What does the architectural design of Coricancha reveal about Incan Theology? By: JUan Ignacio Lalama, SAntiago Alvarez. Francisca Cevallos, Shanti Velasco, Valentina Otero (Photo credit: Valentina Otero)

City of Cusco, Peru (photo credit: Francisca Cevallos)


A group of 10th grade students of Colegio Menor School in Quito, Ecuador conducted a research about how Incan theology is reflected on Coricancha´s, one of the most important Incan religious sites, architecture. On the first month of 2017, students started their investigation about the Incan architecture and theology in Quito. Afterwards, in February, students went in an academic field trip to Peru to learn more about this temple by actually observing the structure built by the Incas. The goal of the investigation consisted on uncovering the important role religion had on Coricancha´s architecture. The investigation began by developing a research question, which ensured students were focusing only on their topic. Information to answer the question was obtained using a variety of online websites which were written by historians who specialized on the Incas and Coricancha. Additionally, during the academic field trip, students were able to visit and observe Coricancha to obtain information from the primary source. Furthermore, pictures taken during the trip and questions asked to tour guides in Peru about Coricancha helped develop the investigation. After the research was finalized, students were able to conclude that Inca theology is reflected on the architecture of Coricancha as the geographic location it has and the structural details implemented in it, such as windows and doors, all have a connection to Incan gods. Moreover, students were able to realize how influential religion was on the Inca civilization as magnificent constructions were created to venerate their Gods.

View to Cusco city from Coricancha. (photo credit: Francisca Cevallos)

Research Question: What does the architectural design of Coricancha reveal about Incan theology?

Our research focuses on the Incas, one of the most important and expansive civilizations in the Americas, lasting between the 15th and 16th century, specifically focusing on their most important religious temple, Coricancha. The temple was built to honor their Sun God, Inti. This research question allows for a specific investigation of how Incan theology, in other words their collection of religious beliefs and practices influenced the architecture of Coricancha. By analyzing the architectural design of Coricancha, details about Incan theology will be revealed since Coricancha is an Incan religious temple that has maintained its shape and purpose. Subsequently, the answer to this research question will result in a meaningful analysis, as this authentic representation of Incan architecture will demonstrate aspects of Incan theology, and therefore will reveal information about the Incas’ overall behavior, leading to a deeper understanding of and explanation for their actions.

View from above of a room in Coricancha (photo credit: Jorge Láscar)

Hypothesis: The architectural design of Coricancha reveals the importance of religion in Incan life through the structural details and geographic location of the temple.

This hypothesis directly and fully answers our research question about the role of Incan theology in the architecture, structural design, and geographical location of Coricancha. Our hypothesis allows us to consider the religious meaning behind Coricancha’s structural details such as windows and entrances, so that we can conclude whether they were influenced by Incan theology, thus confirming or rejecting our hypothesis. Similarly, the geographic location chosen by the Incas to construct Coricancha will prove or reject our hypothesis, as it will demonstrate if the location of the site was influenced by theology.

Panoramic view of Coricancha from the outside (photo credits: Håkan Svensson)

Research Methods: By using academically legitimate sources written by specialized authors, and information gathered from primary sources visited during the academic field trip, we developed a meaningful analysis related to our research question.

Some of the information gathered was found via Google search by typing keywords such as “Coricancha Religious Inca Site, ” or “Coricancha Peru.” The websites found needed to be reliable, up to date, and written by an author who specializes in fields related to Incan history. Our aim was to gather information on the connection between Coricancha´s architectural design and Incan theology. Mark Cartwright, an expert historian on the Incas, wrote the majority of sources used.

Additionally, we used information about religion and architecture, as well as the photographs of Coricancha, obtained during the academic field trip to judge our hypothesis. Furthermore, we consulted our qualified tour guides about the architectural design of Coricancha, and the religious meaning the temple has. Pictures taken in the field provided the group with a primary source to evaluate the structural details of Inca construction and its significance to theology. The evidence collected in the field was then connected to information found through academically reliable sources to formulate our evidence- based conclusions.

Perfeclty symetrical window panes in Coricancha. (photo credit: Francisca Cevallos)

Conclusion: Coricancha´s architectural design reveals that religion and Gods had an important role in the lives of Incan people.

After concluding the investigation, our hypothesis can be confirmed because Coricancha reveals information about Incan religious beliefs. We can make a credible statement that while constructing Coricancha, the Incas considered details like windows, materials, entrances, and location, all so that people could have a deeper connection to their Gods. The architectural design of Coricancha does confirm our hypothesis since each structural detail has a religious purpose behind it in order to satisfy the Gods. Furthermore, the geographic location of the temple also confirms our hypothesis since it demonstrates that Coricancha’s location was theologically important, since it faced a specific direction that can be linked to their veneration of the Gods.

Our study of the architectural design of Coricancha, and research conducted by historians, prove that theology and architecture are directly related to each other within this site. Coricancha had walls covered in gold as a tribute to the sun, in honor of the God Inti, who was one of the most important and powerful Incan Gods. Furthermore, the building was constructed with many windows, allowing Inti’s rays to enter and give light to people's lives (Cartwright, 2015). Additionally, archeologists have found that Coricancha´s ruins have an overall shape of a sun, which represent Inti, with rays pointing in all directions. In fact, these rays are physical and cosmic roads to other Incan temples (Cartwright, 2015). The fact that Coricancha was built with the purpose of honoring Inti demonstrates religion was present in people's lives because magnificent palaces were built to honor and worship the Gods. The structural details found in Coricancha prove that architecture reflected theology.

Additionally, the geographic location in which buildings were constructed also reflect Incan theology. The majority of religious construction, including Coricancha, faced the sunrise so that people could admire when Inti (God of the sun) came out. Moreover, the doors and windows of Coricancha, were constructed in such a way that people could easily see the sky (Cartwright, 2014). Observations of the sky were important to the Incas so that constellations and solstices could be studied and interpreted. The geographic location of Coricancha reflects the Inca theology since it reveals how the Incas managed to locate each building in a way in which Gods could be admired.

Entrences to a room in Coricancha which face to the central patio. ( photo credit: Valentina Otero)

The dedication the Incas had towards their faith and their Gods resulted in great religious sites being built, such as Coricancha. Everything about this temple was built perfectly and all the details were thoroughly planned. They had magnificent temples with small, but meaningful, details such as the how the windows and entrances were placed, or the type of material used, each with the purpose of honoring or venerating the Gods. This kind of detailed construction is what made the Incas a great civilization, and what makes so many people amazed when observing Incan constructions. Although their civilization disappeared over 500 years ago, the ruins remaining truly show us how dedicated the Empire was towards religion, proving how theology and architecture could merge to create tributes and ceremonies to honor their Gods. The dedication and effort the Incas put in the construction of buildings and temples show their devotion to their Gods, demonstrating what the Incas were capable of doing for their beliefs. The magnificent temples the Incas created to honor their Gods, such as Coricancha, is a great example that demonstrates how humans throughout history have shown an enormous devotion for their beliefs, often dedicating their lives to do so. Observing how the Incas created impressive constructions to show their devotion to religion can help us understand why nowadays some people become extremists in regards of religion, leading to actions such as dying in the name of God in order to follow their beliefs.


Cartwright, M. (2015). Inca Architecture. Retrieved from http://www.ancient.eu/Inca_Architecture/

Cartwright, M. (2014). Coricancha - Ancient History. Retrieved from http://www.ancient.eu/Coricancha/

Cevallos, F. (2017). Coricancha [Cellphone Photograph]. Self-published.

Cevallos, F. (2017). Coricancha [Cellphone Photograph}. Self-published.

Cevallos, F. (2017). Coricancha [Cellphone Photograph}. Self-published.

Inca Religion. (1990). World History in Context. Retrieved from http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/whic/ReferenceDetailsPage/DocumentToolsPortletWindow?displayGroupName=Reference&u=lyn38930&u=lyn38930&jsid=6cdb2dc004fd7be8d2f85e151d5e0fcf&p=WHIC%3AUHIC&action=2&catId=&documentId=GALE%7CBT2350085203&zid=de24ec9e5aec7252b654634282b0f2ce

Láscar, J. (2009). One of the Original Rooms of The Temple of Coricancha [Online Photograph]. Retrieved March 28, 2017 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lascar_One_of_the_original_rooms_of_The_Temple_of_Coricancha_(Cuzco)_(4578206370).jpg

Otero, V. (2017). Coricancha [Cellphone Photograph}. Self-published.

Otero, V. (2017). Coricancha [Cellphone Photograph}. Self-published.

Svensson, H. (2002). Cusco, Coricancha [Online Photograph]. Retrieved March 28, 2017 from https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivo:Cusco_Coricancha_view1.jpg

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