A visit to the Cathedral of Lima and the nearby Palace of the Archbishop's Museum is an excellent addition to the knowledge of the traditions and history of the old colonial city of Lima, Peru, and the culture and religious art of Latin America.
The original building of the Cathedral of Lima was constructed between 1535 and 1540 on orders of Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, who in a gesture of faith and humility carried on his shoulders the first beam of what would be the second church of the Viceroyalty of Peru. The first one was the “Church of Triumph” in Cusco, thus named in celebration of the Spanish army’s victory over the Incas.
The first building was a fairly modest structure. In 1665, it was expanded to a large cathedral with three naves and side chapels. The cathedral is located in the Plaza Mayor of Lima, just a few steps from the Government House of Peru, known as Pizarro’s Palace. The Historic Center of Lima(check this link!), including Pizarro's Palace, the Cathedral, the Archbishop's Palace, the Lima City Hall and the Church and Monastery of San Francisco, was inscribed in 1991 as a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The front of the cathedral is carved in stone and ornamented with exquisite details and decorations. Around the main portal, there are figures of angels, several statues of the Apostles, and in the top recess, a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The magnificent church has suffered the ravages of nearly 500 years of history and the devastating forces of at least eight earthquakes between 1609 and 1974. The great earthquake of 1746 virtually destroyed the building. The present Cathedral is a multistage reconstruction based on the design and original plans of the building destroyed in 1746.
Main Altar. Made of wood covered with 22-carat gold leaf. The tabernacle is made of silver. On the second tier is a figure of Our Lady of the Assumption, all topped by an eagle representing Saint John the Evangelist.
Detail of the carvings on the backs of the Choir Stalls.The figures represent numerous Saints, Virgins, Apostles, Popes, Bishops, etc.
The front of the cathedral has two towers flanking a central block of Renaissance style with three large porticos. From a distance, the facade is relatively simple. However, a closer view reveals the beauty of the frontage, carved in stone and ornamented with exquisite details and decorations. Around the main portal, there are figures of angels, several statues of the Apostles, and in the top recess, a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The remarkable beauty of the front of this church makes it one of the most beautiful colonial buildings of Lima and one of the best in the continent.
Retable of Our Lady of Candelaria (Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria), popularly called "La Morenita" ("the little dark one"). It celebrates an apparition of the Virgin Mary on the island of Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain).
Retable of the Peruvian Saints. Santa Rosa de Lima is in the center. The other saints are St. Martin of Porres, St. John Macías and St. Francis Solano.
The interior of the cathedral shows various styles, from late-Gothic to Baroque and Plateresque. From the two side aisles of the central nave emerge 13 chapels devoted to religious figures, including a chapel dedicated to Santa Rosa de Lima - the first person born in the Western Hemisphere to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church - and three other Peruvian saints. At the beginning of the right aisle, is the mausoleum holding the remains of Francisco Pizarro.
Mural in the Tomb of Francisco Pizarro. It depicts the episode of "The Famous Thirteen". History tells that Pizarro drew a line in the sand, saying: "There lies Peru with its riches; Here, Panama and its poverty. Choose, each man, what best becomes a brave Castilian." Thirteen men decided to stay with him and became known as The Famous Thirteen.
Baroque-style retable carved in wood and covered with gold-leaf. It is dedicated to "Our Lady of Evangelization", the Patron of the Archdiocese of Lima.
Surrounding the main altar is the impressive array of choir stalls, the booths where the priests rested during their endless sequences of sacred chanting. The Choir of the Cathedral of Lima was crafted by the Spanish architect and sculptor Pedro de Noguera who worked on this project for almost 17 years. The stalls are profusely decorated with very detailed carved arms and backs and are considered one of the most distinctive examples of Spanish colonial art in the Americas.
The Cathedral' Museum of Religious Art holds a large collection of historical objects including paintings, sculptures, furniture, jewelry, sacred vessels, antique religious vestments and robes of former archbishops.
The Cathedral of Lima has a religious art museum holding a large collection of historical objects including paintings, sculptures, furniture, jewelry, sacred vessels, antique religious vestments and robes of former archbishops.
Below a stairway on the main floor there is a beautiful fountain with a golden cherub statue.
Immediately next to the Cathedral is the Archbishop's Palace, a beautiful neo-colonial-style building with a carved stone facade and cedar wood balconies. The building was opened in 1924, and in the beginning, it was the residence of the Archbishop of Lima. It now houses a museum exhibiting large paintings and rooms decorated with ornaments and furniture from the colonial era.
Waiting room in front of the Office of the Archbishop.
A visit to the Cathedral of Lima, its Museum of Religious Art, and the Museum at the Archbishop's Palace significantly enhances the understanding of the history and traditions of the ancient “City of Kings” (Lima’s nickname), and the culture and religious art of Latin America.
Large paintings with religious themes adorn the walls of the main floor of the Archbishop's Palace.
Note: A detailed 360° virtual tour of the Cathedral and the Museum of Religious Art can be seen here. A detailed tour of the Museum of the Archbishop’s Palace can be seen in the video above and a 360° virtual tour, here.