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Church of la Merced


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A church which is more than 481 years old!

Translated by Harriet Davis — 8 months ago

Original text by Jesus en su tinta

Hello everyone. I hope you are all well! Talking about the centre of Lima involves talking about churches, museums, houses and narrow streets, as well as finding streets with different names, some of them funny and others related to characters who lived in that street. In short, there is so much to tell you about Lima that I would never be able to tell you about all the things you can discover in Lima.

On this occasion I have some images of one of the most beautiful churches in downtown Lima that I want to share with you. I love the churches in my city and each of them is surrounded by many stories, in addition to having a style and decor which differentiates them from each other.

A unique church, as old as the foundation of Lima

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The Virgin of Mercy, who watches over the entrance of the church

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In this post I want to share with you a church known as the Church of La Merced, which is in the busy street called Jirón de la Unión. This church, I confess, reminds me a lot of another church that is also in the centre of Lima, called San Agustín. The facade of both of these churches include stone carvings which give them a striking presence, in addition to the Slavonic columns and their excessively ornate decoration. It reminds me of the Chavín culture and the "horror of emptiness" - I know this has nothing to do with the church, but this is what it reminds me of every time I see this Church.

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Location and surroundings

To be more specific about the location of this church, I can tell you that it is in block number six of the street, Jirón de la Unión. It is in a very crowded part of Lima, but in truth, in all the times that I have visited, I have never felt insecure at all, so don't worry, you can take as many photos as you like. However, this is not to say that you should go to take photos at midnight because at that time there are not many other people around, and besides, it is better to be safe than sorry.

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When the Spaniards founded colonial Lima, Francisco Pizarro gave a large piece of land to the Mercedarians, a Catholic mendicant order, and it was on that land that this Church of La Merced was built. The church also has cloisters to its right hand side. However, they do not seem to exist if you’re just passing through Jirón de la Unión, where the only thing you can see is lots of different restaurants and clothes shops.

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Beautiful on the outside and the inside

The facade of the Church of La Merced is one of the most beautiful in the capital. I would have particularly liked it to be located in a much larger square because, in order to admire it in all its beauty, you have to stand a little further away from it.

This church also reminds me of people, usually adult ladies, who sell religious cards at the door. I remember that when I was a child and first came here, they tried to sell them to me by saying that they were giving them to me as a gift, but afterwards they ask you to give them one sol as a price for the card. Today when I pass by, it seems that they have changed their strategy, or in any case they are already sitting at their stalls, but perhaps someone else still uses that old strategy when visitors enter with their camera, in the hope of taking a photo.

The Church of La Merced is a clear example of the Spanish and Arab influences in Peru. For example, the Moorish style uses the geometric figures that can be found in the upper part of the coffered ceiling. A part of the church which you must see, is undoubtedly its side chapels where the art of the altarpieces will surprise you. Here there is so much art in one place, all in a single church in the historic center of Lima, that it is well worth a visit.

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Virgin de la Merced

Here is an image of the Virgin of Mercy from her high altar. You will always find her represented with outstretched arms, as if she wants to welcome you or give you a hug of love- the kind of hug that a mother gives to her children.

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Outside of the Church of the Merced there is the main figure of the Virgin of Mercy, who is extending her hands out to visitors. The official name of this is the Basilica and Convent of Nuestra Señora de la Merced. It was built the same year in which the city of Lima was founded - do you know what year it was? In 1535, many, many years ago - almost 481 years in fact!

As I have mentioned on previous occasions, this church has seen several changes, not only due to the change in artistic styles over the years, but also due to the earthquakes that have struck Lima.

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When you enter the Church of La Merced you will notice that it has a coffered ceiling, with very beautiful gold leaf details. It also has altarpieces on the sides and an altar where the Virgin of Mercy stands out once again.

By entering the Church on the right hand side you will also see an image that is very worshipped and belongs to a religious character called Father Urraca. In this particular Church, the cross of Father Urraca is also worshipped.

This character was a Friar who came to Lima from Spain and stayed in Lima until his last days when he died, aged 74, in the City of Kings on the 7th August, 1657.

"In this place and under the earth lies the corpse of the servant of God, Friar Pedro Urraca of the Most Holy Trinity”. This is a phrase that can be found in the Church because the remains of Father Urraca are buried here and, as is tradition in Lima, someone who grants many miracles receives a daily visit from the people of Lima, mainly old women, who pray and place candles.

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The missing tower

Church of La Merced also has an entrance on the other side, on the street, Jirón Huancavelica. However, its main entrance is the one on the side of Jirón de la Unión. If you go to visit the church and it is closed, it is not the worst thing, because the facade is also worth seeing. You will also see that the Church of La Merced is missing a tower. As far as I know, there was a confrontation between the former presidents of Peru, which is why they got rid of the tower.

Sevillian tiles decorating the church

Another thing about the church that I want to share with you, is that you will notice that the skirting boards are covered with traditional Sevillian tiles. Most of the colonial churches of Lima have these tiles since they are part of the Spanish influence that influenced Lima during its colonial period. Visit it yourselves and take photos, which is allowed.

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In front of the church there is a department store called Oeschle which used to be the headquarters of a bank. Here you can buy things and get to know another part of Lima.

As we have seen, Lima is full of relics and secrets to share with everyone. I hope that you have liked learning about it and that you will visit it soon. We must take advantage of the fact that we have a historical centre with many good qualities where we must mix peacefully with the people of Lima.

How to get there and last recommendations:

To get to the Church of Merced of Lima, take the metropolitan and get off at the station "Jirón de la Unión”. From there you have to walk a little to find the Church on your right hand side, The church will leave you marvelling at its splendour and its art, both internally and externally. Visit the Church when it is open, if you have the opportunity, because its coffered ceiling is very impressive.

Thank you so much for reading this post. I hope you visit this church in Lima soon and that you continue to explore Lima - a city full of churches and wonders that will surprise you.

See you again in another post about the history of Lima. See you soon, Lima lovers!

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