The Cathedral of Lima in the city’s historic center is the Lima’s most iconic building and home to the best museum of religious art. It is also known for being home to the tomb of Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro.
The main church of Peru dates back to 1535, when Francisco Pizarro first laid the foundation for the church which would serve the new Spanish colonists. The temple was inaugurated in 1540 and elevated to the status of cathedral in 1541 when the Lima diocese was formed.
The first Archbishop of Lima expanded the original temple in 1551, but it did not get a carved-stone façade until 1649. It was consecrated as a basilica in 1625. The 1746 Lima earthquake destroyed the church, requiring a rebuilding effort from scratch which was not completed until 1778.
The new design included the two neoclassical bell towers the structure is recognized by and the main altar. Other renovations came in the 19th century and after the earthquake of 1940.
The Cathedral of Lima was visited by four saints of the colonial era including Santa Rosa de Lima, San Martin de Porres, San Juan Macias and San Francisco Solano. In 1985 Pope John Paul II visited in a historic first, and he returned in 1988.
With all the phases of construction led to a mix of architectural styles, as in most of Lima, including neoclassical, baroque and gothic.
To the left of the Cathedral is the Archbishop’s Palace, recognized by the wooden balconies, an architectural icon of Lima.
The front façade of the Cathedral features sculptures of Jesus and the apostles, as well as the coat of arms of Peru.
Inside, 14 chapels line each wall of the sanctuary. The first one immediately after the main entrance, which you do not have to pay the museum admission fee to visit, contains the tomb of Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro.
To go further into the church and see the museum of religious art, you have to pay the admission of 10 soles ($3). Above is a view of the altar from the central aisle.
Just after Pizarro’s tomb is the chapel of St. John the Baptist.
On the left side of the main aisle is the chapel of Our Lady of Evangelization.
The sanctuary’s gold-plated altar is flanked by dozens of wooden choir stalls with carvings of saints and religious leaders.
In the basement is a crypt. While not as sensational as the catacombs of San Francisco, those with children be warned that there are skulls on display.
Located in the rear to the left from the main entrance, the museum of religious art opened in the 1970s.
The galleries mostly feature religious paintings and sculptures.
Vestment and other religious articles.
A small exhibit on the second floor of the museum showcases the giant hymn books used from the 16th through 19th centuries. There are also more carved-wooden stalls and an architectural model of the cathedral.
You can support the Church by buying something at the gift shop.
The Cathedral of Lima was selected to represent Lima in Peru’s Wealth and Pride collectors coin series which dedicated one coin to each of Peru’s 26 departments. The fact that the Cathedral was selected to represent Lima over any other building or cultural icon illustrates its monumental relevance.
Location and Info
The Cathedral of Lima is located on the east side of the Plaza de Armas in downtown Lima.
Catedral de Lima
Jiron Carabaya s/n
Admission: 10 soles ($3)
Hours: Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Mass: Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m.
Guides are available in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese