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San Blas

Cusco, San Blas, Paint of Yuvitza Garcia Moreano

A few blocks up from the Plaza De Armas is the art district of San Blas, also known as "the craftsmen's district". The area is known for its cobbled, narrow streets and small art galleries and artisan workshops. This area of the city comes to life in the evenings when the shops and restaurants open, and can look somewhat deserted during the day.

The San Blas Plaza is a nice open area, which is rare in the San Blas district. The two main attractions on the Plaza are the church of San Blas and the fountain on the northeast wall, which is lit up at night. The area above the fountain is also a good place to take advantage of the view out over Cusco and the tiled rooftops.

San Blas church

The church of San Blas, built in 1563, is the oldest parish church in Cusco.

Cusco, San Blas church

Inside the church is one of the greatest jewels of colonial art in the continent: the Pulpit of Saint Blaise; which is a filigree made in cedar wood by expert hands managing a gouge. It is not known with certainty who was the artist or artists that made it, how long the work lasted, neither any other details about it. However, the pulpit is over there as a mute witness of a great Catholic devotion and devoted work. There are enough proofs to assert that it was made carved with funds given by art protector Bishop Manuel Mollinedo y Angulo; therefore, it was by the end of the XVII century. There are serious discrepancies about the identity of the performing artist.

Most authors suggest that it was made by the most famous Quechua woodcarver: Juan Tomas Tuyro Tupaq, that was contemporary and protected of Mollinedo y Angulo, who entrusted him the manufacture of several works. It also could have been work of some other artists contemporary with Mollinedo such as Martin de Torres, Diego Martinez de Oviedo who made the monumental High Altar of the Compañia de Jesus Church, or the Franciscan Luis Montes that made the San Francisco Church's choir.

Oral tradition has its version gathered by Angel Carreño who in his "Cusquenian Traditions" manuscript had stated in writing the name Esteban Orcasitas as the pulpit's author; but, for the 1st. edition of his book the name was changed by that of Juan Tomas Tuyrutupa. Tuyrutupa was Quechua and Cusquenian, but according to that traditional version he was a leper woodcarver from Huamanga (Ayacucho).

The story tells that once he had in his dreams a revelation of the "Holy Virgin of the Good Happening" who told him that if he wanted to get healed from his leprosy he had to look for her in the small plaza of Arrayanpata in Qosqo City. After a long journey and many mishaps, one day he found her painted on a wall after that the roofing of the "Lirpuy-Phaqcha" chapel fell in. Falling on his knees and weeping he invoked her, as the Virgin's rosary became rose petals with which he rubbed hard his whole body remaining thus completely healed.

The piece of wall containing the painting was cut and moved to the Saint Blaise Church, then people agreed upon to build an altarpiece and a pulpit for the Virgin. The grateful Quechua woodcarver committed himself to make the pulpit without charging any money for the work estimated in 1400 pesos. The work took him 4 years of hard labor with wood from an enormous cedar tree that was cut in the Kusipata square (present-day Regocijo).

But, when finishing his work the woodcarver failed his oath as he asked the church's curate for 70 pesos in order to lionize a Cusquenian half-breed woman. After fastening the Saint Paul statue over the pulpit's sounding board, he stumbled and fell off dying soon after. His corpse was buried under the pulpit but some time later it was taken out and his skull placed before the feet of the St. Paul sculpture, where it is seen today.