The San Francisco Church is located near historical buildings in Lima's downtown Plaza de Armas.
The main draw to this 17th century church is the Catacombs for most people, but they save that for last on the tour and observe its stunning Baroque architecture.
First of all you will go through the church decorated with wood carvings, faience tiles, and ornate moldings; then the monastery to view a museum of religious art and finally their library where antique texts and parchments are exhibited. You will see huge choir songbooks oddly displayed on floor stands, a strange little choir section, lots of art and original paintings including a well known Flemish painting of "The Last Supper".
Then you will pass through the pretty courtyard full of plants, walkways and private nooks where monks use to spend quiet time before you will descend into the dimly lit Catacombs.
The bones of 25,000 people were buried here, yet the crypts weren't discovered until 1951. The first, who were buried in these crypts, were deceased church members who openly laid in dirt graves until their flesh decomposed. In 2 years, some church official would descend and throw dried skulls and bones into a deep pit to make room for new bodies. And later it became the dumping grounds for Lima's public. Several experts claim that the number of deceased here is actually closer to 70,000.
And the weird part of this underground tour to this morbid place is observing human bones arranged artistically, as some archeologist thought that the Catacombs would have more appeal that way. He decided to place skulls together in a center pile with same length arm bones radiating outward, and matching leg bones extending beyond the arms–like giant spiders. But actually not all the bones are arranged into designs. There are also piles of assorted bones in deep pits.
The Catacombs are open from 9:30am to 5:30pm, and cost $2 (US).