Historic Centre of Lima (1988, 1991)

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Although severely damaged by earthquakes, this 'City of the Kings' was, until the middle of the 18th century, the capital and most important city of the Spanish dominions in South America. Many of its buildings, such as the Convent of San Francisco (the largest of its type in this part of the world), are the result of collaboration between local craftspeople and others from the Old World. 

The former Convent Ensemble of San Francisco de Lima, which was previously inscribed on the World Heritage List, is included in the Historic Centre of Lima.

Peru. Lima. UNESCO (France) 1990. San Francisco Convent Church.

Peru 1996. Lima as World Heritage City.

St. Vincent of the Grenadines 1996. UNESCO anniversary. Historic City of Lima, Peru.

Lima was founded by Francisco Pizarro in January 1535 and named Ciudad de los Reyes (City of the Kings), for the Christian Feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the biblical account of the Three Kings’ visit to the Christ child. After Pizarro’s conquest of the great empire of the Inca, Lima became the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru, an administrative region covering most of Spain’s territory in South America. During nearly three centuries of colonial rule, most of Spain’s trade with South America was funneled through Callao. Lima boomed as the commercial, cultural, and governmental center of Spanish-ruled South America, growing wealthy from the vast gold and silver resources of the Andes. 
  • Peru 1896. Francisco Pizarro. 


Peru 1985. Commemorating the 450th anniversary of the foundation of Lima. Painting by Francisco Gamarra. Peru 1987. Idem (in 1985).

Peru 1985. San Francisco Convent Church.

Lima’s importance declined somewhat during the end of the colonial period. During the wars for Latin American independence, it was a stronghold of royalist forces who opposed separation from Spain. General José de San Martín, one of the leaders of the independence movement, took over the city in 1821, and five years later it became the capital of the independent nation of Peru. 

Peru 1930. Lima Cathedral.
  • Peru 1930. Lima Cathedral. 

  • Peru 1995. Lima Doorways.  

  • Peru 1998. Restoration of Lima Cathedral. 

Peru 1995. Lima Doorways.  Peru 1998. Restoration of Lima Cathedral.

Lima maintained its position of dominance nationally and as a major South American capital during the 19th century. From 1881 to 1883 it was occupied by Chilean troops during the War of the Pacific, which forced the Peruvian government to flee into the Andean highlands. 

Peru 2002. America Issue. Balcony of Palacio de Osambela. Peru 2002. America Issue. Balcony and windows of Palacio de Torre Tagle. Peru 1935. View of the Palace of Torre Tagle. Peru 1938. Air Post. View of the Palace of Torre Tagle.

Dramatic population growth since the 1950s has made Lima ten times larger than Peru’s next largest city. Large slums have grown up around the city and house nearly one-third of its population. During the 1980s and early 1990s the city experienced bombings, assassinations, and other attacks by the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). 

In December 1996, another revolutionary group, the Tupac Amarú Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), took over the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima during a holiday party, taking nearly 500 people hostage. During a four-month-long siege, the rebels demanded release of imprisoned members of the group and improved prison conditions, while releasing all but 72 hostages. The incident ended in April 1997 when Peruvian soldiers stormed the residence, killing all the MRTA members and freeing the hostages, although one hostage died. 

  • Peru 1980. Bicentenary of the Tupac Amaru Rebellion Movement. 

While Lima is still a major South American city, it has been eclipsed by Buenos Aires, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro, and its luster has been tarnished by uncontrolled growth, pollution, crime, and social disorder. 

Sources and links:

Other World Cultural Heritage Properties in Peru (on this web site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Peru-section. for more information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 03 aug 2006  
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