Friday, December 19, 2008


I met a lovely British girl named Sally last night, and this morning we met up to explore the catacombs under the Iglesia de San Francisco, a monastry formed 500 years ago following the Order of St Francis of Assisi. We had a lovely tour guide named Jose, who showed us around the cathedral and cloister. The library was incredible - the first thing to catch your eye is an absolutely massive book, which was designed for the choir to read from quite a distance, the pages were made of leather. It looked like a smaller version of the library in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where they find the entrance to the tombs...circular staircases and everything, but only 25,000 books.

We were then led underground to the catacombs, where 20,000 people had been buried over 300 years. When it became too full, they stopped using it, destroyed most of the coffins and then later arranged all the bones into different bins and formations. There are mostly femurs and skulls left, as these bones are the toughest and take the longest to decompose.

The ceilings were very low, and winding tunnels, stairways leading off in different direction all contributed to a creepy atmosphere, which escalated when the mass going on in the cathedral above suddenly broke into a hymn.

We'd noticed a lot of police, and "SUAT" personnel (that's the Peruvian equivalent of SWAT, but the acronym is Servicio de Urgencia, Asistencia y Traslado rather than Special Weapons and Tactics) hanging around everywhere.

We'd asked Jose if there was anything in particular happening today that had brought them all out, but he merely said, "no, it's just because Lima is a very dangerous city." Dangerous enough to have APVs sitting on street corners in the main plaza???

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