San Blas: Art, faith and tradition

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The centenary district of T’oqocachi (“salt cave”),  is already part of the oldest legends that are told in Cusco. During the Inca times, it’s believe that the people who inhabited it dedicated to agriculture. Two Ayllus coexisted here: Hatun Ayllu and Capac Ayllu. The water abundance, which came out of its valleys, its excellent microweathers and and strategic location from where you could see the entire land, made it the ideal place to live.

T’oqocachi rose from the city of Cusco, surrounding the Tullumayo river, in a series of steep terraces where we found fields and diverse sanctuaries, like the one dedicated to Illampa, god of thunder and rain. This is the area where the huacas of Huiracocha Incas, Tupac Yupanqui and Huayna Capac, were located and was also the way from where, through Sacsayhuaman, came the Inca Trail to the rugged mountains of the Antisuyo jungle.

In 1562, San Blas church was raised on the Inca temple of Illampa, an austere chapelle in honor of bishop and martyr Blas of Sebaste, with the idea of catechize the indians. This is how the colonial invasion of T’oqocachi began. The district became a crossbreed of races and albergued many artists and artisans. To them is attribute the elaboration of one of the most representative pieces of jewelry from the colonial art of our continent: The Pulpit of San Blas.

Impeccably carved in cedar wood, it cannot be established who was the creator of The Pulpit of San Blas, nor how much time lasted its creation, but documentation says that to 1677, master Mateo Tuyri Tucap, neighbor of San Sebastian’s parish, agreed that the chapel altarpiece were decorated with gold leaf. It is very likely that Tuyri Tupac had made these crafts with his son Juan Tomas, who worked at the church from 1677 to 1679.

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These days, San Blas -just a few blocks away from the Plaza de Armas of Cusco- is full of craft shops and sophisticated restaurant, bars and cafes. Nevertheless, workshops of Cusco artists can still be observed on the outside of the Plaza, this are the ones that keep the tradition and essence of the ancient Inca district of T’oqocachi alive.

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