, having a main central nave with two transept chapels thus forming a Latin cross. The ceiling boasts gothic style ribbed vaulting. However it is the 21 metre high by 12 metre wide reredos of the high altar that is the central point of artistic focus in the church. 

The reredos is made of gilt, carved cedar and includes Solomonic columns in its design. While it includes various painted images throughout, its central imagery includes a painting of the Transfiguration and a sculpture of the Immaculate Conception as well as the archangels Gabriel and Michael.

The Annunciation

Various side altars can be found in the church of similar style and the entire church boats many paintings representative of the famed Cusco style. Two of these depict scenes from the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, including his triumph over the Reformation, while another depicts the marriage of St. Ignatius's nephew, Martín García Oñas de Loyola, a Spanish soldier and Royal Governor of Chile, to a woman of indigenous nobility.

A thoroughly impressive and important Peruvian baroque church.

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