Of temples and sillar houses
Arequipa was born after a plebiscite, which many consider the first one to ever be
carried out in America. As a result of this event, Garcí Manuel de Carvajal founded
La Villa Hermosa de Arequipa on August 15th, 1540, by the unanimous decision of
the Spanish settlers who were leaving Camaná, founded one year before, because it was
unhealthy and scarcely populated.
Following the Spanish tradition, the city of Arequipa was created officially after planting a
wooden post in the center of the Plaza Mayor, which later became the heart of the checkered
grid composed by 49 blocks. With time, Arequipa became one of the most important cities
of Peru´s Viceroyalty, and cradle of a balanced crossbreeding and of an architecture that
qualifies as the most original in this part of Colonial America.
However, before planting the wooden post and delimitating the city a cross had already been
placed in the terrain that was to be occupied by the Iglesia Mayor. This church, built on the 14th
of February 1544, was dedicated to Saint Peter and its original design contemplated one sole
nave. At the time, it had to be built with adobe and include a tile roof. Even though the temple
was enlarged with two brick arches on the 19th of November 1558, the earthquakes that struck
the city in 1582 and 1604, and the eruption of the Huaynaputina in 1600, destroyed it.
Furthermore, when in 1609 the dioceses of Arequipa separated from the one in Cusco, the
Iglesia Mayor de San Pedro became the Cathedral and site of the archbishopric. A decade
later, it was decided that the cathedral needed three naves, that its walls had to be made
with sillar and that the three doors that faced Santa Catalina Street had to be carved in
Toscal style, and have a choir sitting behind them.
Later, in 1842, the Torre del Reloj was built, and two years later, a choir for the new organ.
In addition, two triumphant arches were added to the new façade, and the entrance by the
Plaza de Armas was finished with a triangular front that had the twelve apostles on it. Thus,
in 1847, the cathedral became Arequipa´s most important Neoclassic building.