Exploring Andahuaylillas: The Sistine Chapel of the Andes

Nestled in the heart of the Southern Valley of Cusco, Peru, lies a hidden treasure often overshadowed by the fame of nearby Machu Picchu. The small village of Andahuaylillas is home to one of the most significant yet underappreciated wonders of the region: the San Pedro Apóstol Church. People famously dub it the ‘Sistine Chapel of the Andes’. This blog post delves into the allure of this remarkable church. It explores its captivating artwork, rich history, and the unique experience it offers to those who visit.

Exploring Andahuaylillas: The Sistine Chapel of the Andes

The Historical Significance of San Pedro Apóstol Church

Constructed by the Jesuits in the 16th century, the San Pedro Apóstol Church stands as a testament to the intricate blend of Spanish colonial and indigenous Andean cultures. Builders constructed the church on the site of an Inca temple, symbolizing the religious transformation that occurred during the Spanish conquest. The fusion of architectural styles speaks volumes about the cultural synthesis of the period.

Architectural Marvels

As you approach the church, the first thing that strikes you is the modest exterior, a stark contrast to the opulent interior. The façade, characterized by its simple and traditional Andean design, belies the artistic richness within. Designers laid out the church in a typical Latin cross layout, but the interior truly showcases the blend of Spanish Baroque and indigenous art.

A Canvas of Stunning Artwork

Upon entering, visitors are immediately captivated by the explosion of color and detail. Every inch of the church is adorned with intricate murals, gold leaf, and carved wood. The ceiling, in particular, is a masterpiece, featuring a Mudejar-style (a blend of Christian and Islamic art) intricate wooden paneling.

The Altarpiece

The high altar is an exquisite piece of art in its own right. Covered in gold leaf and housing various religious statues, it reflects the wealth and artistry of the colonial era.

The Murals

The murals in San Pedro Apóstol are what give it the nickname “Sistine Chapel of the Andes.” These works, primarily created by Luis de Riaño in the 17th century, depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments. They also feature imagery that combines Catholic and Andean religious symbols. This fusion art is not only beautiful but also serves as a historical record of the cultural and religious changes that took place.

The Organ and Choir Loft

The church houses a rare 17th-century organ, remarkable for its age and history. The choir loft, too, is a fine example of colonial craftsmanship, offering a panoramic view of the church’s interior and its artworks.

Exploring Andahuaylillas: The Sistine Chapel of the Andes

The Experience of Visiting

Visiting the San Pedro Apóstol Church in Andahuaylillas is a journey through history and art. The church, though small, offers an immersive experience into the world of Andean spirituality and colonial art. Guided tours are available, providing insights into the church’s history, art, and its role in the community.

Practical Information for Visitors

  • Location: Andahuaylillas, Quispicanchi Province, about 40 kilometers from Cusco city.
  • Best Time to Visit: The dry season (April to October) offers clear skies and easier travel conditions.
  • Accessibility: The church is accessible to visitors throughout the year, with a small entrance fee that contributes to its preservation.

Exploring Andahuaylillas: The Sistine Chapel of the Andes


The San Pedro Apóstol Church in Andahuaylillas is a cultural gem that offers a unique glimpse into the confluence of Andean and Spanish cultures. Its artwork and historical significance make it a must-visit for anyone interested in history, art, or spirituality. As you plan your trip to Cusco, make sure to include a visit to this remarkable “Sistine Chapel of the Andes” and immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Andean culture and history.

Proceed Booking