The Church of San Pedro de Andahuaylillas is considered the Sistine Chapel of Latin America. The paintings inside draw attention to the beauty and sumptuousness, really comparable to the best of European religious art.
The church was built by Jesuits in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, as part of the process of evangelization of the Peruvian indigenous people. Thus, while presenting typical characteristics of Christianity, it also includes elements of the Inca culture – this religious syncretism resulted in curious images like Jesus Christ wearing a blanket of colored fabric (resembling a piece made in alpaca) and also a sun over his head (an allusion to sun worship, one of the main characteristics of Inca culture).
Further evidence of the use of Inca elements in the Catholic sanctuary is the inscriptions on the entrance door in Latin, Spanish and native languages: Quechua, Aymara and Puquina.
Religious art was a powerful tool in the process of European domination in Latin America, and this is clearly seen in Peru. To overcome the rich and strong Inca culture, the Spaniards went to great lengths, building many beautiful churches throughout the country.
The temple dedicated to Saint Peter in Andahuaylillas is the ultimate example of this effort. The choice of location for the church to be built was also not random. Located 35 kilometers from Cuzco, it is just a few kilometers from where Huaro was, where Inca priests would reside.
The church is a masterpiece of the style that became known as Andean Baroque, for mixing regional elements with European architectural aesthetics, brought by the Spanish.
But the sanctuary has a very eclectic architecture, because in addition to the characteristics of the Italian Renaissance and items of the Inca culture, it also has some features of the Mudejar style (Iberian architecture with elements of Arab architecture).
The relatively simple exterior architecture contrasts with the exuberance of the interior. The all-gold altar, completely adorned, has an image of Our Lady. Also present is “Virgem da Assunção”, produced by the Spanish painter Esteban Murillo, and a representation of the archangel São Miguel.
Also noteworthy in the Church of Andahuaylillas are the paintings on the top of the walls with passages from the life of San Pedro, in addition to the frescoes on the walls, made by the Peruvian artist Luis de Riaño.
Murals near the entrance didactically illustrate one of the main concepts of the Catholic Church: the easiest path (covered with flowers) leads to hell, and the arrival to heaven requires sacrifices (with the path covered with thorns).
The church also houses a collection of paintings from the Cusqueña School depicting the life of San Pedro (with paintings covered in gold leaf), a majestic organ, silver silversmiths and a Baroque altar.
Outside, to the left of those leaving the church, there are three large crosses representing the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It is not allowed to take photos or videos of the interior of the church, but the organizers deliver a CD with images of the place.
The Church is part of the Route of the Andean Baroque, which also includes the Church of the Society of Jesus, in Cuzco, the church of the Purified Virgin, in Canincunca; and São João Batista, in Huaro.
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