The Convento de San Francisco is one of the most important and most visited monasteries and churches in Lima. It was built in 1557 and rebuilt in 1672 after an earthquake. It was finally completed in 1774.
A visit to the historic part of the monastery costs S/7 and is one of the highlights of a visit to Lima. The monastery is still in use to this day but the monks now live in a newer section. A guided tour in Spanish or English will take you through the magnificent library where everything is carved in Nicaraguan cedar, the dining room, dressing room, and more. The library contains over 25,000 volumes including a 1571 Holy Bible printed in Antwerp and a copy of the first Spanish dictionary. A walk through the courtyard and cloisters reveals beautiful tile work and frescoes painted above.
The catacombs underneath the church are the most popular part of the tour. They were in use until 1808, when a cemetery was founded outside the city limits, and rediscovered in 1943. It’s estimated that over 25,000 people have been buried in the catacombs and there are hidden passageways that have yet to be discovered. Bones have been arranged by archaeologists in different patterns. Photography is forbidden but I was allowed to take photos on my first visit in 2009.