Blaze destroys much of 16th century Peru church

Associated Press

Lima, Peru — A fire has ruined much of a famed 16th century church in the Peruvian city of Cuzco, authorities said Friday.

The blaze that burned into Friday morning destroyed the ornate, gilded altar and about two dozen paintings at the Temple of San Sebastian.

Architect Americo Carrillo, who led a $2 million restauration of the church between 2008 and 2013, characterized the loss as irreparable. He said the baroque church was “a jewel of Peru’s colonial era.”

Firefighters said they lacked sufficient water to fight the fire, so neighbors pitched in by bringing water from home cisterns. Priests rang the church bells to summon help as the fire advanced.

The fire department said the cause of the blaze is under investigation, but a short circuit is suspected.

Among the treasures lost were colonial era oil paintings by well-known indigenous artist Diego Quispe Tito depicting the life of St. Sebastian, Carrillo said.

The temple is well-known among international visitors to Peru’s Andean region, located about a 10-minute drive from the city center of Cuzco, which was the capital of the Incan empire.