Evidence of pre-Inca cultures beneath Lima was unknown to Francisco Pizarro when he selected it as the capital of the Spanish viceroyalty of Perú, and the new capital barely survived its first year.

Archbishop's Palace, Plaza Mayor, Lima, Peru

Archbishop’s Palace, Plaza Mayor, Lima, Perú

In 1536, the army of Inca Emperor Manco II nearly wiped the city from the map during his 8-year insurrection.

Plaza Mayor, Lima, Peru

Plaza Mayor, Lima, Perú

 

The Plaza Mayor, focal point of is Lima’s Centro Historico, is one of Peru’s dozen UNESCO World Heritage sites.

It’s bordered by buildings constructed in the Spanish colonial style that include the Presidential Palace and Lima’s central Cathedral.

Government Palace, Peru's White House, on the Plaza Mayor, Lima

Government Palace, Perú’s White House, on the Plaza Mayor

 

Pizarro ordered the first Palace built shortly after the Conquest in 1535.

 

As elsewhere in Perú, the Spaniards placed it on the site of an Indian burial ground and shrine.

 

The Palace and its successors were the residence of Spanish Viceroys for nearly three hundred years, and later as independent Perú’s seat of government.

 

The current structure, built in the French Baroque style, was constructed in 1921.

 

Basilica Cathedral of Lima, Plaza Mayor

Basilica Cathedral of Lima, Plaza Mayor

The Basilica Cathedral of Lima is the third church erected on its site.

Pizarro ordered the first one built in 1541, and it was constructed of wood and adobe.

He was assassinated within a year and buried within the Cathedral’s walls in an unmarked grave that went unidentified for nearly two hundred fifty years.

The Cathedral has been the seat of the Lima Archdiocese since 1546.

It contains more than a dozen chapels, and has survived partial destruction by at least three major earthquakes, most recently in 1940.

Hand-carved lattice work on the Archbishop's Palace

Hand-carved lattice work on the Archbishop’s Palace

Ornate balconies of hand-carved wood, a signature feature of Lima’s colonial architecture, are prominently featured on Plaza buildings, most notably on the Archbishop’s Palace.

The balconies’ design, of Moorish origin, reflects the contribution of yet another influence on Peru’s melting pot culture.

The Convento de San Francisco is only a two block walk from the Plaza Mayor, but the route passes by a picturesque cafe and bar that’s too irresistible to pass up.

Bar Cordano is one of many neightborhood bistros in Lima's Centro Historio

Bar Cordano is one of many neightborhood bistros in Lima’s Centro Historio

A peak inside of the Bar Cordano, Lima Centro Historico

A peak inside of the Bar Cordano, Lima Centro Historico

 

Front facade of the San Franciso Convent, Lima, Peru

Front facade of the San Franciso Convent, Lima, Perú

Two spectacular features of the Convento de San Francisco make it a must-see, and since interior photography is prohibited, it can only be experienced in the flesh.

 

One is a staircase cupola fashioned from Nicaraguan cedar in exquisite, Moorish-inspired patterns.

 

San Francisco Convent, Lima, Peru

San Francisco Convent, Lima, Peru

 

The other is its ossuary, an extensive catacomb from which archeologists have exhumed for display the bones of tens of thousands buried within the convent over the centuries.

Between the Centro Historico and Miraflores, foundations deeply dug for Lima’s new high rises have revealed ruins and relics of pre-Inca culture.

Pre-Inca ruins of Huaca Pucllana, Lima, Peru

Pre-Inca ruins of Huaca Pucllana, Lima, Peru

The Huaca Pucllana is a great adobe and clay pyramid of seven staggered platforms.

It first appears out of the surrounding mid-rises as a dusty mound enclosed by chain link fence and marked by the trails of dirt bikers who once used the site.

It covers an area nearly three city blocks wide and five long.  Excavation is ongoing.

Its name – which comes from Quechua word “pucllay,” meaning “game” – translates as “a place for ritual games.”

Huaca Pucllana was a major ceremonial and administrative center of the Lima Culture, a coastal society that flourished at the same time that Europe was descending into the Middle Ages.

One part of the complex contains pits where offerings of fish and other marine life were once made to curry the favor of the gods.

The other was an administrative area which contains adobe structures among which some walls are still standing.

Spaces between the bricks of Huaca Pucllana allow the structure to stretch during earthquakes

Spaces between the bricks of Huaca Pucllana allow the structure to stretch during earthquakes

Also uncovered here are relics of the earlier Wari Culture, including the first of their tombs to be discovered completely intact.

Its three burial shrouds held the remains of three adults – one of high station – and those of a sacrificed child.

With only two days of this trip remaining, I’ve begun searching for the threads that run through all that I’ve seen in Perú.

One of  the headlines is this:  A Perú visit which ends with Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas is like seeing the ruins of ancient Rome without its Greek predecessors or the European cultures subsequently built upon it.

Tomorrow’s plan is to visit Lima’s Barranco District, a Bohemian enclave tucked against the Pacific just south of Miraflores.  Read on

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