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.
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.
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 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.