Church of the Society of Jesus of Arequipa
The church of the Jesuit order is one of the oldest and most impressive in the city of Arequipa. It is admired for its baroque architecture built during the colonial era. Likewise, it has treasures of great value inside such as the carved pulpit or the Mayan altar, both covered in gold leaf. Throughout its history it had to be rebuilt due to the continuous earthquakes that hit the city. Today, it is one of the most admired religious temples in the city.
All about the Church of the Society of Jesus of Arequipa
The church of the Company of Jesus in the city of Arequipa is a religious temple made during the colony (late 16th century) following the baroque architecture of the time. Due to repeated earthquakes over more than 4 centuries, the building had to be rebuilt in various periods. Especially noteworthy is the beautiful decoration of its main façade, which was restored in 1698, after a violent seismic movement.
Inside, the decoration of the main altar carved in fine wood and covered with gold leaf stands out. There are the sculptures and images of characters of the Christian faith, such as San Ignacio de Loyola (founder of the order of the Society of Jesus) as well as San Francisco de Borja, Duque de Gandia and Grande de España, among others. The visit to this church takes place every day of the year. During mass hours, the visit is free.
Where is it located?
The church is located in one of the corners of the Main Square of Arequipa, at 114 General Morán Street.
How to get there?
If the tourist is in the historic center of the city of Arequipa (most of the tourist hotels are there); so the best way to get to church is to walk. You just have to go to the main square of the city and walk to the corner that leads to Calle Morán.
The religious order ‘La Compañía de Jesús’ has existed in Peru since 1568 under the direction of San Francisco de Borja. It is the oldest in Latin America. Their evangelizing work took them to the most remote places of the colony, from the native communities of Loreto (in the famous missions of Maynas) to the main cities such as Lima, Cusco and Arequipa. They are expelled from Peru in 1767 by order of King Carlos III. Finally they return in 1871 to settle until today.
History of the Jesuits in Arequipa
The history of the church has its origins with the founding of the city of Arequipa, on August 15, 1540, since a few years later the order of the Society of Jesus was founded by the Spanish religious Ignacio de Loyola. In 1578 began the construction of the church by Gaspar Báez, although the earthquake of 1582 destroyed the building to be rebuilt in 1590 under the command of the Jesuit Diego Felipe.
As well as many temples in the city of Arequipa, the church of the Society of Jesus suffered constant earthquakes, which is why it had to be rebuilt on several occasions, as in the case of the earthquakes of 1687, 1868 (the tower was demolished) and 1960 ( the bell tower was demolished). Likewise, like other colonial temples in the city, ashlar and other volcanic rocks were used for its construction. In the 20th century, the cloisters belonging to the church were sold and some repairs were carried out to adopt its current form. In 1972, the church was declared a Historic Monument of Peru.
The church has a baroque architecture with mestizo characteristics typical of the region. It has a main floor in the shape of a cross and divided into three naves. The body is also made up of several side chapels, a transept and a dome on pendentives.
The facade is the most remarkable structure of the church. It is one of the best masterpieces of colonial baroque decoration. Use the relief on the surface portraying figures of animals, plants as well as elements of the original nature of the Andean culture. At the top, the sculpture of the archangel San Miguel stands out, sculpted in ashlar.
The interior of the church has several carvings and relics with religious motifs. The main pulpit carved and covered in sheets of gold leaf stands out. The set of three altarpieces carved and covered in gold sheets as well as figures of Andean and colonial imagery.
The main altar made of cedar, oak and willow, in a baroque style and decorated entirely in gold leaf, houses up to 66 images of saints and virgins such as Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Order of the Society of Jesus. In its center there is an embossed silver tabernacle, the work of the Cusco artist Pedro Gutiérrez.
In addition to the main altarpiece, there are other sides. The first is called the ‘Altarpiece of the founders’ where sculptures and images of the founders of religious orders are observed. The second is the ‘Altarpiece of the Crucified Christ’ where images of the Virgin and some apostles are shown.
Finally, there are relics of gold and silver as well as canvases from the colonial era made by the ‘Cusco school of art’. Its immense dome bears the images of eight saints. European and Peruvian artists participated in the decoration of the church.
Price of the visit
The entrance to the church is free for all the public. There are certain areas of the church that do have a cost of 20 Peruvian soles per tourist.
The visit to the church of the Company of Jesus is included in the ‘Arequipa City Tour’, which lasts half a day and also includes a visit to the Yanahuara viewpoint, Carmen Alto, the Cathedral, the portals and the monastery of Santa Catalina. The cost of the service is approximately 65 Peruvian soles per tourist.
Schedule of the visit
The visiting hours to the church are from Monday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Ashlar stone is the main material used for the construction of the church of the Society of Jesus as well as other temples and palaces in the city of Arequipa. There is even a tour called ‘The sillar route’. This white-looking volcanic stone was the cause of this region being called ‘White City’.
The temple of the Society of Jesus is a representative monument of the so-called ‘Arequipa school’ of architecture. His influence served for the construction of the churches of Cayma, Paucarpata, Yanahuara, Characato and even temples in the regions of Puno and Bolivia.
For a more complete visit to the church, it is advisable to hire the services of a tour guide. You can hire one at the door of the church. Another option is to hire the service of a ‘City tour Arequipa’, which already includes the tour guide service.
If you like colonial temples, in addition to the church of the Society of Jesus; During your visit to the city of Arequipa you can visit the Santa Catalina monastery (considered the colonial jewel of the city), the Cathedral (the most important religious temple in Arequipa) as well as the church of La Merced (another of the most famous monuments from the city).