This is a tour that Mary, Pam and I went on awhile back, but I have been so busy with the move and I have been without the internet that I have yet to blog about this tour that we took. It was a wonderful tour of more of downtown Lima.
Our tour guide took us to San Martin Square, which we had visited before, but got more information about it. It is a beautiful square surrounded by white buildings and in the center is a statue of Jose de San Martin, an Argentinean general who was instrumental in helping Peru gain independence from the Spanish in 1820. Simon Bolivar, of Venezuela, was also a key figure in the fight for independence from the Spaniards. So, in the middle of downtown Lima there is a square dedicated to San Martin. The tour guide explained that at one point all of the buildings were red but just recently, they have all been painted white. The white buildings surrounding the square are impressive, but I think the red would be more stunning.
In 1746, Lima suffered a devastating earthquake. Everything was totally destroyed except for 10 houses. This earthquake also caused a 36 ft high tsunami, which destroyed the port of Callao near Lima. The Torre Tagle Palace was one of the 10 houses to survive the earthquake. We admired the beautiful Moorish style balconies as we walked pass it heading for the San Pedro Cathedral. The tour guide explained that the balconies enclosed with intricate, carved wood designs are from the Colonial era (1534-1822) and the balconies enclosed with glass are from the Republican era (1820-1900). I took several pictures of the balconies throughout the day, as there are a variety in Lima. As always, I will share these on my photo web page.
The Jesuits are a religious group who had much economic influence in Lima during the Colonial era. The main reason for this is that a man had to have two professions before becoming a Jesuit priest. Therefore, many of these Jesuit priest owned various successful enterprises during the 16th century. This was very evident with the San Pedro Cathedral. The main alter was grandiose and all in gold leaf. There were several side alters that were just as grandiose. There were beautiful wooden carved ones, with statues paying reverence to not only Mary and Jesus, but also the parents of Mary. In the Inca culture, parents are a very important part of one’s identity. So, when the Spanish converted the Incas to the catholic religion, paying respect to the parents of Mary was incorporated. Throughout the church was beautiful ceramic tiles from Seville, Spain and at the back of the church, there was a beautiful Moorish styled balcony all enclosed in gold leaf.
Another church which we visited is Las Nazarenas. If I remember the story correctly, a black slave painted a picture of the crucifix on a wall of a church. The name of the painting is “El Senor de los Milagros” (the Lord of Miracles). Several attempts were made to remove this fresco; however, the painting was never destroyed. Then, during the earthquake of 1655, the church that the painting was in was destroyed, except for the wall with the crucifix that the black slave had painted. This was considered a miracle and today, there is a church Las Nazarenas is built around the wall and painting that survived the earthquake. Every Sunday in October, there is a procession, with a replica of this painting carried through the streets of Lima in honor of this event. There are as many as a half million people who come for the celebrations. The women wear purple dresses and use white cords as belts. The men wear purple shawls wrapped around their shoulders and also have the white cords hanging around their necks. It is not unusual to see people wearing these outfits throughout the week. Needless to say, David and I have not been among them!!!
We passed San Augustine church and visited a courtyard there. The church is from the 18th century and has a beautifully carved stone facade. The courtyards are marvelous down here. They are brightly painted, often with beautiful tiles from Spain. In the center of the courtyards are beautiful fountains.
Once again, we passed through Plaza Mayor (also known as Plaza de Armas). We visited this on our last tour of Lima. It is where the Presidential palace is located and the Cathedral, which was built in the 16th century. An interesting fact that our tour guide shared, about this Cathedral is that it is built on stairs because it is built over an Inca Temple. This was one way that the Spaniards wielded their power over the Incas.
Our next stop was the Santo Dominicos Convent. Two of the main religious factions that arrived with the Spanish in 1535 were the Franciscans and the Dominicans. This church was built in 1537 by the Dominicans. There is the Retablo de las Reliquias (Alter of Relics) that houses the skulls of the three Peruvians to obtain sainthood. One is Saint Martin de Porres who was a poor mulatto boy who was taken in by the Dominican order at the age of 11. He eventually worked in the infirmary where he worked tirelessly and preformed miracles in healing. Today, he is often depicted with a broom because he considered all work to be sacred, no matter how menial. Also, he is shown with a cat, dog and mouse all drinking from the same dish as that is supposedly one of his miracles that he preformed.
Saint Rose of Lima is the patron saint of the city. Along with her skull, there is an alter in her honor at the convent. She was an extremely pious woman who wore a crown of spikes covered concealed by roses, practiced extreme fasting and laid on a bed of broken glass and stones. After her death, supposedly there were many miracles, although I don’t know what they were.
Finally, the last skull is that of San Juan Macias. He worked with the rich and the poor. They equally sought his counsel. Again, he preformed many miracles before and after his death, which lead to his canonization.
This convent was also the first location for the San Marcos University, which was the first university of the Americas. We were shown the room that the students presented their theses in order to graduate. In the room is a balcony, where the student stood to make his presentation. The courtyard was beautiful with the fountains and yellow and blue tiles from Seville, Spain.
Next stop on the tour was the Casa Aliaga. This house was built in 1535 and it is the oldest home on the continent. It is one of the best-preserved colonial homes in Peru and it is still family owned after 17 generations. The land that the home is on was first deeded to Jeronimo de Aliaga who was one of the 13 men who remained with Francisco Pizarro during his exploration of Peru’s coast in 1527.
There are a total of 66 rooms in the house with décor from the 16th to the 18th century. Today, there are 6 family members who live at the house. We actually saw one the Aliaga family members while on the tour. The house is located right near central Lima but unless you knew what you were looking for, you would never guess that this historic monument even existed!
Our final stop was the San Marcos University. I mentioned earlier that it was originally located in the Santo Dominicos Convent. It is the oldest officially established university in the Americas being chartered in 1551. The campus has been moved twice, in 1870 during the urban planning of Lima and again, to its current location in 1960. The current campus is lovely with several open courtyards. While on our tour, we heard this wonderful choir and actually saw them walking in their robes through one of the courtyards. It kind of gave me the feeling as though I had stepped back in time as I imagine that is how the scholars used to dress and walk around the campus.
It was a great tour. I hope that I have been able to express with words what an amazing history, culture and architect that Lima has to offer. I took tons of pictures that I will proceed to upload so you can see what my limited vocabulary couldn’t’t make clear!!!