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Colonial Architecture of the Viceroyalty of Peru: The necessary and continued role of the indigenous in Christianity


The moral justification of Spanish presence in Latin America was the proselytization of Christianity. Religion would continue to have an unparalleled impact on the consolidation and maintenance of colonization. Christianity was often the first form of communication between the Spanish and indigenous. It was a key factor in the subjugation of Amerindians. Religion is the perfect grounds for determining the potency of Amerindian identity in the colonial era. One mode of exploring the role of religion in colonial identities is through architecture. As the colonizers conquered and consolidated Latin America, new structures were erected and existing ones modified.

Religious buildings are particularly useful in examining colonial relationships because their purpose was to foster a sense of community between colonizer and colonized. “If viceregal architecture was the vision of empire, the churches were a reflection of community.”[1] Furthermore, churches provide a more eclectic variety as they evolved in style to meet the times, whereas government buildings remained overwhelming classicist. The various church and religious institutions were also the most active art patrons in colonial America, building some 70,000 churches and countless other structures by the end of the seventeenth century in the Americas.[2]

Early academia has tended to view the Spanish architectural and religious takeover as complete and swift.[3] A revisionist approach is taken here, one that emphasizes the lasting role of the indigenous in Christianity and the religious architecture.  This paper argues that the evolution of architecture in the Viceroyalty of Peru shows a continued indigenous and pre-Columbian presence. Extrapolating from this, architectural styles can be used to show the necessary consent and participation needed by the indigenous groups for Christianity to flourish. Rather than the common tendency to view the indigenous as passive recipients of European culture or as constantly rebelling against it, it will be shown that indigenous culture was more fluid and adaptable. Chief among this fluidity is the syncretic consequence of Christianity and indigenous beliefs. Cross-cultural encounters produced a more subtle form of transculturation. Both Amerindian and Spanish culture had to shift, adapt and negotiate in the new colonial context.


The Problems with Colonial Architectural Discourse

In discussing architecture, the problems and bias contained in colonial architectural discourse must be addressed. These in-built problems contribute much to the erroneous view of Spanish supremacy in architecture. There are two primary problems with architectural discourse as it has progressed in academia about the influence of colonialism. The terminology used to describe architectural styles such as “Renaissance” and “Baroque” is used for their indication of common aesthetics and shared time period. However, both of these reasons for using such terms contain flaws.

Firstly, it is inappropriate to use such terms to indicate common aesthetics. These terms ignore the subtle aesthetics of indigenous architecture. As mentioned, historians in the past have tended to view colonial Latin America with a focus on Spanish actions. The very words used to describe major architectural trends marginalize native contributions while emphasizing Spanish preeminence. In describing pre-1532 Peruvian structural design, architectural historians use words associated with the indigenous people to label their style: Aymara, Moche, Inca, Chachapoya etc.[4] The Inca Empire contained a vast and diverse group of peoples, each with their own architectural variations. Post-1532, however, sees this variety of labels distilled into two fundamentally European schools: Renaissance and Baroque.[5] All other colonial styles can essentially be categorized under these two categories.

By using the names of European styles in Latin America, the individual architectural contributions of indigenous groups are dismissed. Indeed, such a pattern of Spanish generalization can be seen in the colonial perpetuation of homogenous race and language. Pre-Columbian indigenous groups were seen as fixed, unchanging permanent tribes and ethnic groups. The Spanish state and Church sought to generalize these groups under the common name of “Indian”, united under the common “Indian” language of Quechua.[6] This generality sought to create and reorganize a singular native collective identity defined under the Spanish—the same problem with using Spanish architectural schools.

The second problem with colonial architectural rhetoric is to do with its association with time periods. The neat progression of architectural styles, from Inca to Renaissance to Baroque presents Latin American architectural evolution as clear and chronological. Such a linear development indicates the demise of the previous school when the new one ascends—with the dawn of the Renaissance, the previous Inca architecture must have been exterminated. However, particularly in Latin America, this is not true. Bailey characterizes Latin American architecture as “chronological anarchy”. [7] “Renaissance” and “Baroque” were European art movements that were imported into Latin America. However, given the large distances, what was in vogue in Latin America was not necessarily still in vogue in Europe. Older styles persisted for centuries in Latin America even as they were abandoned in Europe.[8] “Chronological anarchy”, then, refers to the presence and mix of European and indigenous styles in Latin America. One of the primary geographic differences between Europe and Latin America was the distances between cultural centers and the rural countryside.[9] Whereas architectural ideas spread quickly from the centers to the countryside in Europe, the distances were much greater in Latin America. As a result, European styles spread at different rates in Latin America. The co-existence of Baroque in cities and Renaissance in the countryside, as well as both styles in both places, was common in Latin America.

Such issues with the rhetoric used in colonial architecture have colored research into Latin America in the past. It would be unfeasible to create new words to address these problems. Instead, the natural bias and disposition towards the Spanish these words contain must be remembered in the context of their use. The root of the problem lies in the Euro-centric view of Latin American architecture. “Renaissance” and “Baroque” in Latin America and Europe have very different meanings and influences. Finally, the lack of a linear chronology should also be remembered, particularly in the vastness of the Viceroyalty of Peru. General trends can be ascertained, but the more complex synthesis of the individual architectural styles requires deeper analysis.


Historical Context and Pre-Columbian Architecture

Pre-Columbian context is naturally invaluable for analyzing the effects colonial religion had on Inca culture and identity. By exploring Latin America before the arrival of the Spanish, the effect of the Spanish can be seen in the wider context of Latin American history. Rather than viewing the Spanish colonization as a solitary event, it should be viewed in the wider pattern of general conquests in Latin America. The Inca Empire was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. From the early 14th century, the Inca vastly grew their territories through conquest and assimilation. Interestingly, the Inca used their architecture as a mode of expansion.[10] Where the Incas conquered, they also built. Cultural assimilation took many forms, including architecture. Nair particularly notes this conquest strategy, “architectural proliferation is understood as a visible manifestation of the power of Inca Empire.”[11] While in other Mesoamerican regions where contemporaneous works do not share many characteristics, Peru is noted for its high levels of identity in its architecture.[12]

The Incas also paid tribute to their predecessors: there was a conscious Inca effort to imitate the ancient masonry of Tiwanaku (AD c. 500 – 1000).[13] Just as the Inca architecture was shaped by Tiwanaku and in turn shaped Inca conquered lands, the Spanish was shaped by indigenous architecture and also shaped indigenous architecture. A specific example may serve to illustrate the importance placed by the Incas on the relationship between architecture and imperialism, and the great efforts they went to maintain it. Dennis Ogburn, through geochemical analysis, shows that 450 large stone blocks were transported 1,600 miles from Rumiqolga quarry in Cuzco to Tumebamba, for the construction of imperial buildings.[14] Tumebamba was given special importance by Huayna Capac, the 11th Sapa Inca, who made it his Northern capital. The Incas clearly saw imperial authority as deriving from Cuzco, and that the use of blocks from their capital symbolizes this transfer of power.

Architecture, then, has special connotations in the Latin American history of conquest. Unlike other art or material culture, architecture was associated with the state. Whether it was the Tiwanaku city state, the Inca Empire or the Spanish Crown, conquerors used architecture as a presence of the state and its institutions.[15] Just as the presence of Inca architecture across the Andes reflects the hegemony of the Inca Empire, the destruction of Inca structures and their replacement by Spanish architecture reflects the new Spanish supremacy.

Kubler and historians like him have long maintained that the victory of one culture over another manifests as a destruction of the loser’s art, and the replacement by the art of the victor.[16] While such a phenomenon did largely occur, there are evident traces of the vanquished’s presence. In Latin America, especially, there is a historical precedent for surviving and adapting architectural styles. Rather than a tendency to view the Spanish colonization as the final death knell of indigenous architecture, there has been a recent surge of scholars that sees a continued Inca and indigenous tradition. Such an idea emphasizes the fluidity of pre-Columbian architecture. It absorbed and altered itself based on its relationship with its subjects.

Pre-Columbian context serves to illustrate the centrality of architecture to indigenous groups and how architecture manifests as a form of cultural hegemony in Latin America. The constantly evolving nature of pre-Columbian architecture should also be noted, a trait that would survive into the colonial era.


The Renaissance in Spanish Conquest

The conquest of the Latin America was not firmly directed by Spain. Individual ambition proved a more significant factor in the initial conquest of the Inca Empire.[17] The effects of religious expansion by missionaries and friars should especially be emphasized—indeed, the priest Hernando de Luque was one of the earliest explorers of Peru. The Spanish missions sought to convert and befriend indigenous groups.  For the indigenous groups, this period was marked by great adaptation and transformation. Syncretism was perhaps the most important architectural event here. As demonstrated, Inca and other indigenous architecture were extremely fluid.

A brief exposition on events in the European world at the time proves invaluable for determining European actions and motivations. Elsewhere, the Spanish Empire was in the midst of the Reconquista, where they sought to destroy heathen Muslims and unite the lands under Christianity. This religious fervor brought preaching to new heights of importance. Culturally, Europe was very much under the influence of the Renaissance, which emphasized a utopianism that many believed could be found in the New World. The religious entry into Latin America was hence marked by contradictory motives. At one level, the Spaniards wished to spread Christianity. At another, Latin America was viewed as an untouched paradise. Parallels between Latin America and an idealized Ancient Rome or Egypt were frequently made.[18] Latin America was viewed as a state in need of correcting to reach its full potential. Spanish America was seen as a possible ideal Castile, one that was not bound by its medieval limitations.[19]

The earliest mission churches in the Lake Titicaca region of Peru reached a Renaissance classicalism unseen even in Spain or Portugal.[20] The ideas of the Renaissance and Catholicism reached new heights. Latin America was seen as potentially a Christian utopia: here, more so than Europe, Christianity attempted its architectural rigor. In the past, spearheaded by Kubler, historians have tended to view Renaissance architecture in Latin America as a conquering force, bent on destroyed native structures and exploiting indigenous labor.[21] Such an idea is not true, and oversimplifies the more subtle relationship between missionaries and the indigenous. Instead, the initial colonization period was one marked by co-operation and change between the missionaries and indigenous peoples.

Franciscans and Mercedarians were present in Peru before Atahualpa’s death, and the Augustinians appeared shortly after.[22] The preferred religious method of entry in Spanish South America was the reduccion.[23] An exploration of this method highlights both the importance of architecture in colonization as well as the resulting Spanish-Amerindian relationship. Missionaries promoted certain indigenous villages to have authority over smaller vistas. Particularly given the initial language difficulties, art was essential for conversion. “Art was the means by which the priests first instructed the Indians whom they converted to Catholicism; it was the image—not language—on which the church first depended to disseminate its message.”[24] The center and focus of both villages and vista was the Christian church. In the head villages, there would be both a church and a permanent residence, while the smaller vista would have a chapel and a house for the priest. The first monastery built in South America was founded just one short month after Spanish occupation of the Inca capital in 1533.[25] The monastery occupied a central position on the upper side of a busy square, emphasizing Christianity’s new importance in the post-Inca world.

Despite their superlative emphasis on Christianity, it would be mistaken to believe that the early missionaries had the power or persuasion to force indigenous to convert. While the Spanish wished to transform the architectural landscape to reflect their new sovereignty, they simply lacked the numbers to do so. The descending hierarchal authority from church, to village, to vistas sought to overcome this issue. Despite this, the general consent of the people was needed; from the very earliest beginnings, the indigenous people have had a crucial role to play in creating post-Columbian architecture.

Emilio Escobar Loret de Mola’s examination of Latin American architectural technology emphasizes that the earliest buildings were decidedly indigenous in origin.[26] For example, in Cuzco, pre-Columbian walls served as foundations for new structures. Kubler viewed this as a demonstration of Christian triumph and a visual reminder of the fall of the Inca. However, he ignores the fact that missionaries did not just use indigenous foundations, but essentially utilized indigenous techniques in every aspect: “a certain crossbreeding was necessary between European technology—more advanced, possessing the arch and the vault—and native technology—knowing the materials, the climate and the geological characteristics of the country.”[27]

While it may be tempting to view the indigenous as submitting to the missionaries, particularly after the fall of the Inca Empire, the actions of the missionaries should dispel this notion. The missionaries needed to make Christianity as appealing as possible. They did so by being extremely flexible and lenient in their architectural proselytization. The first mendicant friars used pre-Columbian temple architecture to give their churches an indigenous familiarity and feel. By the 1530s, there was a standard mission model heavily based on the ancient Mesoamerican city of Cholula.[28] In the Viceroyalty of Peru especially, there was an architectural emphasis on pre-Hispanic temple stages.[29] Colonial architecture did not just duplicate aesthetics, but also function. Peruvian churches had open courtyards which allowed for outdoor worship, an important feature also found in Inca churches.[30] In fact, many Amerindian architectural techniques flourished and spread under colonial rule. For example, the indigenous Peruvian technique of vaulting with quicha (mud and rushes) to prevent earthquake damage was widely adopted, and accepted as a standard in church building in Lima.[31] Other indigenous art forms such as feather painting, lacquer making and weaving were heavily encouraged and prized by the Spaniards.

Augustinian missionaries often taught indigenous workers or sent them for advanced training in Mexico City, but the fact remains that Amerindians were a crucial element of post-Columbian architecture.[32] Gruzinski particularly emphasizes the talent of the indigenous in mimicking and appropriating European technology.[33] Rather than viewing this as an act of submission, Gruzinski sees it as a method for the indigenous to compete with Spanish labor. It allowed indigenous groups access to markets. It is crucial to mention that this mimicry also left indigenous agency to interpret; the indigenous groups expanded on European techniques and invented new manners.[34]

The earliest churches were usually decorated with murals in an attempt to imitate the splendor of European cathedrals. Peru, in particular, had a long and complex tradition of mural painting.[35] These paintings were created by indigenous artists, who were commissioned or coerced by the missionaries. Because of this indigenous influence, it is not surprising the murals often reflected indigenous beliefs. The walls were frequently adorned with pictures of Inca nobles dressed in traditional garbs. A case study of the Jesuit San Pedro Apostol in Andahuaylillas, Peru is revealing. Father Juan Perez Bocanegra (c. 1598-after 1631) synthesized Christianity and traditional Andean cosmology to appeal to the indigenous.[36] He also included Quechua and Aymara to traditionally Latin inscriptions.

Of course, the overall foundation of European architecture cannot be denied. However, to focus on the similarities between colonizer and colonized architecture as proof of Spanish subjugation would be a mistake. Gasparini argues that, “It is not appropriate to analyze colonial architecture in terms of invariables.”[37] Instead, analysis should be given to the differences between colonizer and colonized architecture, and the significance of these differences examined to ascertain the level of colonized autonomy.

According to acculturation theory, syncretism occurs when two different cultures make separate interpretations of the same symbol. Anita Brenner’s “idols behind altars” refers to the same idea of a continued indigenous faith under the layers of Christianity.[38] With particular emphasis on powerful religious symbols, syncretism was used extensively by indigenous groups to adapt to colonialism. The paintings and sculptures that adorned early colonial churches are rife with examples of religious syncretism.[39] The common motif of the passionflower would have been viewed by Jesuits as a reference to Christ’s Passion, while the Guarani sculptors would have viewed it as a hallucinogenic vital to their indigenous religion. Indeed, this was encouraged by the friars who imbued Christian figures, like the Virgin Mary, with features of indigenous deities.[40] Rather than viewing this as an act of subversion, Bailey believes that these instances of syncretism were attempts by Amerindians and Europeans to adapt and co-exist in the colonial religious environment.

This was also partially response to indigenous religious revolts. Indeed, indigenous subversion took many forms, including a wide-scale millenarian movement in the 1560s, Taki Unquy, centered on the supremacy of huacas, indigenous spirits. The movement was rapidly suppressed and traces removed by the Spanish authorities; it is only the 1960s that academia has returned to this event.[41]  With only three primary sources by two Spanish priests, an examination of Taki Unquy is necessarily an exercise in historiography.[42] Until the last century, the only primary document on the Andean apostasy was a treatise written by a Spanish priest, Cristobal de Molina. Molina provides an account of the levels of Christian permeation—the indigenous accepted the existence of both a Christian God and huacas: “God Our Lord had made the Spanish and Castile… but that the huacas had made the Indians and this land.”[43]  The Taki Unquy was a movement that wished for a triumph of the huacas over the Christian God.

It was only with the 1967 discovery of Informaciones de servicios and Instruccion para descubrir todas las guacas del Piru y sus comayos y haziendas both by another Spanish priest called Cristobal de Albornoz that an architectural perspective comes into view. Albornoz saw Taki Onqoy as the last effort of Inca reconquest. The importance of the huacas to landscape architecture and the built environment to the indigenous was very potent, unsurprising given the pre-Columbian belief in place and power. Traditionally, the huacas were embodied in features of the landscape, such as in stone. Taki Unquy, however, emphasizes that “the huacas no longer put themselves into stones, clouds, or springs to speak, but embodied themselves in the Indians and made them speak.”[44] Mumford does an excellent review of two primary historiographical approaches to the Taki Unquy: “Some saw a campaign of reconquest by the old Inca order. Others saw instead a crisis or transformation in Andean culture.”[45] The first school was led by Luis Millones, who interpreted Instruccion as evidence of a “cultural defense”, where the Taki Unquy was a massive nationalist movement.[46] Yet Millones is unable to explain the permeation of Christian dogma—many Amerindian women took the names of Christian saints in the movement to evoke power. Furthermore, the central Inca god of the Sun was missing from the Taki Onqoy pantheon.[47]

The second school is more plausible: the indigenous people were reacting to an unfamiliar Christianity. It is possible to contrast the Taki Onqoy with other indigenous revolts. For example, whereas the Vilcabamba Incas used Spanish technology to violently revolt, the Taki Onqoy emphasized pre-Columbian cultural purity but did not seem violently inclined.[48] The Taki Onqoy then, should be seen as an admittance of colonial participation. As shown, the consent of the indigenous was vital for Christianity’s spread. Following the fall of the Inca Empire, these indigenous people were wracked with guilt, “focused internally upon the misdeeds of native society rather than externally upon the European agents of evil.”[49] The Taki Onqoy was essentially defeatist, and never expected to succeed. The end of the Taki Onqoy marks the slow demise of the importance of huacas. The Spanish had succeeded in replacing pre-Columbian emphasis on landscape architecture with their Churches.

The Taki Unquy was therefore a pivotal moment in Peruvian religious and architectural history. It signals the acceptance of Christianity, and the expiry of the indigenous relationship with their built environment.  While the Taki Unquy can be seen as an elegy for pre-Columbian times, it nevertheless hinges on the consent and participation of indigenous groups.

With the foundation of the Viceroyalty of Peru in 1542, Peru was essentially run by Spaniards. The execution of the last Sapu Inca, Tupca Amaru, in 1572 ended the conquest begun 40 years earlier. By successfully conquering the Inca, the Spanish empire was in control of a vast and wealthy area of land spanning from Colombia to Chile.[50] With the area fully conquered, thousands of Spaniards emigrated to seek their fortune. The Inca were occupied relatively late in the age of conquest. By this time, the Spanish had already made native allies, who helped them ransom Atahuallpa.[51] Importantly, the Inca Empire was in the midst of a civil war. By killing Atahuallpa, Atahuallpa’s powerful political enemies began to see Pizarro and the Spanish as allies. The successful defeat of the Inca gave great prestige to Christianity, and many of the indigenous peoples accepted their new religion.[52]


Colonization and the Baroque

In the decades following the Spanish conquest of Peru, there was a notable shift in religious aims that is reflected in architecture. This was in part due to the changing composition of Christian representatives, shifting from monastic orders to a more secular clergy. This was in part due to a transferal in colonial interests from the rural to the urban. Having consolidated power, the Crown was concerned with creating stable modern European cities.

An important change that occurred in the transition from Renaissance to Baroque was the new participation of the state. Whereas previously, the Spanish Empire had given missionaries a sizeable amount of flexibility and autonomy, they were now increasingly concerned with projecting an image of rule. The Crown was heavily involved in the building of cathedrals, spending a great amount of money and resources. Whereas the indigenous had previously built the churches, now professional Spanish architects and royal councils were being commissioned.[53] Because of this, cathedrals in Latin America do not display the same variety as civic churches.

By the 1570s, the Christian monastic zealotry had largely faded.[54] The creation of bishops and archbishops further curtailed monastic powers. The Ordenanza del Patronazgo of 1574 legally highlighted the secular clergy’s authority while undermining other religious institutions.[55] This begun a new architectural movement, the Baroque, centered on the monolithic secular clergy and based in the city. Much like Renaissance architecture, the Baroque school was intimately tied with events in Europe. The Baroque was associated with the Counter-Reformation, an affirmation of Catholicism following the uprising of the Protestant Reformation. Whereas the Renaissance sought to emphasize classicalism and a return to utopianism, the Baroque wished to assert a singular religious splendor and power. Baroque architecture was hence marked by visually intricate and stunning designs.

More so than the viceregal capital of Lima, Cuzco was an important battleground for the Spanish, being the former capital city of the Inca Empire. Indeed, Fraser notes that because the Spanish made Lima their colonial center, Cuzco was able to continue as the Andean capital.[56] It was also here that the relationship between indigenous groups, missionaries and civic churches played out. Indeed, cathedral authorities noted that Cuzco was the ancient capital of country, and asked Philip II to let the archbishopric of Peru be located there rather than Lima.[57] Because Peru and Latin America experienced a wide variety of the Baroque style, it would be impossible to thoroughly explore Andean baroque, mestizo baroque, Mexican baroque and so on. Instead, Cuzco, as a cultural and religious center, will be examined as a case study for the new religious colonial dynamic.

Like in many colonial towns, the center of Cuzco was occupied by a church institution, in this case the magnificent mother church of the Roman Catholic archdiocese, the Cathedral of Santo Domingo. Interestingly, the Cathedral was built on the ruins of an Inca temple in the most important area of the former Inca capital, the Plaza de Armas Leopold Castedo particularly characterizes Cuzco as a city layered, “the entire city was conceived on two levels, figuratively, in its spirit, and actually, in its architecture.”[58] The Baroque in Cuzco was particularly marked by the use of Inca structures. However, on the same square as the secular Cathedral, there was a Jesuit church. The Compania, one of Peru’s most influential Jesuit churches, was a capilla de indios, a church or chapel for Indians. The Compania, to the dismay of cathedral authorities, was much more magnificent and Baroque than the Cathedral of Santa Domingo.[59] In particular, the Baroque use of an arched entrance here was imitated elsewhere in Peru. The arched entrance became a crucial aesthetic associated with Christianity and European technological and cultural superiority.[60]

Such a structure reflected the active role religion played in colonial Peru. Jesuits created schools that educated creole and indigenous elites, an essential cog in the colonial machine. Unfortunately, the Jesuits arrived to Cuzco relatively late in the colonial settlement, and were denied the choice architectural locations. Through complicated and sometimes deviated means, they eventually acquired property in the town center, demonstrating the critical importance the missionaries placed on architectural visibility.[61]

That is not to say the indigenous groups were passive agents uninvolved in the process. Despite the increase of Spanish people, indigenous and castas were still essential to labor. In the Cathedral of Santa Domingo, there are an extant nine of twelve original paintings, Signs of the Zodiac. What is interesting about these pictures is that their subject sought to convince the indigenous to convert, as opposed to the more singular Baroque style of simply praising Christ. Historians declared the pictures Flemish until a recent discovery of the signature confirmed the artist was “Ttito Quispe”, an Indian artist and leader of the Cuzco School.[62] Such an example shows both indigenous autonomy as well as an increasing acceptance of Christianity.
Given the Crown’s new and omniscient interest in colonial architecture, there was very little room for Amerindian creative freedom. Neumeyer hence notes that indigenous influence in the Baroque era must be seen in the execution and interpretation of European forms.[63] Therefore Ttito Quispe’s works should not necessarily be seen as a conversion attempt, but as an acknowledgement of pre-Columbian religions, rather than a singular portrait of Christianity. Gruzinski perfectly captures this point, noting that mimicry was the only option for inventiveness and the mestizo phenomena, particularly in the tightly controlled urban cities.[64]

Ttito Quispe’s Signs of the Zodiac is an example of the flourishing Cuzco School, an artistic tradition that bears mentioning. The Cuzco School was a Roman Catholic artistic tradition that focused completely on religious subjects. Despite this emphasis on European Christianity, the Cuzco artists were rooted strongly in the Andalusian past, not unlike how the initial missionaries incorporated pre-Columbian beliefs into Christianity.[65] However, as mentioned in problems with architectural discourse, it would be wrong to view Baroque in Europe and Latin America as the same. Particularly in rural Peru, the Baroque form was limited to surfaces, while the churches remained essentially classical in form.[66] The use of European architectural forms in colonial urban areas firmly adhered to the Council of Indies’ strict city plans.[67] Because of this, the various forms of Baroque such as Mexican baroque, Andean baroque and mestizo baroque are nonetheless Baroque.

A curious phenomenon occurs here, where the Jesuits in Cuzco sought to portray themselves as the spiritual and cultural ascendants to the Inca. Such a relationship would legitimize their claims to the indigenous population over the secular clergy. The widely reproduced 1670s Cuzco school painting of Marriage of Martin de Loyola to Princess Dona Beatriz and Don Juan Borja to Princess Lorenza celebrates the marriage of de Loyala, a descendant of Saint Ignatius, to the Inca princess Dona Beatriz. In the background, the indigenous lintelled building behind the princess and the arched church behind de Loyale represents “another line of descent, from pagan to Christian, from past to present, from the old architecture to the new.”[68] Critically, the mere presence of the lintelled indigenous structure emphasizes the continued presence of Inca influences.

It was this level of Jesuit and missionary control and ambition that threatened the Spanish Crown.[69] Particularly after the Compania finished construction in all its Baroque glory, cathedral authorities and Jesuits intensified their in-fighting. The secular churches claimed the Compania broke property laws and royal decrees.[70]

In 1749, the transfer of religious control from orders to the secular clergy was complete as Ferdinand VI decreed the complete authority of the secular clergy over all parishes. Indeed, in 1767, Charles III expelled all the Jesuits from Spanish America. Particularly with the advent of the Bourbon Reforms, the Spanish government wished to assert its authority over the creoles and religious institutions. “Regalism” was the Crown’s new policy of expanding their authority at the expense of other institutions.[71] The 18th century saw the final decline of the Catholic Church. While Christianity continued to be extremely important, it lost most of its earlier dynamism. Religious architectural development slowed as they were replaced by increasing numbers of government structures and properties of the rich elite.


Post-colonialism lies outside the scope of this paper. Following Independence, the Church lost much of its superlative power. The most magnificent and impressive buildings were no longer cathedrals but state buildings and the homes of the bourgeoisie.[72] The rise of neo-classicalism indicates the epoch of the Enlightenment in Latin America, where education and academia became the focus of the population. Gone were the days of the Baroque—indeed, it would not have been appropriate for secular buildings to demonstrate such religiosity.

Briefly, it would be amiss if the presence and influence of African and Asian groups in Latin American architecture were neglected.[73] Africans worshipped in black churches that had black saints. There were black religious confraternities. The “Black Brotherhood of the Rosary” built two Baroque churches completely independently. Asia, particularly China and Japan, also influenced Latin American architecture. While this paper focuses on the most obvious architectural relationship between the indigenous and the Europeans, other ethnic groups did exert an influence too.

The Catholic Church continues to be a potent force in the countries that formerly made up the Viceroyalty of Peru. More so than any other Latin American country, Peru has witnessed a modern revival of neocolonial architecture. The reasons for this are huge government support and funding. Lima, in particular, has focused on reconstructing colonial baroque structures to attract tourists.[74] Such buildings celebrate the cultural heritage of colonial and pre-Columbian Latin America. They acknowledge the role of the Inca empire, as well as the co-operation between missionaries and indigenous groups. Christianity’s legacy and importance continues to be hotly debated, but in its wake, some of the most historically central architecture has been created.





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[1] Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Art of Colonial America (London 2005), 263.

[2] Ibid., 51.

[3] Stella Nair, “Witnessing the In-visibility of Inca Architecture in Colonial Peru” in Buildings & Landscapes 14 (2007), 52.

[4] Nair, Witnessing the In-visibility, 54.

[5] Bailey, Art of Colonial America, 15.

[6] Stuart B. Schwartz and Frank Salomon, “New Peoples and New Kinds of People: Adaptation, Readjustment, and Ethnogenesis in South American Indigenous Societies” in The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas. Vol III. (New York), 452.

[7] Bailey, Art of Colonial America, 15-16.

[8] Bailey, Art of Colonial America, 16.

[9] Ibid., 23.

[10] Nair, Witnessing the In-visibility, 51.

[11] Ibid., 51.

[12] Castedo, A history of Latin American art and architecture from pre-Columbian times to the present (New York 1969), 69.

[13] Graziano Gasparini and Luise Margolies, Inca Architecture (Bloomington 1980), 3–33.

[14] Dennis E. Ogburn, “Evidence for Long-Distance Transportation of Building Stones in the Inka Empire, from Cuzco, Peru to Saraguro, Ecuador,” in Latin American Antiquity 15:4 (2004), 419–439

[15] Nair, Witnessing the In-visbility, 52.

[16] George Kubler, “On the Colonial Extinction of the Motifs of Pre-Columbian Art” in Essays in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology (Cambridge 1961), 15.

[17] Mark A. Burkholder and Lyman L. Johnson, Colonial Latin America (Oxford 2012), 67-68.

[18] Bailey, Art of Colonial America , 41-44.

[19] Gruzinski, The Mestizo Mind, 55.

[20] Bailey, Art of Colonial America , 43.

[21] Bailey, Art of Colonial America , 113.

[22] Burkholder and Johnson, 107

[23] Bailey, Art of Colonial America , 210-211.

[24] Palmer and Pierce, 17.

[25] Ibid., 277-278.

[26] Emilio Escobar Loret de Mola, “Technology” in Latin America in Its Architecture (New York 1981), 155-160.

[27] Ibid., 159.

[28] Bailey, Art of Colonial Latin America, 217.

[29] Ibid., 231

[30] Ibid., 232

[31] Ibid., 101.

[32] Alfred Neumeyer, “The Indian Contribution to Architectural Decoration in Spanish Colonial America” in The Art Bulletin 30.2 (1948), 104

[33] Gruzinski, The Mestizo Mind: The Intellectual Dynamics of Colonization and Globalization (New York 2002), 57-60.

[34] Ibid., 62.

[35] Bailey, Art of Colonial Latin America, 248-249.

[36] Ibid., 253.

[37] Gasparini and Margioli, Inca Architecture, 77-80.

[38] Bailey, Art of Colonial Latin America, 71

[39] Ibid., 90-98.

[40] Bailey, Art of Colonial Latin America, 94.

[41] Jeremy Mumford, “The Taki Onqoy and the Andean Nation: Sources and Intepretations” in Latin American Research Review 33.1 (1998), 150.

[42] Ibid., 150-165.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Mumford, The Taki Onque, 150-165.

[45] Ibid., 155.

[46] Ibid., 156.

[47] Ibid., 157- 158.

[48] Ibid., 160-161.

[49] Ibid., 161.

[50] Burkholder and Johnson, Colonial Latin America, 66-67.

[51] Ibid., 58-63.

[52] Ibid., 106.

[53] Bailey, Art of Colonial Latin America, 264.

[54] Burkholder and Johnson, Colonial Latin America, 104-105.

[55] Ibid., 109-110.

[56] Valerie Fraser, “Architecture and Ambition: The Case of the Jesuits in the Viceroyalty of Peru” in History Workshop 34 (1992), 28.

[57] Ibid., 28.

[58] Castedo, A history of Latin American art and architecture, 166-169.

[59] Fraser, Architecture and Ambition, 17.

[60] Fraser, Architecture and Ambition,  23.

[61] Ibid., 19.

[62] Neumeyer, The Indian Contribution, 105-106.

[63] Ibid.,109.

[64] Gruzinski, The Mestizo Mind, 62-63.

[65] Castedo, A history of Latin American art and architecture, 176-177

[66] Bailey, Art of Colonial Latin America, 237-238.

[67] Neumeyer, The Indian Contribution, 105.

[68] Fraser, Architecture and Ambition, 29.

[69] Ibid., 30.

[70] Fraser, Architecture and Ambition, 24.

[71] Burkholder and Johnson, Colonial Latin America, 325-327.

[72] Bailey, Art of Colonial Latin America, 35

[73] Bailey, Art of Colonial Latin America,, 357-374.

[74] Castedo, A history of Latin American art and architecture, 282-284.

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