Plaza de Armas del Cuzco
The western side of the Plaza de Armas, the central square of the city of Cuzco in Peru, stretches out before us. Located in the historic centre of the city, it was the city’s main public square even before the Spanish founding in 1534. Today the centre of modern Cuzco, it is surrounded by tourist restaurants, jewellery shops, travel agencies and the two most important Catholic churches of the colonial period, the Cuzco Cathedral (Catedral del Cusco) and the church Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús. Both are among the most important buildings in the city and, together with the entire square, belong to the Zona Monumental del Cusco and are thus part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The square in pre-Hispanic times
The area of the square was once a marshland of the Saphy River. This was drained by the Inca Empire, the river was canalised and covered over, and the square was transformed into the administrative, religious and cultural centre of the imperial capital. All kinds of ceremonies were held here and the victories of the Inca army were celebrated. Impressive Inca palaces of the noble houses were built around the square. After the Spanish conquest, however, executions of important resistance fighters also took place here and the ruins of the old palaces served as foundations for colonial buildings, mansions and Catholic sacred buildings. In Inca times, the place was probably called Huacaypata (“place of tears”).
Today’s buildings on the west side of the square are mainly used by restaurants and shops. The elaborate wooden balconies on the upper floors are striking. Most of the buildings still rest on Inca walls in the foundations, but the colonial style is dominant. To the far left next to the Plaza de Armas Hotel, Mantas Street leads to the convent church Iglesia de la Merced (see detailed picture).
Further info and additional images of the square can be found at Atlas Obscura.