Day 4 — Sistine Chapel of the Americas

Monday — April 6

In the interim between our stop at Rumicolca and our mid-day visit to Pikillaqta, we went to Andahuaylillas. I am so glad that this charming town wasn’t one of the places we decided to forego to make time for the Pisac ruins — it was a nice change of pace from exploring archaeological sites.

When we arrived in the town square there were several busloads of people visiting the primary attraction, Iglesia de San Pedro de Andahuaylillas, the local church. Knowing that the busses were on a schedule, we decided to enjoy the sights and sounds of the square while we waited for them to leave. Not one to waste time, after shooting some video footage, Mui took the opportunity to check out the vendor stalls. He really loves bargaining with the locals — and does it well, turning the whole affair into a social event with lots of laughter and banter. In the end, he gets a fair price and the vendors make a sale — win-win all around.

Mui turns bargaining into a social event.

While Mui was thus occupied, I sat on the steps leading up to the church and simply enjoyed the local color. There was certainly a lot of opportunities to click the shutter and capture digital images — locals sitting around the square, chatting with friends; vendors selling from carts and stalls; kids running around, squealing with delight at every opportunity; young women clad in colorful ponchos doing crochet work while exchanging the latest gossip; a young boy playing with a toy truck, oblivious to everything else around him; the smiling face of a young girl, cheeks stained brown from repeated sunburns from the harsh Andean sun; and so much more.

Local color in the square at Andahuaylillas.

Can you tell that Inez is enjoying her lollypop?

The Church of San Pedro was built by the Jesuits in the early 17th century. It’s hard to describe this church as it seems to have a split personality. Humble, unpretentious, modest … these are good words to apply when you look at San Pedro from the outside. Charming is another word — especially when the gleaming white adobe walls are seen against brilliant blue skies.

Iglesia de San Pedro was built in the 17th century.

Once you step inside, however, a whole new set of words are needed — impressive, spectacular, extraordinary, awe-inspiring are the first ones that came to my mind upon seeing the colorful frescoes and paintings adorning the walls. Even the organ on the balcony was covered with colorful designs. Then I looked up to see the ceiling covered in a Moorish-influenced design that combines the geometric and the abstract — wow! No wonder the church is often referred to as the Sistine Chapel of the Americas.

Ceiling of Iglesia de San Pedro, known as the Sistine Chapel of the Americas.
(image scanned from postcard)

The inscription around the door to the baptistry reads “I baptise him in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holly Spirit, Amen” and is written in five different languages — Latin, Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, and Pukina (the latter is now extinct).
(image scanned from postcard)

We were dumbstruck in the face of such artistry. After we managed to collect our wits about us, Vidal directed our attention to a mural that decorates either side of the entrance door — one side depicting the Camino al Infierno (the Path to Hell) and the other side depicting the Camino al Cielo (the Path to Heaven). These murals were apparently meant to teach the natives, whom the Spanish were trying to convert to Christianity, about making choices in life.

It's all about making choices.
Murals depicting the Path to Hell (left) and the Path to Heaven (right).
(image compiled from scanned postcards)

Photography was not allowed inside, so I’m glad they had postcards for sale, the quality notwithstanding.

Next Up: Day 4 — Return to Pisac

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