So many sights in Cusco go largely unnoticed even by local people who pass by them without ever really paying attention.
I like to walk slowly through the city, stopping and looking around in search of details that usually go unnoticed. Rarely does a week go by when I don’t find something rarely observed yet beautiful, unique, and worth seeing.
I always feel sorry for people who see Cusco as a place to “check off their bucket list” because they miss all of this. Yesterday’s passing of the Cusco’s Casa de los Cuatros Bustos (“House of the Four Busts”) was an excellent example.
The Casa is named for the magnificent main entrance that opens onto Calle San Agustin with four relief busts carved into the lintel along with an impressive shield and other beautiful and unique carvings.
The site was once part of the Q’oricancha which was the central religious site of the Inca Empire. (Today only a part of the site still exists on the grounds of the Convento de Santo Domingo a block away.)
It was originally given to Francisco Pizarro’s brother, Gonzalo Pizarro when the Spanish marched into Cusco in 1533. He later sold it to the Marquis Juan de Salas y Valdez who had a two story house built on the grounds.
The four busts for which the house is named were identified by the historian Luis Enrique Tord as being (from left to right):
- Usenda de Bazán, wife of the conquistador Juan de Salas y Valdez.
- Juan de Salas y Valdez, owner of the house.
- Fernando de Salas Valdez Bazán, first-born son of the owner.
- Leonor de Tordoya y Palomino, wife of Fernando.
The massive shield above the lintel survives in remarkable detail. Each of the four quarters into which the shield is divided have a particular meaning.
The upper left quarter show a castle with a lion rising and three scallops. This is associated with the Salas of Asturias to affirm that Juan de Salas was a native of the town of Salas in the principality of Asturias.
The upper right quarter shows three bands and ten circles surmounted by blades. This is associated with the Valdez family.
The lower left quarter shows a sword pointing up passing through a moon composed by four half moons surrounded by five fleurs-de-lis and, in the border, seven blades. This associated with Doña Palla.
The lower right quarter is composed of a palm tree on waves of water between flames of fire that correspond to the Dóriga family.
Both Doña Palla and Dóriga were lineages from which Salas descended on his maternal side.
I’ve passed by this door hundreds of times and never really stopped to look closely at all it’s details until yesterday when, for some reason, I happened to notice a scowling, snarling face on the side of the lintel that appeared to be growing out a some kind of floral figure like an oak leaf. Upon looking a little more, I noticed that the opposite side had a corresponding face.
I haven’t been able to find out the significance of these two faces. Perhaps their meaning is lost forever, but they certainly are unique.
I plan to do a series of posts on sights like this in Cusco — interesting and unique places which are so easily passed by without being noticed. Cusco is full of these wonderful places!
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