La Merced Church

Iglesia de la Merced (La Merced Church)

 

Calle Mantas 121, one block from the Plaza de Armas. Entrance fee S/.10 Open 8am-noon & 2-5pm Mon-Sat. The cloister is open 8-11am.

 

La Merced was originally built in 1534 by the religious Order of Mercedarians. On 01 August 1218 the Blessed Virgin appeared to the French Saint Peter Nolasco. She desired the establishment of the Mercedarian religious order (derives from the Spanish word for mercy - merced) Its members would seek to free Christian captives and offer themselves, if necessary, as an exchange. The complete name of this order is The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Ransom of Captives. The Order was founded in 1235 and later approved by Pope Gregory IX under the name of Our Lady of Mercy. A feast day was instituted and observed on September 24th. The church was almost completely destroyed in the 1650 earthquake and rebuilt by indigenous stonemasons in the late 17th century. Inside the church are buried the conquistadors Gonzalo Pizarro, half-brother of Francisco, the two Almagros, father and son. Their tombs were discovered in 1946.

 

La Merced rivals the cathedral in riches and has particularly beautiful cloisters (innner courtyards). On the far side of the first cloister is a small museum of religious art where you can find an excellent collection of oil paintings among them a painting of the Holy Family attributed to Rubens. There are also several intriguing and somewhat bizarre examples amongst the collection, one of the Virgin Mary inviting Saint Peter Nolasco and baby Jesus to share her milk (painted by the indigenous painter Ignacio Chacon), another painting showing a decapitated San Laureano, spouting blood, holding his own head being helped by two lovely archangels.

 

Kept securely behind thick steel bars (and only just visible) is the priceless solid gold monstance (a vessel used to hold the communion Host).  It is 1.2m high, weighs 22kg and is encrusted with diamonds and other precious stones. Two huge pearls are used to form the body of a mermaid.

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