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On our last day in Cusco we drove part of the Andean Baroque Route, a scenic road in the South Valley known for its four churches of the Andean Baroque artistic movement.
We visited only one, San Pedro Apostol de Andahuaylillas, about 40 kms from Cusco.
San Pedro Apostol may not look very grand from the outside, however once I entered I immediately understood why it’s know as the “Sistine Chapel of the Andes”.
In true Baroque style, almost every inch of wall was covered with decoration. Large paintings framed in gold leaf lined the nave, while murals, including Luis de Riaño’s 1626 creation “The Way of Heaven and Hell”, covered the remaining wall space.
The glittering gold alter is a masterpiece, but it was the ceiling that commanded my attention.
Built in Mudéjar style, the coffered ceiling is a polychromatic feast for the eyes. The vibrant colours and patterns impressed me more than most cathedral ceilings in Europe. Interestingly, the ceiling was built using a pre-Hispanic construction technique known as kur-kur, where cane, straw and mud are shaped to look like wood.
As is the case with other churches in Peru, it’s believed that San Pedro Apostol de Andahuaylillas was built over an Inca temple. The church as we know it today was built by Jesuits starting in 1570.