Sunday, November 3, 2013
The Plaza de Armas and Cathedral, Arequipa, Peru
All things in Arequipa begin at the Plaza de Armas and since it is Sunday we decide to go to mass at the main cathedral. Our walk to the cathedral, takes us through the main square. Considered the center of the historic district, the Plaza showcases the city's architecture and the cathedral. Around three of its sides the huge Neo-Renaissance granite portals and columns add more than a touch of grandeur to the square. The fourth side is taken up by the enormous twin towered cathedral. The plaza is usually packed with people from all walks of life and the colonnaded balconies overlooking the plaza are a great place to relax or hang out at the restaurants and people watch. The square has beautiful walkways with benches and plenty of trees for shade. In the center is a bronze fountain with a sculpture made from copper of Tuturutu, a pixie with a trumpet, it is said that he once had wings, but over the years they were eroded away. There is a myth about Tuturutu saying that he was a character who enjoyed the confidence of the Inca Mayta Capac and was his official messenger. The name “Tuturutu” was taken from the sound the trumpet made when it was used to announce to the Inca the arrival of a chasqui or package. One morning Turturutu was found dead and petrified and since then has become the permanent lookout at the Plaza. Like I said, it’s a nice myth. We resolve to check it out later but we have to get to the cathedral for mass at 11am. Home for the Archdiocese of Arequipa, the imposing Cathedral stretches the entire length of the north end of the Plaza de Armas. Its huge facade dominates this side of the Plaza and is a fine example of Spanish colonial architecture. The cathedral is also considered one of Peru's most unusual and famous colonial cathedrals since the Spanish conquest. Since geographically and geologically Peru is situated on the world’s “Ring of Fire”, the area around the Pacific Ocean known for its frequent and violent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, this cathedral is a testament to the test of man versus nature. First built in 1540, it was a pile of rubble following an earthquake in 1583. It was rebuilt in 1600, only to be destroyed again by another earthquake and a volcanic eruption four years later in 1604. It was then rebuilt a third time in 1656 and this time stood for almost 200 years before being partially destroyed by a fire in 1844 and another earthquake in 1868 which destroyed the towers, part of the main portal, some of the facade and the altars. Undeterred, yet another major renovation took place under the direction of architect Lucas Poblete. After the work was completed, the building maintained its beautiful façade of Neo Classic design made with white volcanic stone crowned by two towers each 28 meters (90 feet) high. Another large earthquake hit Arequipa in June of 2001, which toppled one of the cathedral's towers but did not cause major damage. In June of 2001 a strong earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale, destroyed the left tower and the right tower suffered major damage. The indomitable character and will of the people came through again and both towers were restored a year later. As we walk inside we are awestruck at the beauty of this church. Amongst the richly ornamented wood carvings, the carved wood pulpit made by Boisini-Rigot, of Lille, France in 1879, stands out. But it is the organ which is said to be the largest in South America and was donated by Belgium in 1854 that is the true eye catcher. It fills one whole wall opposite the altar. The cathedral is closed to tourists during mass so the service was uninterrupted and although in Spanish, it was incredibly amazing, history is just seeped into every stone of the building. Just magnificent.