Commentary, Travel

Machu Picchu’s Temple of the Condor

A carved Condor soars in the stone of Machu Pichu (Walter Coraza Morveli)

Machu Picchu is so marvelous that it challenges our imagination to think how it might have been constructed. This city on a mountain has fascinating temples connected with astronomy at the same time it has incomparable beauty.

Within the sanctuary, the temple of the condor is one of the astounding places we can see. It was developed as a place for worship, sacred ceremonies, and celebrations.

The condor was a sacred symbol for the Inca civilization and is one of the holy animals of Andean ideology today. It represents wisdom, and the celestial domain which is called hanan pacha in Quechua.

The temple of the condor is found in the south east sector of the urbanized zone of Machu Picchu. On arriving there you will see a gigantic condor made of stone, with its wings extended as if its were flying. It is built in harmony with the mother rock, the bed rock, of the mountain. The bust of the bird is carved in fine detail.

The condor was and still is a special deity in the Andes for our indigenous people. But we no longer know the ceremonies that the Incas carried out in its honor. Today in the Andes, in its many different mountains and valleys, people still render homage and devotion to this amazing bird. In the land of Apurimac you can see the feast called Yawar Fiesta, or Blood Fiesta, which is performed in its honor still today.

It is reminiscent of the colonial paintings where you can see an armed angel standing on a serpent that it is fighting. The great Art historian, Teresa Gisbert says that, unlike in the West, in the Andes the angel never wins absolutely. It and the snake, the heaven and earth, are locked in an eternal struggle that you can see every time a storm comes in, if no where else.

This struggle of the condor, the sky, with the earth is what distinguishes Yawar fiesta, and it probably was also a part of Inca worship in the temple of the condor.

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