How does the architectural design of Machu Picchu express Incan theology in comparison to how the Cathedral of Cusco's architectural design express Catholic theology? (Photo credit: Anabella román)

Abstract

Cathedral of Cusco (photo credit: Anabella Román)

On February 2017, Colegio Menor tenth grade students traveled to Peru as an academic field trip. The purpose was to gather evidence related to research questions created. This would partially be done by visiting different sites, such as Machu Picchu, Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo, and the Cathedral of Cusco. Our group's research question was related to how the architectural design of Machu Picchu expresses Incan theology in comparison to the Cathedral of Cusco's architectural design expressing Catholic theology. Inca theology is clearly reflected in Machu Picchu by having various temples that represent how they worshipped different Gods such as Wiracocha. However, the Cathedral of Cusco’s architectural design shows Catholic influence, which became vital for comparison between Machu Picchu and the Cathedral. We were able to find information needed to answer our question by searching for credible sources and asking the guides questions related to our topic. To visually compare both sites we took pictures for further analysis of theology reflected in architectural design. We also investigated the differences and similarities of both architectural designs in order to compare and contrast them. After analyzing and gathering enough research, we discovered that both sites were constructed based on religious purposes. This research paper demonstrates the comparison of how theology is reflected in both Machu Picchu and the Cathedral.

Research Question: How does the architectural design of Machu Picchu express Incan theology in comparison to how the Cathedral of Cusco’s architectural design expresses Catholic theology?

Machu Picchu (photo credit: Anabella Román)

Machu Picchu is located 2,430 meters above sea-level, in the middle of a tropical mountain forest. It is known for breathtaking views, gigantic walls, and terraces that characterize the place, making it unique and special. This historically important site is the most significant tangible legacy left from Inca Civilization. Our research question enables a detailed comparison of how the architectural designs of Machu Picchu and the Cathedral of Cusco express the theology of the civilizations which built them. This comparative analysis permits a consideration of how both structures express theology through various materials and techniques like dry stone, ashlar, and wooden wedge. For each site we can identify and compare aspects which demonstrate Incan or Catholic theology. For example, the Cathedral of Cusco has stones from Saqsaywaman, which is a fortress built by Incas, while temples in Machu Picchu contain rocks in the center for offerings to the Gods. Consequently, the answer to this question motivates a critical analysis of Machu Picchu and the Cathedral of Cusco from architectural and theological perspectives.

Hypothesis: Shapes, designs, and reasons for construction are variables that can be used to compare the theology in both Machu Picchu and in the Cathedral of Cusco since they show the people’s beliefs at that time.

Machu Picchu (photo credit: Anabella Román)

This hypothesis directly and fully answers our research question related to how the manifestations of theology through architectural design are compared between Machu Picchu and the Cathedral of Cusco. Assuming the architectural designs of the exterior and interior structure of both constructions have significant characteristics, which can be shown to portray or not portray religious beliefs such as, Catholicism and polytheism, means the hypothesis can be confirmed or rejected. Our hypothesis can be proven or disproven by comparing how building materials and structural details express theology in each structure. This evidence will allow us to compare and contrast the architectural design of both.

Research Method: Photographic evidence and informational interviews compiled during field observations, as well as repeatable websites with architectural and theological information, enabled a meaningful comparison of Machu Picchu and the Cathedral of Cusco.

Academic articles from Travel Guides and Discover Peru, provided us with credible details and characteristics. We searched for sources that would give us a general background information about Machu Picchu and the Cathedral in order to have basic knowledge about the sites. The academic articles from Travel Guides and Discover Peru gave information such as the historical background, facts about construction, and religious aspects of both Machu Picchu and the Cathedral of Cusco. The two articles are credible since pictures of Machu Picchu and the Cathedral were given with detailed descriptions, which provided visual and written evidence. The article’s evidence gave us a general idea of how we could support the answer to our research question. We did this by using evidence like that the Temple of the Sun's purpose is to worship the Inca God Wiracocha, while the Cathedral’s crosses demonstrate Catholicism imposed with the arrival of the Spaniards, allowing a further comparison between both construction's religious purposes.

While conducting field observations in Peru, we collected photographic evidence of Machu Picchu and the Cathedral of Cusco, allowing us to compare their architectural designs in detail. We asked our guides questions, such as how Catholicism was imposed by Spaniards, how theology was reflected in Machu Picchu’s temples, and how both construction's religious purposes compare. Furthermore, visiting Machu Picchu and the Cathedral of Cusco was a great advantage, since it allowed us to have additional background to answer our research question.

Temple of God Wiracocha (photo credit: Daniela Rodriguez)

Conclusions: The architectural design of both Machu Picchu and the Cathedral of Cusco allow a further comparison between how theology is reflected in both constructions by specific aspects and features.

Cathedral of Cusco (photo credit: Daniela Rodriguez)

We can confirm our hypothesis because the architectural designs of Machu Picchu and the Cathedral of Cusco were constructed with the same religious purpose. Despite the use of different construction materials and unique architectural styles, both structures express theology by representing religious features in their architectural design. We concluded that the Cathedral of Cusco's architectural design is based on Catholicism, while Machu Picchu’s architecture represents Incan theology.

The Cathedral of Cusco’s architectural design demonstrates Catholicism for several aspects. All the modifications the Cathedral went trough, such as the implementation of religious paintings, sculptures, and crosses, demonstrate the Spaniards’ influence on architectural design. The Cathedral of Cusco City, an article that explains the most important features about the Cathedral and the influence of Catholicism states, "The design is constituted by a latin-cross base" (n.d.). Based on this evidence, we can infer that the cross, as it is the main Catholic symbol, became a major feature for the Cathedral. This clearly proves that there was Spanish influence, since latin-crosses were not part of Inca culture. Furthermore, the pictures we took during the trip show numerous Christian crosses dispersed throughout the Cathedral and paintings that are unique to Christian theology. Henry, who was one of the guides, explained that the Cathedral is a clear example of the Spanish arrival due the modification of religious aspects.

Machu Picchu's architectural design proves Incan theology because it has never been modified to accommodate Catholic traditions. In Inca culture Machu Picchu was a sacred place where Incas could worship their Gods. For the Incas it was important to demonstrate the importance of their God by building different temples with features that vary in location, shape, and material. As Kenneth, another of our guides said, the hierarchy of Gods was shown depending on the temple the Incas constructed, based on the details and type of material such as stone utilized to prove their advanced skills on stone fitting. For example, one of the temples, known as the Temple of Sun was built in order to worship the Inca God Wiracocha. Wiracocha was one of the most important Gods, since he was a strong connection between Inca civilization and the Sun at times of worship. The temple was located in a strategic place in order to have sunlight, the material utilized was elaborated stone, and its shape was characterized by allowing sunlight pass through its windows. According to Travel Guide of Machu Picchu, an article that specifically describes the characteristics of each of Machu Picchu’s temples specifies, ¨The Main Temple, located at the highest position of the city . . . stands at this location as one of the two buildings with greater spiritual meaning to the Citadel¨ (2015, pg.1). Based on this information, we can assert that Machu Picchu's architectural design reflects Inca theology based on the location, materials and shape of their temples.

Finally, if we look at both significant sites, it is clear that they differ from each other. It is clear that religion in both Machu Picchu and the Cathedral is present; however, architectural design features and aspects represent religion in different ways. The Cathedral of Cusco is based on Catholicism to honor the Spanish religion, while Machu Picchu’s main purpose is to honor and worship polytheism. Additionally, the Cathedral reflects Catholic theology by having sculptures, paintings, and crosses. On the other hand, Machu Picchu’s temples have a specific location, material, and shape that demonstrate Incan beliefs. It is important to understand that even though Machu Picchu and the Cathedral of Cusco both reflect religion, the architectural aspects and features represent theology in absolutely different ways.

Works Cited

C. (n.d.). The Cathedral of Cusco City. Retrieved from http://www.cusco-peru.org/cultural-cusco-churches-cusco-cathedral-church.shtml

H. (2017, February 5). Personal interview.

K. (2017, February 9). Personal Interview.

Machu Picchu. (2015). Retrieved February 23, 2017, from http://www.enjoy-machu-picchu.org/architecture.php

MacQuarrie, K., Cueto, A., Salinas, G., & Puente, J. (n.d.). Saqsaywaman Archaeological Park. Retrieved from http://www.peruexplorer.com/cusco/saqsaywaman_information.htm

Rodriguez, D. (2017). Cathedral of Cusco [Cell Phone Photograph]. Self-published.

Rodriguez, D. (2017). Temple of God Wiracocha [Cell Phone Photograph]. Self-published.

Román, A. (2017). Machu Picchu [digital photograph]. Self-published.

Román, A. (2017). Cathedral of Cusco [digital photograph]. Self-published.

Román, A. (2017). Machu Picchu Ruins [digital photograph]. Self-published.

Román, A. (2017). Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu in the background [digital photograph]. Self-published.

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