Although the collision between indigenous Andean beliefs and the Catholic church can be seen in every Christian site in and around Cusco, we happened to visit the Jesuit church at a time of year when it was particularly evident. Front left of the main altar, flanking a small statue of a mountain-shaped Virgin Mary, were two ukukus; according to Quechua mythology, the ukuku is the half-and-half offspring of a liaison between a woman and a bear. Not exactly your standard Vatican-sanctioned version of Catholicism as seen in Europe. It's well worth paying out the 15 or 20 soles (£3-4) over and above the minimal entrance fee for a 20 minute guided tour from one of the freelancers waiting inside the entrance, as the church itself has little to nothing in the way of explanatory text for the tourist. Ours claimed that the reason figures of Christ in the Cusco region tend to have downcast faces rather than looking to the heavens is because during Incan times, no-one was allowed to look the Inca in the eye - an interesting though not entirely convincing theory as this kind of depiction is not really unique to the area. On the right as you walk in is the side-chapel - now part of a school - that once served as a holding cell for Tupac Amaru II immediately prior to his gruesome dismemberment in the Plaza de Armas. There's a hugely impressive and intricately carved altar in gold leaf, and the sacristy to the left of the altar has some interesting paintings. One of the most surprising aspects is the wide mix of decorative and architectural styles employed, ranging from quite simplistic to highly complex baroque work. Near the main entrance, a very narrow entrance leads to an equally narrow, and steep, staircase leading towards the bell tower. You can't reach the tower itself, but half-way up an opening onto the Plaza de Armas provides an excellent view of the square and the nearby Cathedral.
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