Miraflores is the wealthy section of Lima. It has the finest shops, restaurants, coffee shops, and night clubs. Seven blocks from this section of town you enter another world – an area with much less and nothing fancy. Across from the hostel in which I was staying there was a beautiful city park which had no trash. Unfortunately, I was still in no physical condition for a lot of walking. I was still running a fever which did not break until late morning. My stomach felt as if it had been kicked by a horse. At this point, just walking around the hostel was painful so I just laid low and rested for two days.
Finally, on the third day that I was in Lima, I started to feel well enough to venture out into the downtown area. I had three must-see items on my list:
1. The Presidential Palace and the Changing of the Guard
2. The National Cathedral
3. The Church of San Francisco and its catacombs.
My first stop was the National Cathedral. Construction of the cathedral started on the same day that Pizarro founded the city of Lima in 1535. Pizarro’s tomb is located inside the cathedral. The tomb is very large and beautiful. There are catacombs beneath the cathedral and priests, bishops, and archbishops are buried there. Space is limited and once the tombs are filled up, the remains of those individuals who were buried early are removed and placed in the general collection room.
My second stop was the San Francisco Convent – the oldest in Lima. The catacombs were interesting at the Church of San Francisco as well. Up until 1810 the belief used to be that the path to heaven was through the church; therefore, individuals were to be buried underneath the church. Being buried in a graveyard would not quite get you into heaven; therefore, when space became an issue, they placed bodies on top of other bodies. After no more room could be found for more burials, bones were collected and placed in a common room. A well-type hole was dug approximately 30 feet deep and 20 feet in diameter. Bones were placed in a circular pattern until the hole was full. Rome finally gave permission to allow the burial of persons outside of the church walls without jeopardizing entry into heaven.