The colonial architecture of Lima is amazing in itself, but I would highly recommend that travelers plan at least one day exploring the churches. I have spent several afternoons exploring them and have enjoyed their beauty immensely. The Cathedral in Plaza Mayor is typically more visited by tourists because of it’s size and location, but there are so many options less visited that can allow a visitor a more personal experience. Please read below for my experiences at the following locations:
- Church of San Francisco
- Church of Santo Domingo
- Church of San Pedro
Church of San Francisco
The Church of San Francisco is probably second to the cathedral in regards to tourists visiting. The church was founded in 1546 and, like most historical buildings of Lima, has experienced modifications and restoration over time. The crypts underneath the church house the bones of citizens that were once “buried” there – in reality, they were just stacked on top of each other and covered in lye. Now, the bones are arranged by body part due to archaeologists who have excavated the site. Although a little spooky and interesting, the crypts are only one of the many wonders of this church. If you go to this church, notice the Spanish and Moorish influence on its design. The tiling and woodcarvings are intricate and beautiful. Be sure to ask plenty of questions in the library so that you have the time to try to contextualize and really feel its energy. The remarkable library, my favorite part of San Francisco has 25,000 books, many of which are leather bound and date back to the early years of the printing press.
The tour at the Church of San Francisco is in English and Spanish. During the tour, you are not allowed to take pictures. I took the tour in English, but I would recommend that if you can do a little bit of Spanish, do that instead! The groups that were being shown around in Spanish seemed to receive more time and explanation in each room. The tour moved rather fast, so if you do go, read up beforehand if you are someone that likes to know the history and development of these unique styles.
Church of Santo Domingo
The Church of Santo Domingo is just one block the the left (when facing the entrance) to the government palace. The construction dates from the 1540’s. It is known for having the first seat of the National University of San Marcos and for housing the remains of San Martin de Porres and Santa Rosa de Lima.
There are tours available at Santo Domingo; however, I didn’t end up with one. I eavesdropped and listened to a few. I explored this beautiful place on my own. The guide books don’t really mention this Church often, but for me it was incredible! I really loved it. I explored nooks and crannies that made me appreciate its beauty even more. The room for San Martin has some of the most beautiful columns on the alter. I could actually feel the intensity and hopes of the people in the room the day I went, and sat down and admired the moment’s beauty.
Church of San Pedro
The Church of San Pedro was completed in 1638. It looks rather simple on the outside, but going inside is an absolute must! I was blown away by its beauty. This church houses beautiful art pieces by renowned artists and the lighting and baroque style are nothing short of amazing.
Daniel is a volunteer and researcher for the Karikuy Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru.