Climate: Cusco enjoys an average annual temperature of 11°C (Maximum 17°C and minimum -2°C). The rain season runs from November to March.
Access: To be able to take in the finest examples of paintings from the Cusco School, visitors should look around the churches and convents: the Cathedral (Plaza de Armas), the Convent of Santo Domingo (corner of Av. El Sol and Calle Santo Domingo), the church of La Compañía de Jesús (next to the Cathedral).
Open: The Cusco Cathedral is open from Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.; the Convent of Santo Domingo from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m; the church of La Compañía de Jesús is open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 9.00 a.m. and from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
In Cusco, the Madonnas sport rosy cheeks like Andean matrons, while the angels are clad in gold and wear Flandes-style hats. In churches and chapels, the venerable yet majestic oil paintings that decorate the church naves reveal the presence of an iconography that is anything but exclusively European.
These are paintings from the Cusco School, a unique example of cultural mestizaje, that mingling of Spanish missionary fervor and the fervent pagan reaction of the local indigenous artists. It was at the end of the seventeenth century that one of the local painters, Diego Quispe Tito -without a doubt the leading figure of this artistic trend- created a work that was to be the first example of a native Peruvian artistic style, and which represented a major break between Spanish and Andean painters.
His work already featured what was later to become the main characteristics of the Cusco School: the fine brush strokes, the marked influence of Flemish etchings and an abundance of decorative elements in the dress of the figures. What was more, the mystical and profoundly religious characteristic of the School was to be reflected in the series of archangels, virgins and saints -typical of colonial painting in the Americas- which were born from the need of the Spanish colonists to capture the imagination of the Cusco inhabitants with an iconography that was striking and yet moving at the same time.
Naturally bound to the foundation of churches and monasteries, today the art of the Cusco School can be seen in churches such as Santo Domingo, built on top of the foundations of the Koricancha, the Inca Temple of the Sun, and the Cusco Cathedral.
Over the course of centuries, the tradition of Cusco painters has been passed down from one generation to another, from master painters to apprentices, from father to son, to captivate, with their striking and yet moving iconography, the modern-day visitor.