Thankfully there were no earthquakes today [that were big and in Arequipa] because we went to Basilica Catedral de Arequipa. It’s famous for having the second floor of one of its two bell towers fall in the 2001 earthquake and cause a hole to be developed in the cathedral’s roof.
Basilica Catedral de Arequipa has been through more than its share of earthquakes. In January, 1583, an earthquake completely destroyed the sillar building. (Sillar is a type of white volcanic rock. It’s like pumice, but denser.) This was forty-three years after the location of the cathedral was decided. In 1590, plans for a second cathedral took shape, but in 1600 the eruption of the Huaynaputina stratovolcano destroyed part of the new brick building. Four years later, an earthquake demolished the remaining structure.
In 1621, assignments were made for the construction of a new cathedral. This was a mere twelve years after the idea had been suggested.
Seven years later, the man assigned to the project—Andrés de Espinoza—died. However, in 1656, the 180-foot-long building was finished. It survived the earthquakes of 1666, 1668, 1687, and 1784 with minor damage.
In 1844, a fire broke out in the summer and destroyed many of the paintings, sculptures, and furniture. Reconstruction was started two weeks later.
Improvements were made to the cathedral between 1845 and 1868, which brought an earthquake that obliterated the two towers and façade arcs. Nothing major happened in the 20th century, and all was peaceful until 2001.
On August 15, 2002, exactly 462 years after the cathedral’s location was established, the finishing touches were put on the restored towers.
We walked on the roof and up to the towers. Ethan and I tried to ring the bells, but we weren’t willing to do it together, and our guide told us that it takes two people to be able to hit the 500-pound clapper against the 5-ton bell.