Historical Churches & Convents in Lima
Lima is not only the City of Kings but also the City of Churches. Especially in the city center (Spanish = Cercado de Lima) you will find nearly at every corner a church, most of them dating back to colonial times. By the 17th century Lima was the economical and political heart of the Spanish colonies in South America and on the other hand the religious focus point. Lima developed in Peru to the centre of suppression measures against the indigenous population. The Inquisition of the Catholic Church was fighting strict against native religious customs, rites and local medical practices.
Exactly this unpleasant fact made it possible, that we find today an uncountable number of magnificent religious buildings in Lima whose architectural beauty and distinctiveness can be admired. Thanks to the efforts of the City of Lima, a lot of churches were restored over the last years and are now shining in new magnificence. Lima has quite severe air pollution and combined with the weather conditions this contributes greatly to the deterioration of the historical buildings.
Regardless if Cathedral or small town chapel every church in Lima has its special charm. So take your time, wander around and enjoy plenty examples of remarkable craftsmanship.
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Already on the foundation day of Lima (18th of January 1535) the ground breaking ceremony for the Cathedral of Lima took place. While the first church was quite simple, constant necessary repairs due to damages caused by numerous earthquakes and expansions incl. three additional naves and a side chapel in the 17th century gave Lima an immense Baroque cathedral reflecting the importance of the Catholic Church in Colonial times.
The Church and Convent of San Francisco is besides the Cathedral of Lima probably the most significant religious complex in Lima. The church with the impressive main portal, the affiliated convent and the two churches of "El Milagro" and "La Soledad" form together the most successful and impressive monument of Colonial architecture in whole Latin America.
The Church of Saint Rosa was built at the place where Santa Rosa of Lima (the patron saint of Lima and the Philippines) was born. The Dominican sister established in her parents' home a hospital for the poor. Here she nursed and healed these forgotten people in a remarkable dedicated and sacrificing way.
Home to the Lord of Miracles (Señor de Milagros), the Church of the Nazarenas is a real architectural jewel built in rococo style. Built on the grounds of a Colonial ghetto called Pachacamilla inhabited by black slaves the church has a legendary history.
The Church and Convent of Santo Domingo date back to the end of the 16th century. The church is famous in Lima for being the only one with a "real" steeple, which in consequence of the construction over several stages has a very peculiar style. Inside the church are the oldest choir stalls of Lima, the famous statue of the Virgen del Rosario and the silver urns that contain the relicts of Santa Rosa (the patron saint of Lima) and San Martín de Porres.
The Presbitero Maestro Cemetery was built between 1805 and 1808 on the former outskirts of Lima and was the first municipal cemetery in Latin America. This impressive and beautiful historical Sanctuary houses the final resting places of many historical important personalities, but is still in use. The neoclassical complex contains the largest collection of 19th century European marble sculptures in Latin America. It's absolutely worth seeing!
Located at the end of a once elegant avenue in Rimac at the foot of San Cristobal, the Convento de Los Descalzos, the Convent of the Barefoot Friars, was founded in 1595 as a place of spiritual retreat surrounded by fields and vineyards. Even though today it's right in the middle of sprawling and hectic Lima, the Convent still is a tranquil and relaxing refuge. Since the 1980s the convent houses an impressive museum displaying three centuries of religious art.
This Jesuits church is one of the gorgeous religious buildings of the 17th century in Lima. From the outside it might look very simple but that makes the inside even more magnificent. Extremely remarkable are the arcades and the altars decorated with gold. Worth mentioning are the numerous religious paintings from Colonial times.
The original church was a small wooden construction and built already before the foundation of Lima. In it the first Holy Mass of Lima was celebrated (1534). Today many faithful still come to the church every day, to adore the cross of "Padre Urraca", who is believed to have performed many wonders. The traffic on the street outside is heavy but the inside of the church impresses with its stone arcades.
Due to severe damages caused by artillery fire during the War of the Pacific, the Church San Agustin (built in 1574) was close to collapse at the end of the 19th century. After the war the church was rebuilt resembling its architecture and style at the beginning of the 18th century. Worth seeing are the arcades, the choir stalls with remarkable wooden carvings, the beautiful ceiling and the impressive wooden sculpture La Muerte (The Death).
The origins of the Church of Jesus, Maria and Joseph date back to 1678, but it was almost completely destroyed by the severe earthquakes in 1687 and 1746. Today you will find a simple church with the distinctive charm of a typical small town chapel. Lovely are the magnificent altars decorated with gold leaves.
The Church of San Sebastián was built in 1544 and is one of the oldest buildings in Lima. Santa Rosa de Lima (the patron saint of Lima) and San Martín de Porres (the first black saint) were baptized here. After the massive earthquake from 1940 that damaged the small church severely, it was beautifully rebuild. Worth seeing are the baptismal font made of marble and the ornaments of the richly decorated altar from Granada.
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