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The Cathedral of Lima, located in the Historic Center on the east side of the Main Square or Plaza Mayor
, near the Archbishop's Palace, is the main church of Peru.
When Francisco Pizarro founded the City of Lima (then called "City of the Kings") in 1535, he dedicated the east side of the recently designed Plaza Mayor
to the priest's house and the church, both yet to be built. The first church, a very simply one, was built on top of the Inca shrine "puma inti" and the Inca Palace of Prince Sinchi Puma. The same year of the founding of the city, Pizarro laid the first stone of the building and three years later, in 1538, he completed the construction of the first church, which was inaugurated in 1540. In 1541, the church was upgraded to Cathedral by Pope Paul III. Given its new status, it was then decided to enhance a bit more the little church of the first years of the city. A new church was then inaugurated in 1552, but was still modest in size. In 1564, the Archbishop of Lima decided for a sumptuous building to rival the most famous cathedrals in Spain. After many years and several improvements to the initial plans the new church with three large spacious naves and two side chapels was finally concluded. This newly Renaissance style reconstructed church was the first to have the size of the present Cathedral.
During the centuries after these first buildings, the City of Lima was hit by devastating earthquakes (1609, 1687, 1746 and 1940). The earthquakes, together with poor maintenance (especially during the 19th Century) caused considerable damage to the Cathedral leading to more refurbishing and reconstruction. Other improvements were also made -moved by the longing to have a church more in keeping with the growing importance of the city- such as the construction of the two bell towers, completed in 1797. This explains to a large extent the mix of styles that can be found in the Cathedral today. The façade is of Renaissance style, the two famous bell towers are Neoclassical while the roof is supported by Gothic arches, visible from inside the Cathedral.
The façade consists of a dark-shade Renaissance style central part, flanked by two cream-shade Neoclassical bell towers. It has three impressive wooden doorways. The central larger doorway is called the "Front Door" and is surrounded by statues of the apostles and by a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, opening on the central nave of the Cathedral, which leads to the High Altar and the Choir Stalls. Each of the two side doors opens on an aisle. These three central naves are flanked by two lateral aisles opening on side chapels. The right aisle has eight chapels and the left aisle seven; from there is a passage way leading to the Chapter Room, the Sacristy, the Schröder Room and the Brazzini Room.
Entering the Cathedral, in the first chapel of the right aisle, is the Crypt of Francisco Pizarro with the remains of the Conquistador lying in an imposing sarcophagus. There is an amazing story about the remains of Pizarro. Indeed, for several centuries it was mistakenly thought that a mummified skeleton contained in a glass urn placed on one of the Cathedral’s altars belonged to the Spanish Conquistador. It was even decided to officially show it to the public from 1891 on, due to the 350 year celebration of his death. But in 1977, during one of the excavations that were carried out to restore the Cathedral, a lead box was discovered –with several skeletons in it- with the following inscription: "Here is the head of the Marquis Don Francisco Pizarro, who discovered and won Peru and placed it under the Royal Crown of Castile". Several months afterwards it was verified that one of these remains belonged to Pizarro and the actual remains of the Conquistador were placed in the sarcophagus!
Continuing along the right aisle, the following seven chapels are the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, the Chapel of Our Lady of Candelaria, the Chapel of Santo Toribio de Mogrovejo, the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist, the Chapel of the Visitation, the Souls Chapel and the Chapel of St. Joseph. They all have finely and antique carved wooden altarpieces, beautifully decorated. In the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist is the tomb of Nicholas de Ribera the Elder, a Spanish fellow Conquistador of Francisco Pizarro and first mayor of Lima.
In the back of the Cathedral’s central nave is the High Altar surrounded by the Choir Stalls. These impressive stalls were made in the 18th Century. On the full backs of these seats one can see many depictions of saints (apostles, doctors, popes, bishops, among others). The High Altar, neoclassical in style and work of the priest Matías Maestro, is crowned by a depiction of the Immaculate Conception. Beneath the High Altar is the "Crypt of the Archbishops", where the remains of almost all pastors of the city, from Jerome de Loayza (the first one) up to Cardinal Augusto Vargas Alzamora, (the last one deceased) are kept.
At the bottom of the left aisle, near the High Altar, is a passage leading to the Chapter Room, the Vestry, the Schröder Room and the Brazzini Room. On the walls of the Chapter House are medallions of all archbishops of Lima. Some of former archbishops’ robes, as well as the priestly vestments and ornaments used by Pope John Paul II in his two visits to Peru and the sacred vessels he donated to the Peruvian church are also shown there. In the Sacristy, large drawers with wood paneling decorated with depictions of Christ, the Twelve Apostles, St. Joseph and St. John the Baptist can be seen. In the central showcase ancient and beautiful liturgical ornaments are exhibited. And on the wall opposite the drawers is a magnificent series of paintings on the life of Saint Rose of Lima.
In the left aisle, the seven chapels are the Chapel of Santa Apolonia, the Chapel of Our Lady of La Paz, the Chapel of Our Lady of Evangelization, the Chapel of Saint Rose, the Chapel of Our Lady of Antigua, the Chapel of St. Joseph and the Baptistery.
Adults and foreigners : S/. 10.00
Children under 5 years : Free
School : S/. 2.00
National student : S/. 10.00
Teachers : S/. 10.00
Retired : S/. 10.00
Adults and foreigners can pay a combined ticket for the visit of the Archbishop's Palace for S/. 30.00.
Payment cards accepted : None