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Historical Centre of the City of Arequipa

Historical Centre of the City of Arequipa

The historic centre of Arequipa, built in volcanic sillar rock, represents an integration of European and native building techniques and characteristics, expressed in the admirable work of colonial masters and Criollo and Indian masons. This combination of influences is illustrated by the city's robust walls, archways and vaults, courtyards and open spaces, and the intricate Baroque decoration of its facades.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Centre historique de la ville d’Arequipa

Le centre historique d'Arequipa, construit en sillar – une roche volcanique – représente la fusion de techniques de construction européennes et autochtones qui s'expriment dans l'œuvre admirable des maîtres coloniaux et des maçons « criollos » et indiens. Cette fusion se manifeste dans ses murs robustes, ses arcades et ses voûtes, ses cours et ses espaces ouverts, ainsi que dans la complexe décoration baroque de ses façades.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

وسط مدينة أريكيبا التاريخي

يمثّل وسط أريكيبا التاريخي الذي بُني من السيلار وهي صخرة بركانية، تداخل تقنّيتي العمار الأوروبية والمحليّة الأصيلة اللتان تتجلّيان في تحفة أسياد الاستعمار الجميلة وعمارات "الكريولوس" والهنديّة. كما يظهر هذا التمازج في الجدران الصلبة وفي القناطر والقبب والباحات والساحات المفتوحة، كذلك في الزخرفة الباروكية المعقَّدة للواجهات.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0



source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Исторический центр города Арекипа

Исторический центр Арекипы, расположенный на скалистых вулканических породах, демонстрирует сочетание европейских и индейских строительных технологий, а также великолепную работу мастеров, прибывших из Испании, креольских и индейских каменщиков. Взаимовлияние разных стилей просматривается в мощных стенах, арках и сводах, внутренних дворах и открытых пространствах города, а также в замысловатых барочных украшениях фасадов.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Centro histórico de la ciudad de Arequipa

Construidos con la roca volcánica denominada sillar, los edificios del centro histórico de Arequipa son representativos de la fusión de las técnicas de construcción europeas y autóctonas, plasmadas en el trabajo admirable de los arquitectos y maestros de obras españoles y los albañiles criollos e indígenas. Esa fusión se patentiza en los robustos muros de las edificaciones, las arcadas y bóvedas, los patios y espacios abiertos, y la compleja decoración barroca de las fachadas.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: NFUAJ

Historisch centrum van Arequipa

Arequipa is gebouwd op een vulkanische rots van sillar (parelwit vulkanisch gesteente). Het historisch centrum van Arequipa weerspiegelt een integratie van de Europese en inheemse bouwtechnieken. Het toont ook het bewonderenswaardige werk van koloniale meesters, Criollo en Indiaanse metselaars. Deze combinatie van invloeden wordt geïllustreerd door de robuuste muren van de stad, de zuilengangen en gewelven, de hofjes en open ruimtes en de ingewikkelde barok decoraties op de gevels. De kern van deze historische stad is het Plaza de Armas (Plaza Mayor) met zijn zuilengangen en de 19e-eeuwse kathedraal, het belangrijkste neoklassieke religieuze gebouw in Peru.

Source: unesco.nl

Outstanding Universal Value

Brief Synthesis

The historical centre of Arequipa, located in the Province of Arequipa at the foot of three snow-covered volcanoes, represents the integrated response of native hands and building techniques and characteristics with European designs, expressed in the admirable work of colonial masters and native masons. This combination of influences, and the response to an unstable ground due to earthquakes, is illustrated by robust walls, archways, porticos, vaults, courtyards and open spaces, and a strong indigenous influence in the intricate Baroque decoration of its facades.

With its buildings built mostly in white or pink volcanic rock (sillar), the historical centre of Arequipa has a distinct character resulting from natural causes and historical context. The pre-existent indigenous populations, the Spanish conquest and the evangelization, the spectacular natural setting and the frequent earthquakes, are all main factors in the definition of Arequipa’s identity. The city is the result of its people's endurance against natural processes and the capacity of cultures to overcome crises. Arequipa was founded in 1540 in a valley that had been intensively farmed by pre-Hispanic communities. The layout of an indigenous hamlet has survived close to the Historical Centre in the district of San Lázaro. The World Heritage site consists of 49 original blocks of the Spanish layout. In addition there are 24 blocks from the colonial period and the 19th century.

Major earthquakes have marked the key moments of change in the development of Arequipa architecture. It is thus possible to identify five periods of development: foundation as a village (1540-82), Baroque splendour (1582-1784), introduction of Rococo and neoclassicism (1784-1868), modern empiricism and neoclassical fashion (1868-1960), and contemporary design. The core of the historic town is the Plaza de Armas (Plaza Mayor) with its archways, the municipality, and the cathedral. At one corner of the plaza there are the church and cloisters of La Compañia, the most representative ensemble of the Baroque mestizo period at the end of the 18th century.

The Monasterio de Santa Catalina is a spectacular religious citadel, integrating architectural styles from the 16th to 19th centuries. The complex of San Francisco includes a small square, the main church, the convent, and the cloisters of the third order. The chapels and convents of Santo Domingo date from the 16th to 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 from sillar.

The merit of Arequipa architecture is not limited to the grandeur of its religious monuments. It is also in the profusion of dignified casonas, characteristic well-proportioned vernacular houses; the centre contains some 500 casonas. The urban space penetrates the interior of the city blocks through large doorways and hallways into the courtyards, where the carvings of the facades are reproduced, thus accentuating spatial continuity. Doorways and windows are flanked with pillars and crowned with protruding pediments that blend with the large walls. The ornamental economy of the porches harmonizes with the shape of the vaults, the projecting cornices and the carved corbels. Narrow window openings allow light to enter the semi-circular arches or vaulted roof spaces. Together with the monumental ensembles, streets, and squares the casonas ensure the harmony and integrity of the townscape and give the city exceptional urban value.

The historical centre of Arequipa is therefore characterized by its originality and presence, respect for tradition, influence in the settlement region, privileged geography, foundational layout, its urban scheme and its creation, its materials, construction and decoration systems, and the rich social and cultural mixture.

Criterion (i): The ornamented architecture in the historical centre of Arequipa represents a masterpiece of the creative integration of European and native characteristics, crucial for the cultural expression of the entire region.

Criterion (iv): The historical centre of Arequipa is an outstanding example of a colonial settlement, challenged by the natural conditions, the indigenous influences, the process of conquest and evangelization, as well as the spectacular nature of its setting.


The protection area of the historical centre of Arequipa comprises 166.52 ha, includes all the representative elements and physical characteristics of the urban and architectural compound and its historical evolution, which express the Outstanding Universal Value of the site. The foundational urban layout of the city, its monumental urban environments and religious and civil buildings built between the 17th and the 20th century A.D., make up its historic urban compound character. Likewise, the construction techniques -using volcanic stone and the facade engraving works and others- help preserve original and untouched examples that have survived since the 17th century. The historical centre of Arequipa integrates to the natural and cultural environment of the Chili River valley, crowned by three snow-covered volcanoes and the Pre-Hispanic agricultural terraces in the countryside.

These attributes are still preserved today and maintain a harmonious close relationship without significant alteration. The historical centre of Arequipa is vulnerable to natural phenomena, such as: seismic activity, low intensity volcanic activity and El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Also, as a result of the many socio-economic pressures, such as: trade, traffic, and lack of an efficient maintenance, urbanism and control policy, the city centre suffers from overpopulation, slumming of its monuments and traffic jams, high pollution due to emission of toxic gases stemming from the poor condition of its motor vehicle fleet, formal and informal trade, demolition of real estate properties to be used as parking lots and loss of the city's agricultural area. All of these factors, as well as others’ negligence and mismanagement, cause severe risks in the fabric of history, which has already resulted in the loss of many buildings with historic value and need to be addressed to sustain the conditions of integrity.


The planning of the foundational urban layout in the historical centre of Arequipa maintains its originality and much of the urban fabric that expresses the city’s mixed character and historical identity, and adds an outstanding urban value to the compound. The construction techniques using volcanic stone and the fine sculptural work of porticos and other structures engraved in sillar also witness of the technological development and local mixed Baroque art preserving authentic and unaltered examples that have survived since the 17th century. Churches maintain their religious use; however, many manor houses have lost their original use as residences and have been restored and adapted for administrative and cultural activities.  

Despite the uncountable natural catastrophes that the historical centre of Arequipa has suffered, most buildings have been repaired many times and rebuilt to endure the geographic environment without losing their typology or their ornamental characteristics, keeping exceptionally coherent and homogeneous characteristics as a result of the integration of such factors. This was accomplished due to the integration of many makings, to the continuation of construction traditions (know-how), to the use of local experienced workforce and to the knowledge of local construction materials, like sillar, as well as the several documentary sources and graphic records.

The natural and cultural environment of the historical centre of Arequipa –made up by snow-capped volcanoes and the Chili River valley’s countryside with Pre-Hispanic agricultural terraces- give the city a spectacular landscape of remarkable beauty closely and harmoniously linked to it.

Protection and management requirements

The historical centre of Arequipa is protected by the National Constitution and by Law Nº 28296, General Law for National Cultural Heritage, dated 2004. Supreme Resolution Nº 2900, dated 1972, declares of the historical centre of Arequipa as a Monumental Area and the most important buildings with a heritage value as Monuments, and defines its boundaries. Supreme Decree Nº 012-77-IT/DS dated 1977 defines the boundaries of the monumental area declares it as intangible as “White, Monumental and Tourism Area”. Municipal Ordinance Nº 13-99 determines the protection of the historical centre of Arequipa and creates the Municipal Management and Control Superintendence of the historical centre of Arequipa.

The site boundaries (166.52 ha) are clearly established and protected by national regulation. The buffer zone has not been defined yet in spite of the fact that it appears in maps.

Currently, the main religious buildings are generally well preserved. Twenty percent of declared manor houses are completely restored and nearly 30% are in bad condition.

The public areas of the historical centre of Arequipa are the property of the Peruvian Government and are managed by the Provincial Municipality of Arequipa. The Convents and Churches within the historical centre are the property of the Catholic Church and are managed by the Archdiocese of Arequipa and the Religious Orders. The main manor houses classed as Historic Monuments are mainly the property of Public and Private Institutions, a small number are the property of private people.

Managing the entire historical centre of Arequipa is the responsibility of the recently incepted Municipal Management and Control Superintendence, in coordination with the Ministry of Culture. One of its main actions will be to develop and implement a management Master Plan in coordination. However, precise maintenance, management and control policies by agencies involved in preserving and managing the historical centre of Arequipa will need to be developed and enforced to ensure the protection of the World Heritage property.