What Lies Beneath the San Francisco Monastery
The easily spooked and claustrophobic need not read on.
Under a church that took a hundred years to build, lie the bones of 25,000 – 75,000 people. From an era of colonial conquest and religious radicalism, stemming from the outstretched arms of Spain’s Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, the extraordinarily well-preserved Catacombs of the San Francisco Monastery were built (generally referred to as the Peru catacombs). In fact, during the 1600s, almost all of Lima’s cemeteries were built under churches, making Lima a city resting atop the bones of those who built her and creating a city very much in touch with death as a part of life.
Northeast from the Plaza Mayor
Located just a short walk from Lima’s famous Plaza Mayor, the San Francisco Monastery catacombs are a popular destination for more than just the curious tourist or those who are enchanted by the macabre. These Peru catacombs are an important historical marker of the religious upheaval that took place on the South American continent after the European arrival. They are constantly visited by the religiously devout, professors of Archeology, and must be experienced firsthand by anyone who wants to claim to have spent any amount of time in Peru’s grand capital city on the Pacific.
More Than Just Books in the San Francisco Monastery
The San Francisco Monastery is a wonder in itself, being included as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991. Its exquisite Spanish Baroque style, towers framing the granite carved portal (later copied at the Church of Merced), and mixture of Moorish and Spanish designs establish the Monastery of San Francisco as a most distinct part of early Peruvian Colonial architecture. The monastery is also home to an impressive library of antique religious texts under a 400-year-old carved roof of Nicaraguan cedar. However, the bones are the thing wherein we catch the conscience of our visitors. Countless bones from souls lived hundreds of years ago are left exposed and arranged in strange circular patterns in stone pits. So whether you do Lima in a day, or spend significant time in this seaside city, the Peru catacombs of the Monastery of San Francisco are laying preserved by brick and mortar, with thousands of people’s remains lugubriously whispering sounds of creaking tunnels, echoes without origin, and stalking shadows that almost peel off of the walls.
Featured Image Credit:
[GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons | http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ALima_Convento_San_Francisco_Catacombs.jpg