Lima Religion – Saints and Sinners

Rimac – one of Lima’s oldest neighborhoods, named after the river that flows along its edge. A working-class barrio, where women in doorways chat with their neighbors while children play soccer in the streets, it once was the city’s top spot for promenading.

Then the stars where the tapadas – seductive women whose skirts shamelessly showed their tiny feet, whose necklines where scandalously low and whose heads and shoulders where covered by a veil that bared only one eye. In the afternoons, they were most likely to be found on the Alameda delos Descalzos, courting and flirting but never lifting their Moorish-style veils to reveal their identities. This promenade, built in 1611, is lined with Italian marble statues representing the months of the year and bordered by lawns and flowers. It leads to the Convento de los Descalzos, or Monastery of the Shoeless, whose friars wore only sandals on their feet.

Lima was home to two of South America’s most famous saints – Rosa de Lima and Mardin dePorres. Rosa, who died of tuberculosis at age 31, had a fervent following during her short lifetime and was credited with curing thousands, performing innumerable miracles and even saving the city from pirate attacks.

For Martin de Porres, fame came after his death. He lived in the Santo Domingo, monastery in Jiron Camama, but was barred from becoming a priest because he was black. His duties in the monastery included working as the janitor, and statues and paintings of the saint usually show him with a broom in hand. Both saints are buried in Santo Domingo, which is open to visitors.

Lima’s religious devotion may have been proportional to the terror inflicted by the Holy Inquisition. Chills will run up your spine when you descent into the depths of the Museo de la Inquisicion in Plaza Bolivar. Gruesome tortures where inflicted to obtain “confessions” of heresy, Judaism and witchcraft. The “guilty” had their property confiscated and were marched off to the Plaza de Armas (now Plaza Mayor) to await their fate, which ranged from public flogging to burning at the stake.

Virgin Australia