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Jesuits and Catholics have their day

March 13, 2013 by Lauren in Peru, Travel Stories with 6 Comments
La Iglesia y Complejo de la Compañía, Arequipa, Peru photo

La Iglesia y Complejo de la Compañía

There are two things to do on a Sunday in Arequipa, Peru. One is to soothe your hangover with a bowl of adobo arequipeño, a spicy pork stew. The other is to go to church.

So I do as the Arequipeños do.

Altar faithful at La Compañía, Arequipa, Peru photo

Altar faithful at La Iglesia y Complejo de la Compañía

If it’s not obvious yet, let me clear something up: I am not religious. I am irreligious. I am, in fact, irreverently blasphemous.

Jesus of the ladder at La Compañía, Arequipa, Peru

Jesus of the threatened rooster, La Iglesia y Complejo de la Compañía

Despite not being part of God’s team — which really only wants me on the roster as a compliant and powerless breeding machine — for the most part, I like religious art. The Church and the faithful who wished to buy their way into heaven (or politics), were fabulously generous supporters of artists, if not unfettered artistic expression. Props deserved and props given to the people and institutions that pay for art.

Gilded saint at La Compañía, Arequipa, Peru photo

La Iglesia y Complejo de la Compañía

Yet I do not much care for the Spanish Catholic artistic style, particularly when it wanders over into Baroque and Rococo much like stoner gravitate to laser light shows. The results are overly ornate, garishly gilded, and more about narcissism pomp than faithful circumstance. Where some see shiny splendor, I see splashy squalor.

What does work aesthetically for me is the outside of Arequipa’s churches, including the Basílica Catedral, the Iglesia de La Compañía (Jesuit church), and the Iglesia de San Miguel Arcángel in the Cayma district.

Facade, La Iglesia y Complejo de la Compañía, Arequipa, Peru

Facade of La Iglesia y Complejo de la Compañía

Door detail, La Compañía, Arequipa, Peru photo

Door detail at La Iglesia y Complejo de la Compañía

In the deeply carved stonework facades of its churches — even if somewhat marred by soot and grime — Arequipa earns its nickname, La Ciudad Blanca or The White City.

Columns at La Compañía, Arequipa, Peru photo

Columns at La Iglesia y Complejo de la Compañía

Facade of Iglesia de San Miguel Arcángel, Cayma district, Arequipa, Peru photo

Facade of Iglesia de San Miguel Arcángel, Cayma district

The divine is here, though not in the garishly gilded altars or in the idols rolling eyes heavenward.

Detail at Basílica Catedral, Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru photo

Facade detail

The people attending Arequipa’s churches are, at turns, full of joy or caught up in mourning, seeking salvation for newly earned sins or mired in their weekly force of habit.

Basílica Catedral, Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru photo

Basílica Catedral, Plaza de Armas

My belief is not shared by the worshipers — I believe divinity comes not from God, but from us. Divinity can be found right here on earth, in people and especially in their community ties. We don’t have a relationship to the divine. We are the divine.

La Iglesia y Complejo de la Compañía, Arequipa, Peru photo

Candlelit prayer at La Iglesia y Complejo de la Compañía

Let the gods worship humankind, I say.

Iglesia de San Miguel Arcángel, Cayma district, Arequipa, Peru photo

Church is out at Iglesia de San Miguel Arcángel

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6 Comments

  1. MarcMar 13, 2013Reply

    Was it just coincidence that you posted this on the same day that the first Jesuit Pope was elected?

    • LaurenMar 13, 2013ReplyAuthor

      Total coincidence! I was working on polishing up the post (like worrying about “worshippers” vs “worshipers”) when the new Pope news broke. I confess to tweaking the title a bit (was just Catholics, no Jesuits, but Arequipa has a real Jesuit side).

      The next post is about pork stew. Wonder if tomorrow will bring some crazy pig coincidence…

  2. MarcMar 13, 2013Reply

    I was thinking, since he’s Argentinian, that the announcement should have been “Habemus empanadas”.

    • LaurenMar 13, 2013ReplyAuthor

      Habemus empanadas de carne de “Rey”?

  3. MarcMar 13, 2013Reply

    Going back to a previous post – the cuy we ate was tougher than the Shoes of the Fisherman.

    • LaurenMar 14, 2013ReplyAuthor

      That’s as tough to swallow as the Jonah and the whale story.

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