Historic Centre of Lima
Historic Centre Of Lima
Cultural Peru Latin America And The Caribbean City Of Lima

The historic centre of Lima bears witness to the architecture and urban development of a Spanish colonial town of great political, economic, and cultural importance in Latin American. San Francisco de Lima is an outstanding example of a convent ensemble of the colonial periods in Latin America and, along with Santa Catalina de Arequipa, is one of the most complete.

Lima was founded on 5 January 1535. The city played a leading role in the history of the New World from 1542, when Charles V established the Viceroyalty of Peru there, to the 18th century when the creation of the Viceroyalties of New Granada (1718) and particularly of La Plata gradually put an end to the omnipotence of the oldest Spanish colony on South America.

The demographic change, from the colonial city to today, explains the serious modifications to the urban landscape. Scant trace of the historic centre of Lima can be seen in the present metropolitan area, with the exception of a few remarkable ensembles - the Plaza de Armas (with the cathedral, Sagrario chapel, archbishop's palace), the Plaza de la Vera Cruz with Santo Domingo, and especially the monumental complex of the convent of San Francisco (founded by Emperor Charles V and Francisco Pizarro).

The fortified port of Callao defended the town from attack by sea, while a fortified enceinte was built at the end of the 17th century to protect Lima from potential invaders attacking from inland territories. The University of San Marcos was established in the Peruvian capital in 1551 and the first shop opened in 1584. The town's cultural life was strongly influenced by the many religious orders (monasteries of San Francisco, Santo Domingo, San Augustín and others) founded within it. In the 17th century Lima flourished as an economic and cultural centre.

The historic monuments (religious or public buildings, such as the Torre Tagle palace) which lie within the perimeter of the World Heritage site date from the 17th and 18th centuries and are typical examples of Hispano-American Baroque. The architecture of the other buildings is often representative of the same period. Thus, despite the addition of certain 19th-century constructions (such as Casa Courret in the Art Nouveau style) to the old urban fabric, the historic nucleus of the town recalls Lima at the of the Spanish Kingdom of Peru.

Although urban development in the 20th century - the construction of the Avenida Abancay in 1940 - has whittled away at this immense domain, San Francisco still presents an ensemble of convent buildings that is remarkable for its surface area, its coherence, the beauty of the architecture and the richness of interior decorations. Within the monumental complex are three churches - San Francisco, La Soledad and El Milagro - which connect with a number of communal areas laid out around five cloisters. Most of the buildings date from the 17th century, because the 1655 earthquake destroyed the original buildings, some of which, like the Church of the Miracle (El Milagro), had been built before 1553. The reconstruction undertaken in 1657 owes much to the Portuguese architect Constantino de Vasconcelos, succeeded in 1668 by his disciple Manuel de Escobar, a native of Lima, who protected the Baroque structures against earthquakes by using indigenous techniques: common joists and ribs of wood, vaults and cupolas of earth on reed lattices.

Inside the church, the projections in white on a red ochre background highlight the lovely simplicity of volumes and let the full symphony of the gilt and colour of the Baroque altarpieces burst forth. Several of the most striking features of the convent building (e.g. the main two-storey cloister, the chapter house and the monks' choir, are universally known and admired. Their architectural quality is enhances by splendid decoration: azulejos wall coverings, marble altarpieces, frescoes and paintings, the artesonados ceilings of the cloister, the stalls in the monk' choir and in the chapter house, the woodwork in the sacristy, and others.