It is a Quispicanchis
province's district, about 40 Kms. (25 miles) east from
Qosqo and at an altitude of 3100 mts. (10170 Ft.). Its
ancient name was Antawaylla (anta = cooper, waylla =
prairie) which is translated as "coppery prairie".
The name was later Spanished into "Andahuaylas";
but as a bigger province having the same name existing
in the Apurimac department.
its name was transformed in a diminutive
way for avoiding confusions. Andahuaylillas is a very welcoming
small town, with a healthy warm climate as consequence of
being surrounded by mountains on the left bank of the "Vilcanota"
river that in lower regions is named "Urubamba".
Its lands have a privileged fertility and its people are tranquil
On its vast Main Plaza adorned with "pisonay" (coral
trees) and palm trees is its most valuable jewel: the Andahuaylillas
colonial church. The church is considered to be the "Sistine
Chapel" of the Americas, because of the quality of the
artworks found inside it. This church must have been built
over some important Inkan building, possibly a "Waka"
(shrine), as bases of the church were made with carved andesites
belonging to religious Quechua architecture. Besides, in the
surroundings there are remains of Inkan buildings, standing
out a gate of transitional architecture (transition between
Inkan to colonial) on the church's western side with two quadruped's
sculptures on its lintel. Those were the Jesuits who constructed
the church by the end of the XVI century, with sun-dried mud-brick
very wide walls, very common in colonial buildings. Its relatively
modest architectonic structure is classic in small town churches.
It has just one upper bell tower, a facade adorned with murals,
and two strong projecting stone columns between which is the
main gate; over that gate is an ancient balcony behind which
there are more murals.
Inside the one-nave
church there are two different sections corresponding
to the two stages of its construction; they are separated
by the present interior main arch. The oldest and most
adorned of mudejar style (architectonic style mixing
Arab and Christian elements, developed between the XIII
to XVI centuries) is found deeper inside where the High
Altar is. The newest section is toward the entrance.
That is the reason why this church has two pulpits,
the oldest is under the interior arch and the latter
on the opposite wall farther out.
It is impressive the amount of murals covering
the walls and especially the ceiling with geometrical patterns
and flowers adorned with gold flakes. The High Altar is baroque,
carved in cedar-wood and gilded with gold flakes; in the center
of this altar is the effigy of the "Rosary Virgin".
Its tabernacle is covered with plates of beaten silver and
it also has a lower mirror area placed in order to reflect
the light of candles as well as light entering through the
gate for helping interior illumination. Deep inside, at one
side of the High Altar is the vestry that has ancient trunks
in which the priests' clothing and chasubles embroidered with
precious metals are kept; that vestry also kept very interesting
gold and silver jewelry that were stolen in 1992 but never
recovered. More over, there are also some other altars and
lateral chapels, and on the upper side of the central area
an interesting collection of anonymous canvases of the Cusquenian
School representing the life of Saint Peter, with impressive
gilded frames. Over the interior arch is a painting representing
the "Virgin of the Assumption" attributed to the
Spanish painter Esteban Murillo.
Entering the church through its main gate, towards the left
side is the baptistery; around its entrance is the writing
"I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen"; what is interesting
is that the writing is in five languages spoken at the time
when the church was built: Latin, Spanish, Quechua, Pukina
and Aymara (today Pukina is an extinct language). On the surface
behind the facade, that is, inside the church, on both sides
of the gate are murals representing a crowded and attractive
profane path leading to hell and another virtuous towards
Outside, on the western side of the church's front patio are
three big crosses sculpted in andesite; the central one is
the biggest and they represent the Holy Trinity of Catholicism,
that is, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.