The Basilica Metropolitan Cathedral of Lima and Primate of Peru, otherwise Lima Metropolitan Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral located in the Plaza Mayor of downtown Lima, Peru. This third and current Cathedral of Lima was built between 1602 and 1797. It is dedicated to St John, Apostle and Evangelist.
|Lima Metropolitan Cathedral|
|Basilica Metropolitan Cathedral of Lima and Primate of Peru|
Basílica Catedral Metropolitana de Lima y Primada del Perú (Spanish)
|Location||Plaza Mayor de Lima, Lima, Lima Province|
|Authorising papal bull||1541|
|Architect(s)||Francisco Becerra, Juan Martínez de Arrona, Juan Rher, Matías Maestro|
|Style||Renaissance, Gothic, Neoclassical, Baroque and Plateresque|
|Number of towers||2|
|Diocese||Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lima (since 1541)|
|Archbishop||Carlos Castillo Mattasoglio|
|Bishop(s)||Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, Bishop Emeritus|
Location in the cityEdit
When Francisco Pizarro founded Lima, he assigned a plot of land to the church, making Sinchi Puma renounce his assets on paper certified by a notary, so that the occupation of the site chosen for the church would not mean usurpation of ownership.
In 1535 Pizarro laid the first stone and carried, in a public demonstration of faith and humility, the first wood for the construction of the church (first cathedral), which was built under the patronage of Our Lady of the Assumption, finishing the construction in 1538 and inaugurated on March 11, 1540, placing the Blessed Sacrament for the first time that day.
After the disputes between Diego de Almagro and Pizarro, and after having established the Viceroyalty of Peru, Pope Paul III, taking into account the growth of the city of Lima, issued a bull on May 14, 1541 creating the Diocese of Lima and raising the small church to the category of cathedral which began to be built in 1542 during the government of Cristóbal Vaca de Castro. Francisca Pizarro Yupanqui, daughter of the founder of Lima, contributed the considerable sum of five thousand golden pesos for the construction of the new cathedral, which came to cost fifteen thousand golden pesos, thanking the King of Spain through a real cédula of 19 March 1552.
On October 8, 1549, the Cabildo de Lima discussed that it would be convenient for the cathedral to have a clock and decreed that one be purchased that had been brought from Spain at the time.
With the changes introduced by the peacemaker Pedro de la Gasca to give it greater distinction, the new church (second cathedral) begun by Cristóbal Vaca de Castro was inaugurated in 1552 by Archbishop Jerónimo de Loayza. This was a small building -9 x 19 m.-, very modest and narrow, and for its foundations reddish stone was brought from a quarry in Lunahuaná. The new cathedral later had Saint John the Evangelist as its patron saint.
A large cathedralEdit
The Cathedral of Lima and the Renaissance fountain at the Plaza Mayor in 1860 by Henri Godard and Jardinet.
Later, when the city of Lima became an Archbishopric, the construction of a new cathedral was considered in accordance with the rise in status of the episcopate of Lima, as well as with its population growth. In 1564 Archbishop Jerónimo de Loayza decided on a sumptuous building to rival the most famous cathedrals in Spain (such as Seville Cathedral then, and now the largest in Spain), thus beginning a change in dimensions. The work began with the demolition of the primitive adobe walls, but the new construction would not be completed.
Master builder Alonso Gonzales Beltrán was given the task, in 1564, of designing a large church with three naves and side chapels. But his project, inspired by the Seville Cathedral, turned out to be too grandiose and costly.
When Viceroy Martín Enríquez de Almanza arrived, in 1581, being Archbishop of Lima Toribio de Mogrovejo, arranged for a new cathedral to be built and in 1585 the Trujilloan architect Francisco Becerra, who had made plans for several buildings in Mexico and Quito, was called from Cusco, where, at the time, he was working, and was in charge of the construction of the third cathedral. Becerra made a new plan (considered to be the plan on which the existing cathedral is based) that took, in part, the cathedrals of Jaén and Seville as models. The first had three naves, like the one in Lima, the second had five, but there are doors in the arms of the crossing, three doors in the main façade and a side courtyard called, as in the Cathedral of Lima, the Patio de los Naranjos, which is reached through the side door that is to the left. The definitive layout of the cathedral, made by Becerra, resulted in a Renaissance-style church, with a wide floor plan and 3 large naves and two side chapels.
The Cathedral of Lima is a temple with three naves with two more chapels and a flat closing wall. (...) The three naves are of the same height, as in the one in Jaén. This last one was the immediate precedent of the two Peruvian cathedrals.— Taken from El Arte Hispanoamericano (1988).
In 1602, the church was still "an old shack-type, covered with straw with much indecency" according to a letter that Philip III of Spain sent to Archbishop Toribio de Mogrovejo in which he urged him to hurry up with the construction work.
In 1604 the first part of the third cathedral was inaugurated. When Becerra died in 1605, only half of the church was built.
The final plan was designed immediately after the 1606 earthquake, although another in 1609 threatened to destroy the entire building, damaging the vaults of the built part. Discussions were held on the best means of defense against seismic movements: the Chief Architect, Juan Martínez de Arrona, supported the idea of brick vaults, but several members of the Cabildo or Municipal Council considered that it would be better to cover the cathedral with wood. Tired of the need to find a solution to the problem, they appointed Bartolomé Lorenzo as Advisor to Arrona. Finally, in October 1625, the naves of the main part of the third cathedral were consecrated. The main entrance (designed by Arrona) was completed in 1632, and the towers in 1649. The 1687 earthquake caused much damage to the cathedral, and despite all the precautions taken in construction, the 1746 earthquake damaged the structure again and almost reduced it to ruins, requiring a new reconstruction, the Viceroy José Antonio Manso de Velasco ruled at the time, who ordered a new cathedral to be built in the same place in 1758. The existing building is a reconstruction, which, by order of the Viceroy José Antonio Manso de Velasco, undertook -following the old plans- the Jesuit Juan Rher (born in Prague).
Rher took full advantage of the use of wood and quincha in the ribbed vaults, rebuilt the Renaissance stone doorway and advanced the work quite a bit, leaving the bell towers unfinished for a long time.
The reconstruction was carried out in three parts, the first culminated in 1755, the second in 1758 and the last in 1778. Between the years 1794 and 1797 the current bell towers of the cathedral, which remained unfinished, were rebuilt being finished by the Presbyter Matías Maestro.
In its interior aspect as in the exterior, the first church of Peru, which holds the title of Metropolitan Basilica, has undergone many notable changes. Baroque, Gothic and Neoclassical elements have been mixed in this way. A substantial change was the transfer of the choir to the presbytery as well as the removal of most of the Baroque altars and ornaments that it originally had for the early-19th century Renaissance ones. These transformations began in 1804, in accordance with the neoclassical currents prevailing at the time. In 1891, the supposed remains of the founder of Lima (Francisco Pizarro) were moved to the cathedral and placed in the Chapel of la adoración de los Reyes, the third on the left hand side, where they rested until the mausoleum was built in which, currently, The authentic remains found in 1977 are preserved.
On May 28, 1921 recognition was conferred as a minor Basilica under the name of Catedral Basílica San Juan Apóstol y Evangelista.
The earthquake of 1940 caused considerable damage to the cathedral and for this reason a restoration work was undertaken whose direction was entrusted to the Architect Emilio Harth Terré, whose knowledge of colonial architecture is due to the excellence that the first church of Peru.
The cathedral in the Historic Center of LimaEdit
Since 1991 the cathedral has been included as a World Heritage Site as it is in the Historic Center of Lima and its visit is de rigueur at the time of tourism in Peru.
Description of the facade and determination of its styleEdit
The façade of the Cathedral of Lima is in the Renaissance style with Plateresque decorations. Its tall towers with slate spires are Neoclassical with stylistic influences from El Escorial School and Northern Europe.
It has 3 doors, as in most cathedrals. The main one (the one in the center) is called Puerta del Perdón, the right side is called Puerta de la Epístola and the left side is called Puerta del Evangelio.
There are also 2 side doors, one that leads to the Calle de Judíos (right side) and another that leads to the Patio de los Naranjos (inner courtyard attached to the Cathedral). In the back of the cathedral (Calle de Santa Apolonia) there are 2 other portals: Santa Apolonia and San Cristóbal.
On the main façade you can see statues of the Apostles, and in the central niche, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Currently, in the upper part you can see the coat of arms of Peru, in the place where the coat of arms of the city of Lima was originally located together with the phrase Plus Ultra.
Description of its interiorEdit
The Cathedral of Lima shows several styles, from late Gothic, Renaissance to Baroque and Plateresque, due to the date of the start of construction, the architectural style is Renaissance. It has a rectangular hall plan, emulating the Cathedral of Seville. The ceiling is supported by Gothic ribbed vaults that recreate a starry sky, which are made of wood and stucco to relieve the weight on the walls and prevent them from collapsing in the event of an earthquake.
Originally its altars were Baroque in style, some of them being replaced by Neoclassical altars. The choir stalls, although presenting a Renaissance tradition, have an eclectic layout. In its chapels and sacristy it preserves works by the most famous sculptors of the colonial era in Peru.
The cathedral itself is a perfect synthesis of the architectural styles that were developed in the city of Lima from its origins to the present day.
The Cathedral of Lima has 3 naves and 2 additional naves where the side chapels open.
Along the side naves, large-format paintings of the Via Crucis can be seen. Pope John Paul II visited this site twice, in 1985 and 1988, which is commemorated on two plaques that can be seen at the entrance.
Chapel of Nuestra Señora de la EsperanzaEdit
In the left nave we can see, in the first chapel, the old baptistery, with its baptismal font. A beautiful image of Our Lady of Hope (Virgen dolorosa) is preserved there, a sculpture that is part of the processional Marian group of Holy Week in this city and that traditionally presides over the cults of Lent and Holy Week. In the recent restorations it was possible to discover the old polychromy that covered the chapel, which is now exposed for visitors.
Chapel of la Sagrada FamiliaEdit
The next chapel is the Chapel of la Sagrada Familia, in which ancient polychrome wood carvings of Jesus, Mary and Joseph are preserved. Also, on the walls, there are two large oval paintings with the images of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and four wooden panels that belonged to the old choir stalls, prior to the current one. Formerly, this chapel belonged to the city's carpenters' guild.
Chapel of la Antigua (Los Reyes)Edit
The next is the one that currently receives the name of the Chapel of la Antigua, as the one located in the retrochoir and that was under the patronage of the University of San Marcos. In the past, students received their academic degrees there. The altarpiece housed in this chapel, in Neoclassical style made in 1799, is attributed to the Spaniard Matías Maestro and is presided over by an image of the Our Lady of la Antigua (from the mid-16th century), Patron Saint of the University since 1627, is a true copy of the Virgin of Los Remedios of Seville, and two wooden statues stand out, of Saint Mark and Saint Thomas Aquinas, coming from the old Chapel of the University in the current Plaza Bolívar. The columns of the altarpiece are painted with different colors, each symbolizing the original faculties of the University.
Chapel of the Peruvian SaintsEdit
The next is the Chapel of the Peruvian Saints, presided over by the image of Saint Rose of Lima, the first saint in the Americas, together with those of Saint Martin de Porres, Saint John Macias and Saint Francisco Solano, Peruvian saints. It was originally dedicated to Rose of Lima shortly after her canonization, and was initially located in the now defunct Church of Belén. In it is the tomb of Mons. Emilio Lissón, 27th Archbishop of Lima, currently in the process of beatification.
Then, over the door that leads to the Patio de los Naranjos you can see the monumental pipe organ commissioned by the 20th Archbishop of Lima Francisco Xavier de Luna Pizarro, built in Belgium by the organ builder Hippolyte Loret (1810-1879), and is disused for more than 60 years.
Chapel of la Inmaculada ConcepciónEdit
Next is the impressive Chapel of la Inmaculada Concepción, this is one of the few chapels that retains its primitive Baroque altar, since many have Neoclassical altars, after the reforms made by the Presbyter Matías Maestro, he respected this one for being so beautiful. The altar is dominated by the image of Our Lady of la Evangelización, a 16th-century wood carving sent by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. It is one of the first images of the Virgin to reach the New World. In her right hand he holds the Golden Rose, a papal decoration conferred by John Paul II in 1988 on his second visit to Peru and which has very few Marian devotions. On the left wall of the chapel there is a large-format painting of Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei, made in 2005 for the 30th anniversary of his death and to commemorate the moment in which this saint visited this same chapel in 1974. The painting replaced the sepulcher altarpiece of Archbishop Diego Morcillo, located in that place for more than two centuries and which was relocated in another chapel of the cathedral. In the altarpiece there are also figures of a Nativity that according to tradition was the first in the city of Lima, commissioned by the daughter of Francisco Pizarro. The walls are beautifully azulejos, found after a restoration.
Then there is the entrance to the sacristy, where we see, on the left, a bas-relief of the Adoration of the Shepherds, from the 16th century, one of the oldest pieces in the Cathedral, which presided over the main altar of the first cathedral. On the right, a painting of the Our Lady of Guadalupe. In addition, we see medallions of la Dolorosa and the Ecce Homo, and carvings of Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine.
Chapel of la Virgen de la PazEdit
Following the nave, is the Chapel of la Virgen de la Paz, where the Blessed Sacrament is currently reserved. On the left wall there is a painting of Saint John the Evangelist, Patron Saint of the Cathedral, giving Communion to the Virgin; and to the right is the tomb of the Servant of God Friar Francisco Camacho.
The impressive choir stalls, currently flanking the main altar, was designed by the Spaniard Martín Alonso de Mesa and made by the Catalan Pedro de Noguera in the 17th century. In the backs we see figures of numerous male saints and female saints (Apostles, Doctors, Popes, Bishops, virgins, etc.), Formerly the choir was located in front of the main altar (a position similar to that of the Cathedral of Mexico City). On the back of the Cathedra (which is located in the left stalls, under a canopy) is the figure of the Redeemer. The main altarpiece, in Neoclassical style, is presided over by an Immaculate Conception. Under the presbytery is the crypt of the Archbishops, where the remains of almost all the archbishops of this city are found, from Jerónimo de Loayza (the first) to Cardinal Augusto Vargas Alzamora, the last to die.
The Neoclassical pulpit is crowned by an image of Saint John the Evangelist, and the crucifix that remains in front, by a Paschal Lamb. In the transept of the nave, we see 4 statues (2 on each side) of Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint James the Greater. It is the work of the builder Matías Maestro, who led the renovation of the old Liman Baroque altars, replacing them with Neoclassical altars.
Crypt of Francisco PizarroEdit
In the right nave, starting again from the entrance, is first the crypt of Francisco Pizarro, completely covered with mosaics alluding to the Conquest. On one of the walls you can see the coat of arms of Lima. In the sarcophagus it is seen that the head is separated from the body, possibly detached by multiple manipulations to which its remains were exposed. The original body was discovered in the early 20th century. In front of the sarcophagus, there is a small chest containing earth from his hometown, Trujillo.
Formerly, when entering the Cathedral of Lima, it was always thought that Pizarro's body was the one that was presented in a glass urn located in an altar of the Cathedral itself. Precisely the tourist guides indicated the right side, near the entrance, the altar was made of marble, and there was a mummified skeleton, of a saffron color. In 1891, on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of his death, it was decided to publicly display his remains in this place, and since then it has been a must for everyone who visits Lima.
In 1977 the cathedral is subjected to a restoration inside, and that is when some workers of the crypt of the cathedral, accidentally came across a lead box with some blurred inscriptions, they could not imagine that It was about the true remains of the Spanish founder of Lima. Behind a wall was a niche where they found the box. The inscription read: Here is the head of the Lord Marquis Don Francisco Pizarro, who discovered and won the kingdoms of Peru and placed in the Royal Crown of Castile. Next to it was found a coffin lined on the inside with velvet, containing a large number of bones. A team of scientists managed to determine that those remains belonged to a woman, two children, a mature man who was later found to be Pizarro. In addition, these scientists worked long months to determine the origin of these remains. Archaeologists, anthropologists, pathologists, radiologists, chemists, and historians joined forces to obtain data and details related to Pizarro's hectic political and military life.
In this chapel was originally the altarpiece of the Cristo del Auxilio, now in the Chapel of Santa Ana.
Chapel of San Juan BautistaEdit
Then there is the Chapel of San Juan Bautista, whose altarpiece presents polychrome reliefs alluding to the life of the saint. It is dominated by a large crucifix, one of the oldest in the cathedral. Its altarpiece was made by the famous Sevillian sculptor Juan Martínez Montañés, and brought to the New World by ship for several years. It is considered among the best altarpieces of the cathedral building, although it originally belonged to the Church of la Limpia Concepción in Abancay Avenue.
Chapel of la Virgen de la CandelariaEdit
Next is the Chapel of the Virgen de la Candelaria, whose altarpiece is a masterful work of the priest Maestro. His style is Baroque-Neoclassical transition.
Chapel of Saint Turibius of MogrovejoEdit
Then the Chapel of Saint Turibius of Mogrovejo, second Archbishop of Lima and Patron of the Latin American episcopate, whose remains are preserved in the Cathedral (a reliquary with his relics can be seen on this altar). In this chapel other reliquaries with episcopal ornaments of the saint can be seen on the walls. On the left is the tomb of Cardinal Juan Landázuri Ricketts, 30th Archbishop of Lima, and on the right, a large painting that shows the episode of the theft of some hosts from the neighboring Church del Sagrario (the hosts were miraculously found, it is said, in the neighboring Rímac District, where the Church of Santa Liberata currently stands, there is another painting that shows the moment of the discovery). Like the altarpiece of Saint Rose of Lima, it originally belonged to the now defunct Church de Belén.
Then, above the side door, is the gallery for the choir, with its organ.
Chapel of San Juan EvangelistaEdit
Follow the Chapel of San Juan Evangelista (formerly Chapel of Santa Ana). On the left wall is the tomb of Nicolás de Ribera the Elder, the first mayor of Lima. Its altarpiece is one of the most beautiful in this cathedral, its style is Baroque-Neoclassical transition.
Chapel la VisitaciónEdit
Then, we see the Chapel of la Visitación or of las Ánimas, with the group of the Visitation presiding over it. To the left is a Risen Christ who leaves in triumphal procession on Easter Sunday.
Chapel of las ÁnimasEdit
Next is the sepulcher chapel of the Archbishop of La Plata and Lima, and Viceroy of Peru, Friar Diego Morcillo Rubio de Auñón, originally dedicated to the Souls in Purgatory. The sepulcher altarpiece was originally located on one side of the Chapel of la Concepción, and bears the authentic image of that chapel, which in turn replaced the carving of Diego Morcillo, the same one that is exhibited separately in the same environment.
Chapel of San JoséEdit
Finally, the last chapel is dedicated to Saint Joseph, with polychrome reliefs on the altarpiece alluding to his life. Some reliefs of the life of the Virgin are also exhibited in this area of the nave. The sculptural group of the Holy Family that presides over the altar is due to the sculptor Pedro Muñoz de Alvarado.
Sacristy and Chapter HouseEdit
Returning to the Sacristy and already entering it, we find ourselves in the ante-sacristy, also called the room of zodiac, since on its walls there are 12 paintings painted in the Bassano workshop, alluding to the 12 zodiacal signs. Attached is the Sala Mons. Alberto Brazzini, inaugurated in honor of the prelate, who died on May 29, 2001, who was the Auxiliary Bishop of Lima. Numerous objects of religious art are exhibited here, his heritage and donated by the family to the Cathedral; besides some of his episcopal ornaments and jewels.
Moving on to the Sacristy, we see the large chest of drawers the work of the Basque Juan Martínez de Arrona, with wooden panels decorated with images of Christ, the twelve apostles, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Baptist; as well as the twelve articles of faith of the Apostles' Creed on each panel. Beautiful ancient liturgical vestments are also on display here.
Finally, we arrived at the Chapter House, where the members of the Ecclesiastical Council used to meet (and continue to meet on saturday afternoons). On the walls there are medallions of all the Archbishops of Lima, with a review of each one. Vestments and ornaments used by Pope John Paul II on his two visits to Peru, sacred vessels that were his gifts to the Peruvian Church and some clothing of the former archbishops are also exhibited here.
Chapel of San BartoloméEdit
It was located behind the presbytery and separated from it by an ambulatory. The main altarpiece, of Tuscan order, consisted of three bodies and had as its main part a canvas of the martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew. In the same enclosure was the sepulcher altarpiece of the Archbishop of Lima, Bartolomé Lobo Guerrero, with three bodies in imitation marble. The sculpture of the Archbishop can still be appreciated as part of the tour of the Cathedral Museum.
Chapel of la Virgen de la AntiguaEdit
It was in the back room of the church. In its main altarpiece was originally the canvas of Our Lady of la Antigua, now in the chapel of the Kings. A text from the 17th century describes the original Baroque altarpiece, mentioning the existence of twelve Solomonic columns and thirty paintings of the Virgin, in addition to the canvas that is the title of the altarpiece. The chapel disappeared with the reforms undertaken at the end of the 19th century, together with four other auxiliary chapels of the first one, which were located on the sides of the choir.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Lima todayEdit
In recent years, under the pastoral care of Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne and with the support of private companies, numerous and meticulous restoration works have been carried out on the cathedral and its works of art, as well as the improvement of its illumination, culminating the works in 2004, year of the 400th anniversary of the inauguration of the first built part of the third Cathedral.
In 2005 new lighting was installed (so that its façade is enhanced at night) as part of the project called "Circuito Turístico de la Luz", carried out at the initiative of the mayor of Lima Luis Castañeda Lossio to improve the Historic Centre of Lima.
In addition to the Cathedral of Lima, the Government Palace and the Palacio Municipal de Lima were also considered within the group of buildings illuminated by the Municipality of Lima and the Grupo Endesa.
During the week, the Cathedral offers tourists the religious site as a museum, which preserves notable artistic works from colonial times.
Cathedral of Lima and Treasure of LimaEdit
A well known urban Legend is that in 1820 a vast ammount treasure the so called Treasure of Lima was hidden in the Cathedral by the citizens of Lima and that to save it from Jose San Martin revolutionary armies it was placed on a british vessel which was supposed to anchor in the Harbor; instead the ships Captain killed the guards and fled to Cocos Island where he buried the treasure and that years later treasure hunters still tried to find legendary lost treasure of Lima. Underscoring this legend are several facts:
- 1] In 1855 a New York Newspaper printed an 1854 letter from San Francisco California which recounted that there was going a treasure expedition to Cocos Island based on a near deathbed confession-only the treasure did not come from Lima but was alleged to be from a Spanish gallon that had been captured in 1816 by pirates and buried on Cocos Island
- 2] August Gissler who lived on Cocos Island from 1889 to 1908; his quest for treasure was also unsuccessful: in over twenty years he never found more than six gold coins despite diligent searching
- 3] By 1929 the version of the so called Cathedral of Lima/Treasure of Lima was printed in an American newspaper
- Manuel García Irigoyen (1898). Historia de la Catedral de Lima, 1535-1898. Imprenta de El País. p. 5, 8, 10, 16, 19, 21, 25.
- Guamán Poma (1615). Nueva corónica y buen gobierno. Royal Library, Denmark website. p. 362.
- "Study for Lima's Main Square - Mauricio Rugendas ca. 1843". Google Arts & Culture.
- Ricardo Álvarez-Carrasco (2020). "The Consecration of the Cathedral of Lima Through a rare Commemorative Medal, 1625". Acta Herediana.
- The New York herald. [volume, February 09, 1855, MORNING EDITION, Page 306, Image 2]
- The independent. [volume, December 13, 1929, Page 2, Image 2]