Walking in the volcanic stone monastery, a World Heritage Site: in Arequipa, Peru, there is an incredible city within the city - Turismo Italia News

Walking in the volcanic stone monastery, a World Heritage Site: in Arequipa, Peru, there is an incredible city within the city - Turismo Italia News

(TurismoItaliaNews) Located on the banks of the Chili River and at the foot of three snowy volcanoes, Arequipa represents an incredible integration between the work of the native hands and the techniques and construction features of the European Baroque, expressed by the admirable work of Indian colonial masters and local Creoles and masons. A mix that earned her the seal of UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. When you arrive, generally coming from the capital Lima, the first stop on a trip to Peru, you immediately appreciate the value of Arequipa, where the awakening of explosive volcanoes is cyclical.

And in fact it is precisely the combination of techniques adopted to adapt to a land made unstable by earthquakes, which has enriched the city with sturdy walls, arches, arcades, vaults, courtyards and open spaces, made unique by the strong indigenous influence in the intricate baroque decoration of the facades of buildings and churches. The most violent earthquakes that shook the province also marked the key moments of change in the development of Arequipa's architecture, so much so that five periods of development can be identified: the foundation as a village (1540-82), the baroque splendor (1582 -1784), the introduction of rococo and then neoclassicism (1784-1868), modern empiricism and neoclassical fashion (1868-1960) and finally contemporary design.

The heart of the ancient city is the Plaza de Armas (the Plaza Mayor) with its arcades, the town hall and the splendid cathedral. In one corner of the square are the church and the cloister of the Compañia, the most representative ensemble of the baroque mestizo period of the late eighteenth century. But a stone's throw away is the Santa Catalina Monastery, our Santa Caterina da Siena: a citadel in the city, built in 1579 (just under 40 years after the arrival of the Spaniards) with its cobbled streets, its church, the cells of the nuns, everything remained as it was in past centuries, with architectural styles from the 16th to the 19th century. Here came women of different origins and social backgrounds to become cloistered nuns and never return to their homes again.

The history of the monastery is intertwined with that of Blessed Sister Ana de los Angeles Monteagudo, a religious who was prioress of the monastery and who died there in 1686. Beatified by John Paul II in 1985, she is attributed with countless miracles and predictions and therefore the object of the popular worship. The visit of the Monastery of Santa Catalina is extraordinary and unpredictable at sunset, when the shadows lengthen and the golden color makes the buildings in sillar bewitching and mysterious, giving the idea to the visitor who slowly crosses it to discover glimpses rich in art, details and beautiful flowers, to be in the middle of the seventeenth century. Or at least out of time.

Art, it was said: its gallery houses hundreds of works, in particular a large collection of paintings from the Cusco School, the highest expression of the fusion of the Inca and Spanish cultures, the most important of which are exhibited in two immense rooms with high vaults barrel, arranged in the shape of a cross. But in Arequipa there are also other splendid examples such as the complex of San Francisco with the church, the convent and the cloisters of the Third Order; the chapels and convents of Santo Domingo dating back to the period between the 16th and 18th centuries: San Agustín, La Merced and the church of Santa Maria; Santa Teresa and Santa Rosa; Puente Real (now Puente Bolognesi) and Puente Grau are also built in sillar.

In any case, the merit of Arequipa's architecture is not limited to the size of its religious monuments, but also to its approximately 500 casonas, the traditional residences. The urban space penetrates inside the city blocks through large doors and corridors in the courtyards, where the engravings of the facades are reproduced, thus accentuating the spatial continuity. Doors and windows are flanked by pillars and crowned by protruding pediments that merge with the large walls. The ornamental economy of the arcades harmonizes with the shape of the vaults, the protruding frames and the carved shelves. The narrow window openings allow light to enter the semicircular arches or vaulted spaces.

Together with the monumental buildings, streets and squares, the casonas ensure the harmony and integrity of the urban landscape and give the city an exceptional urban value. And getting lost in the streets of Arequipa at night is a pleasure for the eyes and the heart.

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