Plaza Mayor

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(Last Updated On: May 19, 2016)

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One of my favorite places in Lima is the Plaza Mayor (also known as the Plaza de Armas).

It is quiet here now, quiet different from the scene last night.

This is the historic core of Lima, the plaza designated by conquistador Francisco Pizarro. It was developed in 1535 to conform with Spanish dictates found in the Laws of the Indies, which proscribed an urban form in Colonial America of regular street patterns, harmonious groupings of major institutions around large central common areas, and provisions for orderly expansion.

In line with those precepts, the buildings along the plaza include the Archbishop’s Palace and the Basilica Cathedral (along the east side) . The Palace is a modern construction, having been built in 1924, while the colonial façade of the Basilica encloses a worship space that has been regularly rebuilt over the decades (usually following earthquakes).

The City Hall is located directly across the plaza.

The balcony on the City Hall displays a Christmas scene of the three kings bringing their gifts to the Christ child. This is a very Catholic country, but this is also the “City of Kings,” named for it’s founding during the celebration of Epiphany.

The Government Palace is here too, set back from the north side of the plaza.

Between these are a mix of beguiling ocher buildings, most with elaborate traditional balconies.

It makes for a beguiling and comfortable place.

(This is a terrible pan, but it gives you a sense of what you would see all around you if you were standing by the fountain.)

Well, except for the cows. They are part of a civic promotion. Most of them are not terribly interesting, but I do find the Cher cow rather amusing in this setting.

There has been a fountain here almost since the beginning, beginning in 1578. The current fountain dates to 1651, a consistent part of life in the heart of the city.

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1 thought on “Plaza Mayor”

  1. Urban form as provided in the Laws of the Indies (excerpt from Cyburbia Forum’s PlanningWiki at http://planningwiki.cyburbia.org/Laws_of_the_Indies )

    110. . . . a plan for the site is to be made, dividing it into squares, streets, and building lots, using cord and ruler, beginning with the main square from which streets are to run to the gates and principal roads and leaving sufficient open space so that even if the town grows, it can always spread in the same manner. Having thus agreed upon the site and place selected to be populated, a layout should be made in the following way:

    . . . .

    112. The main plaza is to be the starting point for the town; if the town is situated on the sea coast, it should be placed at the landing place of the port, but inland it should be at the center of the town. The plaza should be square or rectangular, in which case it should have at least one and a half its width for length inasmuch as this shape is best for fiestas in which horses are used and for any other fiestas that should be held.

    113. The size of the plaza shall be proportioned to the number of inhabitants. . . and thus the plaza should be decided upon taking into consideration the growth the town may experience. [It] shall be not less that two hundred feet wide and three hundred feet long, nor larger than eight hundred feet long and five hundred and thirty feet wide. A good proportion is six hundred feet long and four hundred wide.

    114. From the plaza shall begin four principal street: One from the middle of each side, and two streets from each corner of the plaza; the four corners of the plaza shall face the four principal winds, because in this manner, the streets running from the plaza will not be exposed to the four principal winds, which would cause much inconvenience.

    115. Around the plaza as well as along the four principal streets which begin there, there shall be portals, for these are of considerable convenience to the merchants who generally gather there; the eight streets running from the plaza at the four corners shall open on the plaza without encountering these porticoes, which shall be kept back in order that there may be sidewalks even with the streets and plaza.

    116. In cold places, the streets shall be wide and in hot places narrow; but for purposes of defense in areas where there are horses, it would be better if they are wide.

    117. The streets shall run from the main plaza in such manner that even if the town increases considerably in size, it shall not result in some inconvenience that will make ugly what needed to be rebuilt, or endanger its defense or comfort.

    118. Here and there in the town, smaller plazas of good proportion shall be laid out, where the temples associated with the principal church, the parish churches, and the monasteries can be built, such that everything may be distributed in a good proportion for the instruction of religion.

    119. For the temple of the principal church, parish, or monastery, there shall be assigned specific lots; the first after the streets and plazas have been laid out, and these shall be a complete block so as to avoid having other buildings nearby, unless it were for practical or ornamental reasons.

    120. The temple of the cathedral where the town is situated on the coast shall be built in part so that it may be seen on going out to sea and in a place where its buildings may serve as a means of defense for the port itself.

    121. Next, a site and lot shall be assigned for the royal council and cabildo house and for the custom house and arsenal, near the temple, located in such a manner that in times of need the one may aid the other; the hospital for the poor and those sick of noncontagious diseases shall be built near the temple and its cloister; and the hospital for the sick with contagious diseases shall be built in such a way that no harmful wind blowing through it may cause harm to the rest of the town. If the latter be built in an elevated place, so much the better.

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