San Blas is
today a downtown neighborhood in the city known as
the "Artists District", with narrow and
writhing streets, most of them steep. In Inkan times
it was one of the most important districts of Qosqo
and its name was "T'oqo-kachi" (T'oqo =
hollow; kachi = salt). Like the other districts it
was inhabited by the Quechua nobility.
It seems that the church was erected over an Inkan Sanctuary
devoted to cult of the "Illapa" god (Thunder, Lightning
and Thunderbolt). It was possibly opened for the first time
in 1544 by the city's second Bishop Juan Solano. Although
some other versions say that it was after 1559 as consequence
of viceroy Andres Hurtado de Mendoza's order by which "Indians"
had to built churches for their indoctrination in the districts
where they lived. Its structure was simple with a rectangular
floor plan and mud brick walls, but after the earthquakes
in 1650 and 1950 it was partially reinforced with stone walls.
It has just one nave and two gates before which there are
big plazas; and a stone bell tower constructed after the 1950
earthquake instead of the original made with mud bricks.
church is one of the greatest jewels of colonial art
in the continent: the Pulpit of Saint Blaise; which
is a filigree made in cedar wood by expert hands managing
a gouge. It is not known with certainty who was the
artist or artists that made it, how long the work
lasted, neither any other details about it. However,
the pulpit is over there as a mute witness of a great
Catholic devotion and devoted work.
There are enough proofs to assert that it was made carved
with funds given by art protector Bishop Manuel Mollinedo
y Angulo; therefore, it was by the end of the XVII century.
There are serious discrepancies about the identity of the
Most authors suggest that it was made by the most famous Quechua
woodcarver: Juan Tomas Tuyro Tupaq, that was contemporary
and protected of Mollinedo y Angulo, who entrusted him the
manufacture of several works. It also could have been work
of some other artists contemporary with Mollinedo such as
Martin de Torres, Diego Martinez de Oviedo who made the monumental
High Altar of the Compañia de Jesus Church, or the
Franciscan Luis Montes that made the San Francisco Church's
choir. Oral tradition has its version gathered by Angel Carreño
who in his "Cusquenian Traditions" manuscript had
stated in writing the name Esteban Orcasitas as the pulpit's
author; but, for the 1st. edition of his book the name was
changed by that of Juan Tomas Tuyrutupa. Tuyrutupa was Quechua
and Cusquenian, but according to that traditional version
he was a leper woodcarver from Huamanga (Ayacucho). The story
tells that once he had in his dreams a revelation of the "Holy
Virgin of the Good Happening" who told him that if he
wanted to get healed from his leprosy he had to look for her
in the small plaza of Arrayanpata in Qosqo City.
a long journey and many mishaps, one day he found
her painted on a wall after that the roofing of the
"Lirpuy-Phaqcha" chapel fell in. Falling
on his knees and weeping he invoked her, as the Virgin's
rosary became rose petals with which he rubbed hard
his whole body remaining thus completely healed. The
piece of wall containing the painting was cut and
moved to the Saint Blaise Church, then people agreed
upon to build an altarpiece and a pulpit for the Virgin..
The grateful Quechua
woodcarver committed himself to make the pulpit without
charging any money for the work estimated in 1400 pesos.
The work took him 4 years of hard labor with wood from
an enormous cedar tree that was cut in the Kusipata square
(present-day Regocijo). But, when finishing his work the
woodcarver failed his oath as he asked the church's curate
for 70 pesos in order to lionize a Cusquenian half-breed
woman. After fastening the Saint Paul statue over the
pulpit's sounding board, he stumbled and fell off dying
soon after. His corpse was buried under the pulpit but
some time later it was taken out and his skull placed
before the feet of the Saint Paul sculpture, where it
is seen today.
As any other normal pulpit, that of Saint Blaise has a
balcony (basin), a thorax (main body), a sounding board
(cupola), and a gallery (entrance). The Basin is spherical
and supported by a bronze structure; it contains eight
human busts representing the Catholicism heretics, they
- Martin Luther, creator of Lutheranism and chief of the
religious reform in Germany;
- John Calvin, founder of Calvinism in France and Switzerland;
- Ulrich Zwingli, friend and follower of Calvin;
- Henry VIII, king of England who denied the Pope's authority
and created Anglicanism;
- Elizabeth of England, who was daughter and follower of
- Arius, native from Alexandria and founder of the Arianism;
- Phocion, who along with Arius made the great orthodox
greeks schism or eastern schism;
- Catherine of Bora, wife of Luther.
Above, there are baroque columns between which are the sculpted
images of the four evangelists, Saint Matthew, Saint John, Saint
Mark and Saint Luke. In the central portion is the sculpture
of the "Immaculate Conception Holy Mary of the Good Happening".
On the pulpit's thorax is engraved in high relief the effigy
of the Patron Saint of the parish: Saint Blaise; with pontifical
clothing. Above this image is the bishop Mollinedo y Angulo's
coat of arms. In the very adorned sounding board (it amplifies
the voice of whom giving the sermon) are sculptures of the church's
doctors, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Thomas of Aquinas, Saint Augustine,
Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Jerome, Saint Bernard and Saint
Francis of Sales. And finally, crowning the pulpit and supported
by five archangels is the sculpture of Saint Paul of Tarsus
(Carreño believes that it is Saint Thomas and some others
that it is Jesus Christ) with a crucifix in his hand; before
the feet of Saint Paul is the skull that is supposed to belong
to the pulpit's author.
Likewise, the church's High Altar is imposing, carved in
cedar wood and gilded with gold flakes. It has a mixed style
in which the baroque twisted columns stand out. It was gilded
and possibly also carved by Juan Tomas Tuyro Tupaq and his
woodcarvers team. In its central portion is the Virgin of
the Immaculate Conception and above a Saint Blaise effigy.
On the eastern wall there is another altarpiece made by
Tuyro Tupaq and his son Mateo towards 1678; it belongs to
the "Virgin of the Good Happening" who is painted
on the original piece of wall brought from the "Lirpuy-phaqcha"
chapel. There are some other altarpieces belonging to Saint
Blaise, Saint Joseph, and a dark Jesus Christ known as the
"Lord of the Agony" that has movable arms and
head; his dark color is because is covered with llama parchment.
Over the side walls are 8 anonymous canvases with impressive
gilded frames; they represent the martyrdom of Saint Blaise,
bishop of Tucuman. Inside the baptistery there is a painting
with a Jesus Christ having an evident female body. Toward
the right side of the entrance is a crooked cross made in
a single piece of Chachacomo wood (a native Andean tree).
The church has, even more, a higher choir with balusters
of gilded cedar wood.