You feel the miracle of evangelization as you tour La Catedral de Lima with your guide, even if you are a non-believer and relatively ignorant of Catholicism before you arrived.
You also feel the import of the church itself, a fourth generation structure whose bamboo supports are geared to withstand earthquakes more effectively than its predecessors.
This was the place that Pizarro conceived as the legitimizer of the Spanish colonial empire. He made Lima the most important city in the empire he established, and La Catedral de Lima its center.
It’s fitting that you find his remains here, though you learn of the history of imposter body parts being substituted before forensic discovery.
La Catedral de Lima Was Top Choice Burial Site
Location, location, location—you soon learn on this tour that being buried under La Catedral de Lima was and is the place to be. This writer was especially tickled to learn of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, who evangelized by day and made shoes by night, and who are the patron saints of the shoemakers who helped sponsor church rebuilding, earning tombs below the church floor. A first stop near the entrance, it was actually only six years ago when these tombs were discovered. These are just the beginning, with the most important burials being below the main altar piece, where you find remains of Viceroys and archbishops. Coffins for small children are there, presumably the offspring of very wealthy families. More bodies were found by restoration workers a half century ago.
As you circle the cathedral’s many corners you learn the who’s who of evangelization in colonial Peru, starting with Saint Toribio Alfonso de Mogrovejo, who not only learned Quechua and Aymara, but traveled to the Amazon, confirming more than half a million souls. His finger is in a reliquary here.
As the tour moves to the Chapter Room you learn the history of the Pope appointing the first locally born archbishop after the Republic was declared in 1821—the practice of naming a European archbishop ending.
A special treat is finding not only many portraits by religious painters of the Cusceño school, but also of the classic portrait of the Inca kings.
The tours are free and highly recommended. Expect to want to give a big tip.
Click here to read more Picture this Post travel stories by Amy Munice with photography by Peter Kachergis.