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More than four hundred years have gone by, four centuries bringing together the pre-Hispanic legends with the Western raison d'être. That era has left superb art and architecture in monuments which are a synthesis of the spirituality, imagination and creativity of Peruvians.

When one thinks of Peru, the first thing that springs to mind is the wealth of its age-old cultures and the legendary Inca empire.

The tour, however, continues past the Spanish Conquest and into colonial times, into the Peru where two visions of the world, time and of all things sacred came together, the Peru of the wars of independence and a republic built amidst bullets and bloodshed.

More than four hundred years have gone by, four centuries bringing together the pre-Hispanic legends with the Western raison d'être. That era has left superb art and architecture in monuments which are a synthesis of the spirituality, imagination and creativity of Peruvians.

Heritage Cities :

Lima: lordly bearing and tradition


Like its inhabitants, Lima, the city of kings, is a rare and exciting mix of nationalities, styles and forms. While other major cities in the Americas and around the world strive for modernity, the urban landscape of Lima maintains the age-old texture of its rich tradition.

The original city center, the old quarter of the city originally mapped out by Spanish Conqueror Francisco Pizarro - called el damero de Pizarro due to the classic geometric form found in other old Spanish colonial cities- is today a UNESCO Mankind Heritage Site. The streets of Lima have preserved the venerable beauty of the city's original colonial architecture, and a tour through old Lima is a chance to delve into more than four centuries of living history, peeking through the doorways of gracious manors and striding through sunlit patios and Baroque balconies.

The city, founded in 1535 by Pizarro, features a series of buildings which boast an incalculable architectural and historical value, buildings which fringe the main square, the Plaza Mayor and line nearby streets. Lima's Cathedral, built in 1625 in a Renaissance-Baroque style, with splendid Churriguerra altars, is definitely the first stop on the tour. However, other buildings are also not to be missed, like the San Francisco church, whose cloisters and patios are decorated with Seville mosaic tiles which are the ideal picture frame for the religious art kept there. There is also the convent of Santo Domingo, which in 1551 saw the founding of San Marcos University, the oldest university in the Americas.

The old Palacio de Torre Tagle, a palace built in 1730, is one of the finest examples of colonial architecture in Lima, fitted with carved wooden balconies and its Baroque stone gateway. The Riva Agüero and Aliaga mansions, the traditional Acho bullring, and the revamped riverside promenades overlooking the Rímac River round off the traditional Lima landscape, which without a doubt is one of the most interesting circuits of its kind in Latin America


Santa Catalina: where time has stopped


Within Santa Catalina, the rustle of the long habits of the nuns seems to be impregnated into the walls. The alleys that run through the monastery -a city within a city- reveal its past, trapped between the sillar stone blocks and colonial oil paintings, between the high vaults and granite plazas.

Located in the center of Arequipa, Santa Catalina is the pride of its townspeople, covering an area of more than 29,426 square meters. It is a masterpiece of colonial architecture, and houses some of the finest examples of Spanish American religious art.

Founded in 1580 under the rule of Viceroy Toledo, the Private Monastery of Nuns of the Order of Santa Catalina of Sena was opened to the world nearly 400 years later, in 1970. Since then, visitors have been able to stroll through the streets and cloisters that during colonial times were the refuge of female nobility who had decided to shut themselves away from the world and dedicate themselves entirely to prayer.

Possibly because of their aristocratic background and the wealth of their families, the monastery was decorated with valuable works painted by the Quito and Cuzco Schools, including many others signed by grand masters from Italy and Spain, while special attention was paid to the finishings of the buildings. The main square, whose gates still preserve the magic of their fine finishings and images carved from wood, features a fountain brought from Spain and crafted entirely from granite. The ochre and blue colors of its streets and patios -named after Spanish cities- are decorated with bright flowers such as scarlet geraniums.

Today, it takes around an hour to tour Santa Catalina, an hour to discover centuries of tradition


Angels of Cuzco


In Cuzco, the Madonnas sport rosy cheeks like Andean matrons, while the angels are clad in gold and wear Flandes-style hats. In churches and chapels, the venerable yet majestic oil paintings that decorate the church naves reveal the presence of an iconography that is anything but exclusively European. These are paintings from the Cuzco School, a unique example of cultural mestizaje, that mingling of Spanish missionary fervor and the fervent pagan reaction of the local indigenous artists.

It was at the end of the seventeenth century that one of the local painters, Diego Quispe Tito -without a doubt the leading figure of this artistic trend- created a work that was to be the first example of a native Peruvian artistic style, and which represented a major break between Spanish and Andean painters.

His work already featured what was later to become the main characteristics of the Cuzco School: the fine brush strokes, the marked influence of Flemish etchings and an abundance of decorative elements in the dress of the figures. What was more, the mystical and profoundly religious characteristic of the School was to be reflected in the series of archangels, virgins and saints -typical of colonial painting in the Americas- which were born from the need of the Spanish colonists to capture the imagination of the Cuzco inhabitants with an iconography that was striking and yet moving at the same time.

Naturally bound to the foundation of churches and monasteries, today the art of the Cuzco School can be seen in churches such as Santo Domingo, built on top of the foundations of the Koricancha, the Inca Temple of the Sun, and the Cuzco Cathedral. Over the course of centuries, the tradition of Cuzco painters has been passed down from one generation to another, from master painters to apprentices, from father to son, to captivate, with their striking and yet moving iconography, the modern-day visitor. .top

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