Off the beaten track in Puno, Peru: Discover the churches of Juli

The Templo de Asuncion is example of Juli's stunning churches. (Photo: Magalí del Solar/El Comercio)

By Maria Helena Tord,
El Comercio
Adapted from Spanish by Diana Schwalb

Juli is a place that holds the greatest treasures and is an example of the splendor of the Spanish Viceroyalty in these lands. It is a not very popular destination for tourists and it hides a unique legacy worth visiting on your next trip to the south of Peru.

This small town, called America’s Rome, has monumental churches that stand in the landscape of its quiet and deserted streets.

The landscape created by its stunning architecture has its counterpart in the interior and will surprise you. Each one of its four churches, some now converted into museums, has something unique to show.

Gold and Stone
The proliferation of major temples in Juli is due to the  Dominicans and Jesuits, both which took part in the evangelization project in this part of Puno and preserved the original Inca structure that divided the territory into four ayllus, which subsequently became neighborhoods, each with its own church.

The main temple of San Pedro Martir is located in the Plaza Mayor and stand out for its stone architecture. Inside it, a magnificent play of shadows and lights subtly illuminates its rich gold-leaf altars and paintings of high artistic quality.

A couple of blocks away, you will find the San Juan Bautista church, whose outward appearance hides an unexpected and fantastic place that houses paintings of great importance.

The architecture is supported by stone pillars carved with designs that display the contribution of indigenous art. Some of the fabulous details that recreate the artistic quality that was achieved in the seventeenth century in this region are starry skies in gold leaf, finely carved wooden lintels and stone ornaments.

Another notable temple is Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, located on a hill overlooking the valley; its entry has a poetic composition formed by a stone arch and tower.

Inside, it has striking delicate murals and altarpieces painted by the famous Italian artist Bernardo Bitti.

These are some of the many treasures that this old town keeps, not only in pieces of art and architecture but also in the atmosphere of the place that lets you feel the nostalgia of a glorious past that lives in its fabulous temples.

Tradition of Embroidery
Gestur Puno has implemented a craft center called Bartolina de Olla with the female weavers of Juli.

In the workshop they use their ancient techniques to make colorful embroidered shawls dyed with natural dyes, with which they adorn tablecloths, cushions and other items.

It is located one block from the plaza mayor.