he city of Lima guards, as exact testimony of its magnificent past, true architectonic gems from viceroyship times: palaces and mansions which lodged noble families since their arrival to Peru during the Colony. All were built around the Plaza Mayor as determined by conquistador Francisco Pizarro who founded Lima under the name of "Ciudad de los Reyes" (City of the Kings), determining that it be built in the shape of a large chess board.
, of noted Moorish influence, were built according to specific indications the owners were enforced to follow. For instance, the mansions had to surround the Plaza Mayor and, their proximity respect to the main square was according to rank of nobility.
Moreover, the nobility of the resident could be identified depending on where the stairs leading up the second floor were located. Those first following Pizarro to Peru built their homes with the stairs in the center of the first courtyard; succeeding members of the nobility had them placed against a side wall.
Moreover, these patios were always adorned with a fountain or cistern pool. This feature stands out at the Casa de Aliaga (House of Aliaga) which was built by Jeronimo de Aliaga, one of Pizarro's partners, on top of a native temple a section of the which still remains partially preserved.
Another representative feature of these mansions
was the family coat of arms of the occupants which was displayed over the main entrance; as may be seen at the Casa de Pilatos or Casa Jarava y Esquivel. The coats of arms of the Jarava and the Esquivel families, the first owners, stand out on its imposing 17th-century stone doorway. Today it is one of the main offices of the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Institute of Culture).
The Torre Tagle Palace guards in its interior oil portraits of the Marquis of Torre Tagle and his wife, the daughter of the King of Spain, its earlier owners. The opulence of its interiors clearly indicates that the Infanta suffered no yearning for the luxuries and comfort of the Royal Court. Curiously, this palace bears the family coat of arms on the stone archway entrance to the palace and, on the ceiling of the stairway, significantly more conspicuous, the inscription: "Tagle llamó quien sierpe mató y con Infanta casó" ("Whom serpent slayed and Infanta espoused, Tagle was called"). Today it is the main office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Casa de la Riva (De la Riva House) is distinguished for its doorways made with wood from Nicaragua, tiles with motifs of flowers and bunches of grapes brought all the way from Andalucia, large windows with wrought iron railings combined with walls painted in bright colors, honoring the colonial taste of the 17th century.
All these mansions have been restored by private institutions in an attempt to reproduce their original structures and adornments. This may be appreciated at the Casa Goyeneche (Goyeneche House), today owned by the Banco de Credito and which shelters grand crystal chandeliers, Spanish clocks alongside Venetian vases, enormous mirrors, oil paintings of harquebus archangels and saints reviving biblical themes painted by natives of the Cuzco School of Art and framed in gold and silver leaf. The high ceilings and archways, finely finished in wood from the forests of Guatemala and Nicaragua, and the spacious chambers contribute that the exquisite works of stand out against the contrasting bright colors of its walls.