Day 7, January 26, 2015. Cusco, Peru.

After a relaxing breakfast at our elegant hotel, we struck out to explore Cusco. We began at the Plaza de las Armas, the main square bordered by the cathedral and the Compania, a Jesuit church. These buildings stand on the foundations of Incan palaces. Incan walls and foundations can be seen as parts of buildings throughout the area, including out hotel. We would be awed by how many monumental churches occupy such a small area.

Walking to St. Peter’s Market, we passed through an arch dedicated to St. Clare. We looked forward to the market because it is a bustling and colorful place even in the morning.

Our first stop after the market was the museum in the monastery of the Mercederian order. Its greatest claim to fame is the custodia, a solid gold monstrance more than a meter high and encrusted with precious stones, including the second largest pearl in the world. Although the monstrance is the star it is a priceless collection of liturgical appointments and paintings. Unfortunately, as with most churches we would see today, photographs were not permitted, so none to post. We did take some of the monastery’s cloister.

After the museum we took a sightseeing bus tour to get oriented to the city. We were thrilled it took us to the site of an enormous statue of Jesus that looks down on the city. It was a gift after WWII by the Palestine Christian refugees in appreciation for accepting them in Cusco. The downside of the tour is we both ended up with sunburns.

Now the ecclesial tour really began, including the cathedral, the Museum of Religious Art, the (Jesuit) Compania Church and up a steep incline to St. Blaise. Sadly photographs were not permitted in any of these, but photos would not have done them justice.

In every place we were impressed by works from the Cusco School of Painting. This came about as Spaniards taught the Incans about painting, and the Incans transformed it into their own style. This resulted in traditional images taking on Incan characteristics. The paintings have vivid colors, gold leaf and other Incan motifs and influences. It also demonstrates the willingness of the Spaniards to respect Incan sensitivities in evangelization, and how successful it can be.

Today has lead us into a greater respect for the Church in Peru and insights into the challenges the Church faces with its multicultures. This day was a feast of the eyes and mind.

We have been so lucky with the weather. This is usually the rainy season in Peru but we have sunny days. We hope our luck holds out.

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