Once I’d seen the lines, there was no point hanging around in Nasca, so that evening I took an overnight bus south to the city of Arequipa, arriving just in time to have breakfast in a balcony cafe overlooking the main square.
Arequipa was founded in the mid-sixteenth century and is now the second largest city in Peru. It has a wonderful collection of Baroque buildings set within the usual colonial street grid around the colonnaded main square. It has suffered a number of major earthquakes over the centuries and as a reaction to them, the early residents adopted the use of a local pinky-white volcanic stone called sillar for their buildings, as it apparently has a good consistency for resisting tremors.
For me the most beautiful sight in the city is the tiny San Ignacio chapel whose walls are entirely covered with a mural of jungle foliage and exotic birds, intended to represent paradise. I was enthralled and spent ages looking at the details and drinking in the atmosphere. It has recently been conserved and the overall effect is quite overwhelming. Whilst visitors are not allowed to take photos, you can find many online, including one here.
A very close second to the chapel, attraction-wise, is the huge Monastery of Santa Catalina where I spent the best part of a day. This enclosed convent expected large dowries from the upper class girls who entered it, but they could bring in their own (female) servants and lived in individual houses, arranged around narrow lanes within the monastery walls.
The cloisters have paintings of sometimes obscure religious meaning on the walls and there is also a large gallery of Baroque art.
The monastery has the feeling of architecture that has grown organically, with charming vistas round every corner. I could happily have moved into one of the old nuns houses with their cool vaulted ceilings, tiny courtyards and outdoor kitchens. The are still nuns here, but they live in a modern building next door.
I was in Arequipa a few days before Easter and each evening statues of saints were paraded around the town centre. As far as I could work out, each day’s procession was put on by a different church. The presentation of some individual saints seems to be supported by devotional societies dedicated to them, who paraded behind them.
Arequipa was another city I very much enjoyed staying in and would happily go back to.
For the Lego model I’ve chosen to depict a view of one of the courtyards in the Santa Catalina Monastery:
Which came out like this: