Historic church destroyed by fire in Peru

Story highlights

  • Fire severely damages San Sebastian Church in Cusco, Peru
  • Priceless works of art destroyed; officials say they will restore 17th-century church

(CNN)A landmark of Christian faith in Peru's ancient city of Cusco has stood the test of time -- but now San Sebastian Church faces its biggest challenge yet after a devastating fire.

Authorities don't know what sparked Friday's fire in the 17th-century church. Video footage from TV network Andina showed the blaze tearing through the building's roof.
    Flames engulf the church's roof in video from Peru TV network Andina.
    Later Friday, after the smoke cleared -- Peru's Ministry of Culture said 80% of the of the altar ceiling was destroyed as well as 60% of the main hallway. The church's roof is in danger of collapsing.
    Besides causing structural damage, the fire also consumed priceless works from the so-called Cuzco School of Roman Catholic art, created by Spanish rulers after the conquest of the Inca Empire in 1534.
    Two canvases titled "Martyrdom of San Sebastian" by the famous Cuzco School artist Diego Quispe Tito were destroyed and a sculpture of the church's namesake, dating from the 17th century, was burned, according to the director of Cusco's Cultural Department.
    The fire also completely destroyed the church's altar of gold-gilded cedar wood.
    "Unfortunately, the losses are irretrievable, especially the works of art; however, our restorers and architects will do their best to recover this cultural heritage," said Vidal Pino Zambrano of Cusco's Cultural Department.
    The colonial church had undergone a $1.5 million renovation in 2013, including the installation of smoke sensors and emergency lights.