The Church and Convent of La Merced is located in Cusco, and is one of the temples and monasteries that the order of the Mercedarians left in the Peruvian territory, and that today is considered a Minor Basilica de la Merced. According to historical records, the temple and convent of La Merced would be one of the oldest Catholic structures in Peru, both buildings were built in 1535, that is, just a couple of years after the Conquest.
Despite the fact that the first construction of the religious complex takes us back to such remote years, the initial structure did not last long standing, since unfortunately it succumbed to an earthquake; In the same century as the earthquake, the construction of a second structure was ordered, which was built between 1651 and 59. The difference between the new design and the previous one, lay in the change in style, which went from Renaissance to Baroque Cusqueño, it is this last structure that has survived to date.
Architecturally, the Minor Basilica de la Merced, has a single nave and has a main side entrance door. Attached to the temple is the convent that currently has museum settings. The museum collection of the Convent is made up of an important collection of pieces of religious art, manifested mainly in the form of sculptures and paintings, the collection of which is completed by those exhibited in the same temple.
The most important museum and religious piece of the group made up of the temple and the church is La Custodia, a piece made of gold that is considered the most beautiful in all of Latin America. This custody weighs more than 22 kilograms and is made of gold, silver, and has more than two thousand precious stones on its body.
In the Minor Basilica de la Merced itself, there are among the most beautiful structures, pieces such as the main altar, made up of a neoclassical altarpiece in whose central niche is the effigy of Our Lady of Mercy. In addition to the previous one, as one of the best architecturally achieved areas, there is the main cloister, where you can see a magnificent work of stone carving of a Baroque trend.
Whoever wants to visit this colonial religious complex, can do so by going to Calle Mantas. Visits to the complex are allowed from Monday to Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a break between noon and 2:00 p.m. The mass schedule can be consulted during your visit to the museum. To access the museum, the visitor has to pay for an entrance ticket, the cost of which is s / 6.00 for the general public.
If you want to get to know this temple during its most important celebration, you cannot stop going during the Virgen de La Merced festival, which is the patron saint of this religious group; This is celebrated every September 24, in the middle of masses, and other liturgical events.
Espinar Square, in the city of Cusco.
The Minor Basilica de la Merced suffered severe damage in the 1650 earthquake, but it was rebuilt in a later period that lasted 15 to 20 years and is currently made up of:
Mannerist covers that contrast with the exuberant baroque style of its bell tower. It has an important Plateresque choir stalls and oil paintings of great interest, such as the San Laureano by Basilio Santa Cruz Pumacallo (17th century). The remains of the two Diego de Almagro, the Old Man (1538) and the Mozo (1542) are buried there.
The convent formerly had four cloisters, currently there are two convent cloisters and one of them has become the current school of La Merced. The Church is composed of three naves, one elevated and the other lowered, it has a Greek Cross construction platform.
The chronicles indicate that in the year 1535 the Mercedarians entered Cusco where they founded their first house at the initiative of Fray Sebastián de Castañeda y Trujillo. The Mercedarians enjoyed the favor of Pizarro, who gave them the lot in front of the Cusipata square in reward for the services provided during the first years of the Spanish presence. In this way, the construction of its house and temple began, the same that were the most important and central in the city, achieving the category of Principal of Cusco, because until the end of the 16th century the whole of the Cathedral had not been built. nor the Temple of the Company of Jesus.
The first Mercedarian constructions were very modest and served to bury Diego de Almagro and Gonzalo Pizarro.
The Order of the Merced
Founded on August 10, 1218 in Barcelona by San Pedro Nolasco. «According to Fray Victor M. Barriga the religious of his order were the first to arrive in Peru. It is stated that the Mercedarian presence in Peru is evident since 1533, since it is very probable that with Almagro at the end of 1532 they passed from Mercedarians to the kingdom still not deceased of the Incas.
The Order of Mercy (Latin: Ordo Beatæ Mariæ Virginis de Redemptione Captivorum), is a Catholic religious Order, founded in 1218 by Saint Peter Nolasco (ca. 1180–1245). Mercedarians commit themselves with a fourth vow, added to the traditional vows of poverty, obedience and chastity of the other orders, to liberate others who are weaker in the faith, even if their life is in danger because of it or fault qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.
Inside the cloisters we find a great variety of pictures and fragments of wall paintings from the original Minor Basilica de la Merced, which represent the life of Don Pedro de Nolasco, founder of the Mercedarian order, which were painted by the master Ignacio Chacón.
In this Minor Basilica de la Merced is the famous jewel and relic «La Custodia de la Merced», made in 24 carat gold and inlaid with 1,518 diamonds, 615 stones (rubies, topaz and emeralds) and a large pearl in the shape of a mermaid, considered as the second largest in the world.
Cloisters of the Convent
All the columns, adorned with stone carvings, the floors. Restored after the 1950 earthquake.
Dome in the central nave of the church
A wonderful example of the painting technique in the vaulted ceilings and the majestic decoration with lamps with countless pieces that enhance its beauty and form.
Image of san pedro nolasco, in the arms of some angels
Picture of the Life of the Founder of the Order, in his old age, … «the bell ringer forgot to ring the bell for the prayer of Matins, so he went to the choir of the convent, transferred by angels», given the precariousness of your health. Existing painting in the Cloister of the Convent behind the «backs» of the Church.
Coronation of our mother
Picture or painting of the Cusco School. It represents a moment of beautiful religiosity where our mother is crowned in heaven.
Represents our mother of la merced
From the Cusco school; represents Our Mother of Mercy, indicating to the Pope, bishops, doctors of the Church and our Founder, her Immaculate Conception.
Menorah or the jewish candlestick
It consists of seven arms called Menorah, this silver candelabrum is a donation from the Jewish colony to the Convent of La Merced in the 18th century. The candelabras were used to light the candles in the liturgical acts.
El sagrario (the tabernacle)
Embossed in silver with helical Solomonic columns that stand out on both sides of the door, in a Baroque style and worked in the 18th century. This tabernacle was used to reserve the Most Holy Body of Christ.
One of the most valuable jewels of Peru in all of South America, it measures 1.25m in height and weighs 22kg. With 250 grams of maceous gold it has 1518 diamonds and 615 pearls between rubies and emeralds, there is also the second largest pearl in the world and unique in the shape of a mermaid.
Museum opening hours:
Morning shift: 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Afternoon shift: 2:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Museum cost: S /. 6.00
Church opening hours: Mass times:
Monday to Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Sundays from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Visiting Cusco is a real adventure whose protagonist will be yourself, instead of a memorable experience, that is why Cusco is definitely one of the most incredible cities with a great variety of archaeological centers and tours such as Sacred Valley, Camino Inca or Machu Picchu. To enjoy an unforgettable experience, contact Inka Trail Backpacker, a company that will better assist you during your visit, of course it is always with the necessary advice for you and yours as well as the guarantee, responsibility and security that characterizes us. If you visit the city of Cusco another impressive destinations that you can visit are the tour to rainbow mountain peru or the humantay lake tour from cusco, which only takes one day. But if you are gonna to stay more days in Cusco, other archaeological places you can know will be the choquequirao trek peru, the salkantay trek to machu picchu, and the classic inca trail 4 days 3 nights.