The Temple of the Condor is an Inca construction of Machu Picchu separated into three stone blocks that, when joined in a three-dimensional way, form the figure of the famous Andean condor. This bird was considered sacred by the Incas because it communicated the earthly world (the Kay pacha) with the heavenly world (the Hanan pacha). This temple is one of the most popular of the archaeological site. It is located in the urban center of the citadel.
The three-dimensional temple
The Temple of the Condor is the name that the researchers made to a set of capriciously carved stones in such a way that when joined in a three-dimensional way they create the silhouette of a condor taking flight.
The temple is made up of three carved stones. The first has the figure of a wing in flight, the second also. Under one of these wings the remains of a mummy were found. The third, unfolded on the ground, has the shape of the condor’s head and crest. This construction was a ceremonial table where rituals were carried out. Seen from the front at a slight distance and with a little imagination, the figure of this famous bird is drawn.
The evidences that support this idea are the findings of ceremonial pieces in the place such as: ceramics, textiles and remains of llama blood. Likewise, the temple is very close to the religious sector of Machu Picchu, where ceremonies were held in honor of the sun, mountains and others.
However, archaeological evidence shows a group of nine niches and a kind of jail located behind the Temple of the Condor. It is even believed that religious ceremonies were held there in honor of the Andean condor. For the Incas, this bird was sacred and worthy of worship.
Inca worship of the Andean condor
The Andean condor is the second largest bird in the world after the albatross. With its wings outstretched, it can reach 3.30 meters in width and 1.42 meters in height. It stands out for flying at high altitudes above 5,000 meters. For the Incas it was a bird that represented strength, power, courage and resistance.
The Incas worshiped the Andean condor because they believed that it was a sacred bird that communicated the earthly world of men (the Kay pacha) with the heavenly world where the gods live (the Hanan pacha). They also believed that they were immortal beings that were reborn after completing their life cycle.
Behind the Temple of the Condor there is a construction in the shape of a cavern where, according to some investigations, prisoners or punished people are held in Machu Picchu. These ‘prisons’ are made up of several labyrinthine niches within an underground cave.
The prisons of Machu Picchu could also serve as niches where the mummies of the most important personalities of Machu Picchu (such as priests) were placed. Currently the entrance to the ‘prisons’ is closed to visitors.
How to visit the Temple of the Condor?
Like all the constructions of Machu Picchu, the Temple of the Condor can be visited every day of the year. The opening hours of the Inca citadel are from 6 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon. However, to avoid crowds, this particular temple remains open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
To get to the Temple of the Condor, you must travel the tourist circuit of Machu Picchu for approximately 500 meters. This tour goes through the religious sector (buildings such as the Main Temple, the Temple of the 3 Windows and the Intihuatana) until arriving there after approximately 45 minutes.
More information about the Temple of the Condor
It is not ruled out that in the Temple of the Condor the Incas performed sacrificial ceremonies of auquénidos (llamas and alpacas). These rituals were presided over by a priest and even by the Inca himself.
In addition to the Andean condor, for the Incas the puma and the snake were sacred animals. The cougar represented cunning, patience and strength. He inhabited the underworld, the Kay Pacha. The serpent represented wisdom. It communicated the earthly world with the world of the dead (the Uku pacha).
As well as the Temple of the Condor, in Machu Picchu the Incas built other buildings for religious worship. These are: the Temple of the Sun, the Main Temple, the Temple of the 3 Windows, the Sacred Rock and the Intihuatana.