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The temple that never toppled

March 10, 2020

Arequipa’s newest hotel offering is also its most luxurious. An ode to the romantic heritage of The White City, CIRQA hotel is a revival of one of the city’s most magnificent monasteries. Tales of grand celebrations, whispered conspiracies, blessed fates and opulent fortunes echo through the historic hallways of the 16th century building. The exact details of that history, however, are not as clear as one might expect from such a notorious landmark.

Arequipa History CIRQA Connection San Agustin

In 1540, the year Arequipa was founded, land was parcelled off amongst nobles. It was then that Alonso De Luque, a renowned scribe, and his wife Isabel de Vega Sarmiento became the first documented owners of the land on which CIRQA now sits. The pair never developed this land, and left it to the Augustinean Order upon their passing, on the condition the Order build a church with cloisters, patios, orchards and gardens as well as a sepulchre for the munder the altar of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino.

The Order did fulfil this request, however construction was fated to become a centuries-long process of rebuilding and restyling as successive earthquakes left their marks on the monastery from 1582 through the late 1800’s. The constant projects, partial in scope, muddy the waters of definitive architectural stylings, creating a true stone story of the city through the centuries.

Peru’s independence from Spain in 1826 marked a significant divergence from the previously-clear trail of ownership. Under Peruvian rule, the property was handed over to the treasury, and again divided for separate families and private ownership. The property was split into thirds, and a shrouded web of inheritances and sales, punctuated by earthquakes, began.

CIRQA Connection San Agustin History Details

Today, two thirds of the original property correspond to CIRQA. Like a phoenix rising from the ash of earthquake and inheritance battles, the emblematic estate has been returned to its former grandeur, and opened its doors for discerning visitors to experience what was once the soul of the city. The name CIRQA, with a Q, was chosen to honour the history of the property in tandem with the history and chronology of Arequipa itself.

History is not always an open book. A Shakespearean saga of inheritance hand-offs,natural disasters, and revolution have left a mysterious legacy for CIRQA, difficult to define. One thing is for certain. This story does not end in tragedy.  

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