The great Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas in Arequipa, Peru, South America
Terrance Klassen/© Terrance Klassen
Arequipa’s cathedral and the Plaza de Armas that it sits on are two of Peru’s most photographed urban landmarks. Construction of the first church on the site began in 1544. But Peru is famously situated in an earthquake-prone part of the world, and the church—which was elevated to a cathedral in 1609—was completely destroyed three times, and partially damaged in at least six other earthquakes. A fire in 1844 demolished most of the building and some of its treasures, and yet another earthquake in 1868 damaged portions of the structure that had survived the earlier fire. Through it all, the cathedral was repeatedly rebuilt—even when the city’s residents had seen their own homes destroyed in the same earthquakes—making it a soaring symbol of the resilience of the people of Arequipa. The treasury has an impressive collection of bejeweled silver and gold ceremonial objects, and a visit to the bell tower offers views of Arequipa’s colonial center and beyond.