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Peru: Santo Domingo church and monastery

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Santo Domingo church and monastery | Peru | Americas

[Visited: January 2011]

When I walked down the Jirón Junín avenue from the Plaza de Armas, the pink bell-tower of the Santo Domingo church was already visible. One of the highest towers in the city, its remarkable colour makes it stand out from the low-rise street. Placed at a corner with the Camaná street, the church has its main door on the south-western side while you can enter the monastery on the south-eastern side. I visited the monastery first, and was supposed to join a small group with a guide. But their pace was too high, and I soon trailed behind and lost my group. It enabled me to explore the empty spaces of the convent myself. The first thing that could not escape me, were the 17th century old tiles on both the walls and on the columns surrounding the courtyard.

Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): Columns with tiles around one of the courtyards of the monastery

The tiles have brightly coloured scenes on them, and give the monastery a distinct mediterranean feel. Above the tiles, I saw paintings with religious scenes, while in the corners there were religious scenes depicted in sculptures. In the middle of the first patio, unfortunately not accessible for visitors, a fountain surrounded by flowerbeds. The brown woodwork on the first floor has carved out figures for decoration. On the first floor, I saw the library of the convent from the outside - unfortunately, the door was closed. A second courtyard is surrounded by yellow walls, and smaller but with more flowers and is open to the visitor. Around this area, a chapel, murals depicting some of the miracles with which San Martín de Porres is associated, the saint who served this church in the 16th century, just shortly after it was constructed. He can be seen everywhere in the convent and the church: being the illegitimate child of a Spanish nobleman and an ex-slave, he is the first black saint of the Americas and is seen as the patron of people of mixed race.

Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): The three saints buried in the church of Santo Domingo

After seeing the large stained glass windows with the three saints (Santa Rosa de Lima, San Juan Macías, and San Martín de Porres) associated with the Santo Domingo church, I stayed some time in the courtyard, not just to soak the rays of a warm summer sun but also to just enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. I found out that the church itself was closed and returned after a few hours. After walking the long aisle, lined by cases with foreign saints and statues, and seeing the oldest choir stalls in Lima, I first saw the impressive cupola with saints on its walls, and then turned to a corner of the basilica where I found people kneeling in prayer. It is in this corner that the skulls of Santa Rosa de Lima and San Martín de Porres, as well as the relics of San Juan Macías, are kept. The interior of the church is richly decorated in Lima baroque style, and felt much different from the much quieter design of the convent just next door. Walking out of the impressively high and deep church, and leaving the convent complex, the first thing one notices is the contrast with the noisy and narrow streets of this part of the historic centre of Lima.

Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): Fragment of a wall with 17th century tiles in the monastery
Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): Courtyard in the convent
Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): Flowers with fountain and arches in one of the patios
Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): Looking down at a patio of the Santo Domingo convent
Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): Cupola with statues in the Santo Domingo church
Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): Room with tiled floor in the basement of the monastery
Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): View of the Santo Domingo church seen from the street
Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): Religious art behind a window reflecting the columns of the convent
Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): Tiled columns in the convent of Santo Domingo
Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): Case containing the skull of Santa Rosa de Lima in the Santo Domingo church
Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): San Martín de Porres, first black saint of the Americas
Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): Chapel with San Martín de Porres
Picture of Santo Domingo church and monastery (Peru): Detail of the wooden balcony in the monastery

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