As a result of its history, the architecture of the city of Ayacucho is unique, comprising a mixture of local elements and elements of the different cultures that have inhabited the area, with a marked Hispanic character, in particular its churches and mansions.
The colonial churches of Ayacucho combine Hispanic, Latin and Arab elements, together with multiple indigenous features, such as the stones sculpted with representations of local natural elements. The following churches are noteworthy, amongst others:
- Cathedral Basilica. Located in Ayacucho’s main square, or Plaza Mayor, construction of the cathedral began in 1612 and lasted forty years. It is dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows. The Cathedral’s most remarkable feature is the decoration with Baroque-Churrigueresque gold leaf altarpieces and the paintings representative of different schools of the colonial period.
- Church of Santo Domingo. The Church is an exquisite example of the city’s ecclesiastical artistic heritage, despite the false legend claiming that the Church’s bell tower was used to punish heretics during the time of the Inquisition. It was built in the middle of the 16th century in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary with stones from the ancient Inca fortress of «Pukaray».
- Church and Convent of San Francisco de Asis. This church is unique in so far as it is the only one in the city that recreates the Greco-Roman style of the Spanish peninsula in the Andes. Also built in the 16th century, it boasts the largest bell of the city and conserves a noteworthy collection of paintings of the Cuzco and Ayacucho schools, as well as a library.
The mansions have become, with their uniform ground plan featuring a main patio and also a back patio used by owners to grow vegetables, a lasting symbol of the architecture of Ayacucho. These large homes were built by the wealthy families that moved to the city in the style of Spanish mansions or palacetes. The city’s most noteworthy “casonas” are:
- Mansion of the Bishop Cristobal de Castilla y Zamora. It was given to the city by the Spanish bishop Cristobal de Castilla y Zamora for use by the university. It is known as the house of “La Higuera” (fig-tree) because of the huge fig tree in its main patio, which also has a grapevine, considered by many to be the first one brought to Peru by the Spaniards. The monument is part of Peru’s National Cultural Heritage since 1972.
- Mansion of the Chief Magistrate (corregidor) Nicolas de Boza y Solis. At present the monument is an administrative building, but its past history is present in all of its walls. It was built in the 17th century with a mixture of styles, and boasts a stairway that is meticulously covered with Venetian tiles. Inside there is the cell where the heroine of independence Maria Parado de Bellido was confined for three days before being executed by firearm.
The rich heritage of Huamanga comprises a long list of places and monuments, of which the most noteworthy are the following:
- Plaza Mayor (Main Square). It is located in the centre of the city, surrounded by buildings most of which date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. It is the largest square in Peru, comprising a series of historic monuments and buildings of great architectural value in the style of monumental squares in Spain, such as those of Merida and Trujillo.
- Craftsmen’s neighborhoods of Santa Ana, Puca Cruz and Belen. The houses and workshops of the masters of popular arts and crafts are located in these neighborhoods, featuring houses made of carved stone and adobe walls and tile roofs.
- Historic Sanctuary of the Pampas of Ayacucho. Located 32 kilometers from Ayacucho, this monument was built as a tribute to the location of the Battle of Ayacucho, which took place on December 9th, 1824. The monument is a 44-meter high obelisk and a base decorated with commemorative reliefs that houses a museum devoted to the battle.
- Archeological Site of Wari. This impressive site, of which only eight percent has been excavated, belonged to the capital of the Wari empire, which preceded the Incas, and was inhabited by more than 50,000 inhabitants. The complex is divided into sectors consisting of stone and clay constructions which provide a good idea of the living conditions and the society of the time.
- Cave of Pikimachay. Numerous instruments of the Andean Paleolithic period and animal bones were found in the cave, as well as bones of what is considered to be America’s first human being, dating back to 20,000 BC.
- Archeological Site of Vilcashuaman. Located in the district of Vilcashuaman, the site is a 15th century Inca city founded by Pachacutec considered to have been one of the most important administrative centers of the Tahuantinsuyo, or Inca Empire.