The cathedral of Arequipa

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The cathedral in Arequipa is am impressive building, made of local sillar (a white volcanic stone), facing the Plaza de Armas.

The Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa takes up one entire side of the square Plaza de Armas of the city of Arequipa (located in the province of Arequipa), Peru. It is the most important Catholic church of the city and perhaps the largest church of the area.  The cathedral is also considered one of Peru’s most unusual and famous colonial cathedrals since the Spanish conquest.

The view of Chachanee, an extinct volcanic range. The name means “wife” and this range, though larger and higher, is considered the wife of the single, still active, Misti volcano.

I’ve set out to see the cathedral at least three other times, but the Plaza de Armas is also a popular spot for protests, which always close the church. There’s a fee of 10 soles to enter, plus another 5 for a guided tour, which is well worth it.

Our quide stands along the railing with one of the two bell towers behind. This is the one that fell during the last major earthquake in 2001. It fell toward the left and completely through the ceiling into the chapel below. It took a year to repair the damage.

I couldn’t take photos of the museum, which has previous silver and gold object, some decorated with semi-precious stones. The most notable pieces included a “bread holder” in silver, shaped like a swan feeding her young from the exposed heart (in red stones) on her chest. The guide’s English was quite good, but she kept referring to the bird as a pelican. There were several crowns, made to adorn statues of the Virgin, most silver, coated in gold and covered in colored glass or semi-precious stones. The most impressive was the solid sliver monstrance, with over 1000 diamonds.

The altar

The City of Arequipa was founded on August 15, 1540 by Garcí Manuel de Carbajal. The Cathedral started construction on this very date. In the “Act of Foundation” of Arequipa, it can be read: “…in the name of its majesty Governor Francisco Pizarro, founded the beautiful village in the valley of Arequipa, in the Collasuyo section, above the river edge, in his name he put the cross, in the location signaled for the Church; He put the pike in the Plaza of the village, which he stated would do in the name of its majesty…”

This impressive building has weathered, sometimes unsuccessfully, many earthquakes, so there’s been lots of rebuilding. The entire edifice has been reduced to ruble more than once. The last major earthquake was June 23, 2001: The 2001 southern Peru earthquake measured 8.1 on the Richter scale. The left tower was destroyed and the right tower suffered major damage.

The organ.
Inside the cathedral.
The old, wooden pulpit, no longer needed now that there are microphones.
This was quite an unusual “sun spot”. The wooden figure is at the bottom of the old (and no longer used) pulpit. It’s a figure of the devil, half man and half dragon. He seems to be shielding himself from a ball of light.
The altar

Top of the cathedral with Misti volcano in the distance. There was an odd weather front that moved in two days before this photos. The clouds are all that remain of it. It raised the humidity (which often hovers below 20% this time of year) and even felt like rain, but there was none. These are among the first clouds I’ve seen since arriving in late July.
From the top of the cathedral.
We were able to walk right under the three bells in this tower.
Close up of how the largest bell is attached.
Our quide stands along the railing with one of the two bell towers behind. This is the one that fell during the last major earthquake in 2001. It fell toward the left and completely through the ceiling into the chapel below. It took a year to repair the damage.
A view of the Plaza de Armas from the top of the cathedral.
A view of the Plaza de Armas from the top of the cathedral.
You can see the top of the church. This section of the roof was entirely rebuilt in 2001 and 2002, after an earthquake that damaged both towers.
A closer view shows three bells. This is the bell town that fell during the 2001 earthquake. The bells are rung by hand, but the other tower has bells that a rung with the clock, by an automatic mechanism.
This is an impressive, wooded side door, leading away from the Plaza de Armas.
From the top floor, looking into the sanctuary.
On top of the cathedral, there are two bell towers.
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Beth

I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Mexico and Peru. I'm exploring the world and you can come too!

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