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The Cathedral of Lima Church and Convent of Santo Domingo


Francisco Pizarro itself began the construction of this Church on a Monday, January 18th in the year of 1535, thus founding the so called Ciudad de los Reyes, or City of the Kings. Its original name was Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de La Asunción - Church of Our Lady of Ascension, and it extended over the area actually occupied by the Atrium of the Cathedral. It was inaugurated with great pomp on March 11th, 1540.

On May 14th, 1541 it was raised to the range of Cathedral of the Bishopric of Lima. In 1550 the construction of a second Cathedral began, this one larger than the first. In this building, in the Capilla Mayor or Main Chapel, was deposited the urn containing the remains of the slain Francisco Pizarro, Founder of the City of Lima.

In 1564, the architect Alonso Beltrán designed the layout of the third version of the Cathedral Church, which included three naves, several chapels and lateral niches. The construction got started after new areas were added between the Huallaga and Lampa Streets.

Twenty years later, architect Francisco Becerra modified the earlier plan and hence directed the construction of what became, at least in its layout, the actual Cathedral. In 1604 a part of it was inaugurated while the remaining structures where still being demolished.

The Basilica Cathedral of Lima, constituted by the façade, altars and vaults is regarded as the oldest Colonial architectonical work in the Peruvian Capital City.

Due to the earthquakes that frequently devastated the City, the Church has been re-constructed and modified more than once. It presently comprises several architectonical styles, though the Renascence style clearly predominates. It shows a layout of three naves and fourteen lateral chapels.

Among its most notable Altars can be mentioned La Concepción, San Juan Bautista, Santo Domingo de Mogrovejo and La Virgen de la Evangelización. The stools of the chorus of the Major Altar are regarded as works of art done in carved wood, representing several Catholic saints. In one chapel stands a glass urn wherein lie the supposed mortal remains of Francisco Pizarro.

The Cathedral keeps a beautiful image of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción - Our Lady of Ascension, the Chapel of La Inmaculada with its Churrigueresque style, a Christ in carved ivory and the Virgen de la Evangelización, crowned by the Pope John Paul II during his visit to the City in 1985.

The Cathedral also contains the Museo de Arte Religioso or Museum of Religious Art, where are kept liturgical devices, paintings from the Schools of Lima, Cusco and Ayacucho from the 17th and 18th Centuries, besides an important collection of canvasses, sculptures, chalices and chasubles.

Among the great art works stands out a series of the Zodiac of the Bassano (16th and 17th Centuries). It also contains the ceremonial outfits that the priests wear during the different religious festivities, adorned in golden and silver embroidery, strewn with diverse precious stones.

Next to the Cathedral is located the Iglesia del Sagrario Church, current Parish of the Historical Centre of Lima. Beside this Church is the Palacio Arzobispal or Archbishopric Palace, in a Neo-plateresque style, whose balconies stand out in the Main Square. In the area behind one can find the Archivo Arzobispal Archives that store valuable documents from the Colonial era.

The Cathedral of Lima is a part of the Cultural Patrimony of Humanity. This is the oldest Church in South America and in times of the Spanish domain was the seat of the religious power of the Spanish Viceroyalty.

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El Retablo de la Inmaculada Concepción - Altarpiece of The Immaculate Conception

This altarpiece was done by the master artisan Asencio Salas and consecrated on June 17th, 1654. It is regarded as the most notable altarpiece in Lima dating back to the mid XVII Century. It belongs to a generation prior to the introduction of the so called Solomon columns, kind of spiralled pillars. There are four groups with three Corinth columns each presenting different heights and widths.

It was modified after the Earthquake of 1678. The central body was enlarged and carved panelling was installed by the sculptor Francisco Martínez.

The Altarpiece, which had been previously gilded in 1655 by Francisco Vásquez, was gilded again in 1696 by Jacinto Mincha. Later on, a renaissance sculpture by Roque Valduque was donated by the Spanish Emperor Charles the Fifth.

Location: East side of the Main Plaza of Lima. Jiron Carabaya, between Junín and Huallaga Streets.
Phone: (511) 427-9647.
Visiting hours: Mondays through Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


The same day Francisco Pizarro founded Lima, he handed over the lot presently occupied by their church to the Order of the Dominicans, located in Jiron Conde de Superunda Street, a block away from the Main Plaza.

However, the Dominican priests Juan de Olías, Alfonso de Montenegro and Tomás de San Martín founded their Convent on the lot owned by Diego de Agüero, located in the corner of the Judíos and Bodegones Streets, and it was not until 1541 that they moved to the lot they were previously assigned.

The modifications suffered by this Dominican temple, also shared by all of the churches of Lima, started around the mid 16th Century. All the temples were utterly refurbished, all primitive Gothic forms abandoned, and replaced by the so called Lima Baroque style.

During the Independence times, the Presbyter Matías Maestro transformed the insides of this Dominican Temple practically rebuilding all of its altars. He turned them into a Neoclassical style which at that time was at its peak. Master carpenter Jacinto Ortiz and the painter José Sagastizabal lent him a hand with that task.

Nowadays, the Convent occupies a very large area, in spite of having been forced to hand over a portion of its former terrain to the School of Santo Tomás de Aquino, which is also managed by the priests of the Order.

There are long corridors, cloisters and portals surrounding three patios filled with bushes, flowers and bronze fountains, cast by the first priests that dwelt within its walls. There is also a spacious Chapter Room in the Renaissance style, an ancient Crypt where the members of the order were buried, and a valuable Library.

It has an imposing tower sixty metres high, one of the tallest in the City. Its interior comprises three naves, cedar wood carven stools in the choir, and the Chapels of the Rosario and of Santa Rosa, which store the skulls of the Saint of Lima and of San Martín de Porres.

Also notable are the imagery of Saint Ann, the Virgin and the Child, of San Martín de Tours and Santiago Matamoros. There is also a beautiful sculpture of a prostrate Santa Rosa, donated by the Pope Clemente X after the canonization of the Saint.

The Chapter house, in which beautiful Baroque carvings are kept, is the place in which the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos Major National University was founded in 1551, the first University of the Americas.

Location: Intersection of the Conde de Superunda and Camana Streets.
Telephone: (511) 427-6793.

    Church: Monday - Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 5:00 to 7:30 pm.
    Convent: Monday - Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 3:00 to 6:00     pm.