on June 30, 2009
The Iglesia de la Merced, built where the first Mass in Lima was celebrated, has a history of destruction and reconstruction. Originally built in 1534, La Merced was determined to be too small and a larger version was erected. It was then torn down and rebuilt in 1628. In 1687 the church was destroyed by an earthquake and again rebuilt. It was later damaged in the big quake of 1746 and gutted by a fire in 1773.The Church of La Merced which stands today was completed in the late 1700s and has an ornate baroque colonial façade. In particular, you should note the ornate columns, which are wrapped with carved grapevines. Because it is situated in the centre of the commercial area, it is one of the most well-known churches in Lima. If you are walking the pedestrian street, you must go inside. Followers of Padre Urraca can be seen each day as they come to La Merced to honor this 17th Century priest.The church has a portal which is a masterpiece carved in granite brought from Panama, with bent columns of Baroque style. The roof of the church is elegantly decorated with figures made of plaster. In the interior of the church is an ornate main altar in the neoclassical style which is dominated by the figures of the Virgin of Merced and a carving of Saint Michael the Archangel. Another highlight is the chapel of Friar Pedro Urraca that contains a roughly carved wooden cross which, according to legend, he used to escape from a demon.This church is an excellent example of the splendour of Spanish colonial architecture. The church is filled with works of art, such as the main altar dedicated to the Virgen de las Mercedes, patron saint of the Peruvian armed forces, and a beautiful sacristy decorated with Arabesque tiles. La Merced houses one of the finest collections of colonial oil paintings and carvings in Lima. I recommend it to everyone.
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