Antonio de Ulloa and Jorge Juan y Santacilia were two officers in the Spanish navy. In 1735, they joined French scientists on an expedition to South America, sponsored by the Spanish Crown. Their trip lasted 11 years and took them to Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. Their account of Latin America, written principally by Ulloa, was widely read throughout Europe. This excerpt is part of the section in which Ulloa describes the many churches of Lima.

Today, many of these same churches remain, but they lack the full panoply of their interior furnishings. This account gives a sense of their earlier wealth and visual glory. Written in an age when tourism was unheard of, Ulloa's book gave Europeans a taste of Spanish American culture. No doubt that Protestant readers of the book (here, the 1807 English translation is reproduced) would have been amazed (and perhaps even repelled) by the material splendor of Lima's churches.
Visual Culture
Lima was the seat of the government of the Viceroyalty of Perú and a commercial hub that linked the Andes to a Pacific port. The interior decoration of churches—which as Ulloa's excerpt makes clear, was a costly affair—displayed local piety and prosperity. Through direct patronage and through gifts that cofradías and residents would commission for its benefit, the Church supported the local artisan economy. And this excerpt, with its references to 'plate' as well as candlesticks, chalices, tapestries and priestly vestments, makes clear the luxury of handmade goods inside churches.

Surprisingly, while Ulloa does mention exterior sculpture, he makes only glancing mention of the statues that would have been found within the churches around Lima, the principal one representing the saint or holy figure to whom the church was dedicated. These statues, the product of trained sculptors, were highly decorated and would have been removed on feast days, placed on decorated platforms, called andas, and paraded around the city streets. Perhaps since statues would also have been a feature of Spanish churches, and thus familiar to the intended audience of this work, Ulloa felt no need to include discussion of them.

See a silver missal stand from Peru in the Vistas Gallery.

Library > 16th Century    > 17th Century    > 18th Century