PRESBITERO MAESTRO - CEMETERY
The Sanitary reforms brought by the French Illustration towards the end of the 18th Century, generated some profound changes in the conception of a city. The usual graveyard besides a church existed no more, giving way to the actual cemetery located in the outskirts of the cities.
In the case of Lima, the new "camposanto" was placed a few blocks of what once was the Portada de Maravillas (or the Portal of Wonders, one of the entrances to the City, through the Muralla de Lima Defense Wall), according to the aesthetical principles of the Ecole des Beaux Arts of Paris.
Its construction was ordered in 1786 but concluded and was inaugurated in 1808, during the regime of Viceroy Abascal and with the blessing of the Archbishop of Lima, Don Bartolomé de las Heras. Its design was made by Matías Maestro -hence its name- who proposed a Neoclassical style for it.
Matías Maestro was a multi-faceted man who was born in Viscaya, Spain on a 4th of February of 1766 and died in Lima the 9th of January of 1835. He studied art in the Academy of Cadiz, obtained a degree in Law and possessed also some knowledge of architecture.
He came to reside in America and got ordered as a priest in 1792.
His most important achievements, apart from the cemetery, were the refurbishing of the Cathedral of Lima and of the major altarpieces of the San Pedro, La Merced and San Francisco Churches, all of which presented a Neoclassical style.
In the grounds of the cemetery that he constructed and that today bears his name, was an octagonal shaped chapel, already gone, that included Ionic columns of white marble and a dome adorned with eight windows.
In collaboration with the insign Peruvian citizen Hipólito Unánue, he built the School of Medicine of the University of San Fernando. Appeared among the signers of the Declaration of Independence and later became the head to the Sociedad Benéfica de Lima Charity Society.
The Presbítero Maestro contains streets, gardens, quarters and boulevards decorated with beautiful statues. Especially overwhelming are its magnificent mausoleums, accounting for the wealth of many families of Lima. The most important among these monuments is the Cripta de los Héroes that shelters the rests of some insign characters like Miguel Grau, Francisco Bolognesi and Andrés A. Cáceres, heroes from the War of the Pacific.
In view of the artistic merits and testimonial value, Cemeteries like the Pére Lachaisse and Montmartre in Paris, the Municipal Cemeteries of Rome and Genoa in Italy, the Colón in La Habana, Cuba, the La Recoleta in Buenos Aires, the Cementerio General del Sur in Caracas and the Cementerio Presbítero Matías Maestro in Lima, have been declared Historical Patrimonies of Humanity.
In the present days, a Museo Presbítero Maestro has been created, with the objective of starting a research program that will include tasks such as valuation, restoration and preservation of the funerary art. It constitutes a part of a bigger endeavour to the revaluation of the artistic and cultural patrimony of Lima.
Blocks 16, 17 and 18 of Jirón Ancash Street - Barrios Altos.