Plaza de Armas
The horizontal, white facade of Arequipa’s neoclassical cathedral is nearly as long as a football field and features pointed bell towers, ornate square windows, and huge columns. Portales or arches take up the other three sides of the square, which overflows with palm trees, flowers, and a fountain in the middle topped with an usual character—some say it is a soldier, others an angel—known as el tuturutu.
La Catedral (tel. 054/23-2635, 7–11:30 a.m. and 4:30–7:30 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 6:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. and 4:30–7:30 p.m. Sun., free, guides work for a tip) is most beautiful in the afternoon when its front is stained orange by the setting sun.
It was begun in 1544, partially destroyed in the 17th century by earthquakes, and then completely burnt in an 1844 fire. Then it was built in its present neoclassical style and outfitted with one of the largest organs in South America (imported from Belgium) and a carved wooden pulpit that is supported by a swimming, serpent-tailed devil.
On an opposite corner of the plaza is the Iglesia de la Compañía Álvarez (Thomas and General Morán, tel. 054/21-2141, 9 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 3–6 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 3–6 p.m. Sat., 9 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 5–6 p.m. Sun., US$2 for chapel), which was founded by the Jesuits in 1573, though the present building dates from 1650.
The large church, with threes naves and a cupola, is best known for its mestizo facade (church fronts in which stone sculptures blend traditional Jesuit or Catholic icons with Andean imagery and symbolism) and its Chapel of San Ignacio de Loyola, decorated with works from the mannerist master Bernardo Bitti (1550–1610).
The nearby sacristy contains vivid murals of jungle plants and animals, a sort of visual introduction for missionaries being prepared for the Amazon. The Jesuits’ minor cloisters—now a crafts market—lie a few doors down General Morán Street. There are gargoyles depicting figures from pre-Inca cultures and, in the adjacent major cloisters, elaborately carved columns with Mudéjar (Muslim) designs.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition