This beautiful building on the Plaza de Armas stands out for its stark white sillar (volcanic rock) and massive size – it's the only cathedral in Peru that stretches the length of a plaza. It also has a history of rising from the ashes. The original structure, dating from 1656, was gutted by fire in 1844, rebuilt and then flattened by the 1868 earthquake. Most of what you see now has been rebuilt since then. A 'museum' tour is worthwhile.

The interior is simple and airy, with a luminous quality, and the high vaults are uncluttered. The cathedral also has a distinctly international flair; it is one of fewer than 100 basilicas in the world entitled to display the Vatican flag, which is to the right of the altar. Both the altar and the 12 columns (symbolizing the 12 Apostles) are made of Italian marble. The huge Byzantine-style brass lamp hanging in front of the altar is from Spain and the pulpit was carved in France. In 1870, Belgium provided the impressive organ, said to be the largest in South America, though damage during shipping condemned the devout to wince at its distorted notes for more than a century.

An earthquake in 2001 toppled one enormous tower, and made the other slump precariously, yet by the end of the next year the cathedral looked as good as new.