The baroque splendor of the Basilica of Our Lady of Mercy

  • Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Merced

    The baroque splendor of the Basilica of Our Lady of Mercy

Many of Lima’s churches are located in the historic center, dating back to the colonial era Spanish. This large density of churches has an origin: when the Spaniards started to find cities in Peru in the 16th century, they naturally wanted to break away from the indigenous population. One way to do that was by religion. In virtually every culture, the most impressive buildings are dedicated to the gods – and often the previous destroyed buildings.

The Our Lady of Mercy Basilica is a fine example of 16th century colonial architecture. It and the adjacent monastery were built in 1535, the same year Francisco Pizarro founded Lima.

The basilica Our Lady of Mercy, to the German Church of Mercy, stands on a site that belonged to the Mercedarier-Order before the founding of Lima. This order had settled in the fertile Rimac Valley to proselytize among the indigenous population. This valley was a strategic point. For on the one hand there were already settlements in the fertile plain of the Rimac, on the other hand it was easy to get there by ship. The missionaries did not have to go the arduous way across the Andes. Today, the church stands in the middle of the old town, in a very busy square, surrounded by buildings that were not there in their early days.

The facade of the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Merced

Visiting Lima’s old town, you can discover a curious mix of stylistic elements imported from Europe, which have come to new heights in South America. What is typical, above all, is that the old buildings contain a mixture of architectural styles. It is almost impossible to reduce the historical buildings to just one style. That’s because the buildings had to suffer from the earthquakes that regularly occurred over the centuries.

The renewal work after an earthquake was carried out in the style of the respective time. In the case of the Basilica Our Lady of Mercy, this means that the portal was restored in the 20th century to plans from 1591. Externally, the church is a remarkable building. The clearly structured façade, held in pink and white, is dominated by an ornate, massive portal. It is the most striking feature of the church and its trademark. The architectural style in which the portal was built is called churriguerism. This style, named after two Spanish brothers, is characterized by the fact that the constructive elements, such as columns and arches, are veiled by all sorts of ornamentation. The result is a playful-looking view.

The Churriguerismus was imported to South America and finds itself there in different places again. The portal is made of Panamanian granite, which originally served as a ballast in ship’s hulls and thus reached Lima. In the portal, a balcony is integrated with the statue of the Virgin of Mercy, which looks over the square in front of the church. The church has only one bell tower, a political dispute prevented the construction of the second tower, so that the church looks a bit asymmetrical from the outside. The bell tower was planned as the highest Limas, which could not be carried out because of the danger of collapse during earthquakes. Only in September, the month of the patron saint of Mercedarians, are the bells ringing.

A lot Baroque interior

Como ya se mencionó, la iglesia fue reconstruida y ampliada varias veces. Por lo tanto, con los años, la decoración interior y el interior se han agregado. El interior está dominado por bóvedas de cañón estables, que dan a la iglesia una cierta pesadez. Esto se afloja gracias a las ventanas inteligentemente colocadas y al sistema de iluminación, que hace que los elementos decorativos individuales se vean mejor.

La decoración de las superficies de la pared y el piso muestra la influencia morisca. Por otro lado, las pinturas, esculturas y altares son de puro barroco: colores vivos, columnas salomónicas doradas al fuego y elementos decorativos, especialmente en los altares laterales. Esta técnica de dorado hace que la joyería sea particularmente duradera. En la iglesia se encuentra la tumba del fundador del monasterio Fray Miguel de Orenes. En otro nicho, la tumba Francisco de Becerras, que financió el Mercedarier-Orden antes de la fundación de la iglesia. El hecho de que los españoles le dieron gran importancia a la decoración de alta calidad también es evidente en las tejas sevillanas que adornan las paredes del monasterio adyacente. Si está interesado en el Barroco, o simplemente quiere ver un excelente ejemplo de los edificios prestigiosos de la época, no debe perderse la Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Misericordia.