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A republic on the west coast of South America, founded in 1821 after the war of independence, having been a Spanish colony. It is difficult to ascertain the true origin of the work "Peru", as the opinions advanced thereon are vague, numerous, and conflicting. Almost all, however, derive it from the terms "Beru", "Pelu", and "Biru", which were, respectively, the names of an Indian tribe, a river and a region. Prescott asserts that "Peru" was unknown to the Indians, and that the name was given by the Spaniards.

Peru's territory lies between 1°29' North and 19°12'30" South latitude, and 61°54'45" and 81°18'39" West longitude. Bounded by Ecuador on the north, Brazil and Bolivia on the east, Chile on the south, and the Pacific Ocean on the west, its area extends over 679,000 square miles. The Andean range runs through Peru from southeast to northwest, describing a curve parallel to the coast.


However true the fact may be that gold was the object uppermost in the minds of the Spanish conquerors of the New World, it is a matter of history that in that conquest, from the northernmost confines of Mexico to the extreme south of Chile, religion always played a most important part, and the triumphant march of Castile's banner was also the glorious advance of the sign of the Saviour. That religion was the key-note of the American Crusades is evident from the history of their origin; the sanction given them by the Supreme Pontiff ; the throng of self-devoted missionaries who followed in the wake of the conquerors to save the souls of the conquered ones; the reiterated instructions of the Crown, the great purpose of which was the conversion of the natives; and from the acts of the soldiers themselves (Prescott, "Conquest of Peru", II, iii) The first news of the existence of the great Empire of the Incas reached the Spaniards in the year 1511, when Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, the discoverer of the Pacific Ocean, was engaged in an expedition against some Indian tribes in the interior of Darien. Perhaps the glory of conquering Peru would have fallen upon Balboa had not the jealousy of his chief, Pedro Arias de Avila, Governor of Panama, cut short his brilliant career. The second attempt to reach the coveted domain of the Incas was made in 1522, when Pascual de Andagoya started south from Panama, but he was compelled by ill health to return. Francisco Pizarro, after two unsuscessful expeditions (1524-25 and 1526-27) and a trip to Spain for the purpose of interesting Charles V in the undertaking, finally started the actual work of invading Peru, sailing from Panama in January, 1531. (See PIZARRO, FRANCISCO.)

When the persistent commander finally reached the country in 1532, the vast Inca empire is said to have extended over more than one-half of the entire South American continent. He found a people highly civilized, with excellent social and political institutions who had developed agriculture to a remarkable degree through a splendid system of irrigation. They worshiped the sun as embodying their idea of a supreme being who ruled the universe. This worship was attended by an elaborate system of priestcraft, ritual, animal sacrifices, and other solemnities. After the conquest had been consummated (1534), Father Vincente Valverde, one of the five Dominicans who had accompanied the conqueror from Spain, was nominated Bishop of Cuzco and soon afterwards confirmed by Paul III, his jurisdiction extending over the whole territory of the newly-conquered domain. He was assassinated by the Indians of Puna, off Guiyaquil, in 1541 when returning to Spain. Upon taking Cuzco, the capital of the empire, Pizarro provided a municipal government for the city, and encouraged its settlement by liberal grants of lands and houses. On 5 Sept., 1538, Bishop Valverde laid the foundations of the cathedral, and later a Dominican monastery was erected on the site of the Incaic temple of the sun, a nunnery was established, and several churches and monasteries built. The Dominicans, the Brothers of Mercy, and other missionaries actively engaged in propagating the Faith among the natives. Besides the priests that Pizarro was required to take in his own vessels, the succeeding ships brought additional numbers of missionaries, who devoted themselves earnestly and disinterrestedly to the task of spreading the religion of Christ among the Indians. Their conduct towards them was in marked contrast to that of the conquerers, whose thirst for gold was never satiated, and who having ransacked the villages and stripped the temples of their gold and silver ornaments, had enslaved the Indians, forcing them to work in the mines for their benefit.

At the outset and for several years thereafer the missionaries had to labour under almost unsurmountable obstacles, such as the uprising of the Inca Manco (a brother of Atahualpa, whom Pizarro had placed on the vacant throne) and the first civil wars among the conquerors themselves. These culminated in the execution of Diego de Almagro (1538) by order of Pizarro, and the assassination of the latter by the former's son, and were followed by other no less bloody conflicts between Cristobal Vaca de Castro (the newly appointed governor) and Almagro's son (1543), and Gonzalo Pizarro, and Blasco Nunez de Vela, the first viceroy (1544-45). The news of this, the most formidable rebellion that had so far been recorded in the history of Spain, caused a great sensation at the Court. Father Pedro de la Gasca was selected for the delicate task of pacifying the colony. Provided with unbounded powers, Gasca reached Peru in July, 1546, and scarcely three years had elapsed when he accomplished the great object of his mission. Having restored peace, his next step was to ameliorate the condition of oppressed natives, in doing which he went farther than was agreeable to the wishes of the colonists. Other reforms were introduced by the far-seeing priest, thus placing the administration upon a sound basis and facilitating a more stable and orderly government by his successors. Upon his return to Spain he was raised to the Bishopric of Palencia, which diocese he administered until 1561, when he was promoted to the vacant See of Sigüenza. He died in 1567 at the age of seventy-one. Unfortunately, the disturbances of the country were renewed on the departure of Gasca. The most serious uprising was that of Francisco Fernandez Girón (1550-54) during the regime of the second viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza. Girón's execution (Dec. 1554) put an end to the last of the civil wars among the conquerors; and through the conciliatory and energetic measures of Andres Hurtado de Mendoza, the third viceroy, the county was at last pacified, and the authority of Spain firmly established.

The Dominicans were the first ministers of the Gospel to come to Peru, and did splendid and efficient work in Christianizing the natives. They built many churches, monasteries, convents, and colleges, and acquired considerable prominence in ecclesiastical matters during the seventeenth century. Saint Rose of Lima (1586-1617), the patron of the Peruvian capital, was educated in one of their nunneries, and lived there until her death. The Franciscan fathers were also among the pioneer missionaries of Peru, and were prominent for their unceasing labours in the remotest wilds of South America. One of them, Saint Francis Solanus, made a journey from Peru to the Paraguayan Chaco, preaching to the tribes in their own dialects (1588-89). The Franciscan churches and buildings are among the handsomest in the country. Likewise, the good work of the Order of Saint Augustine stands high in the annals of Peruvian church history. Of the several temples and convents erected by the order during the viceroyalty, the church of Our Lady of Mercy is one of the most attractive in Lima. In 1567, at the earnest request of Philip II , St. Francis Borgia, then General of the Society of Jesus, sent the first Jesuits to Peru under Father Geronimo Ruiz Portillo, who with his six companions arrived at Callao on 28 March, 1568, and entered Lima on 1 April. As in Paraguay and other parts of South America, the work of the Jesuits in Peru was most effective in propagating the faith among the Indians as well as educating them. After establishing a convent, a seminary, and a church in Lima, they built temples and schools in almost all the towns. At Juli, on the shores of Titicaca Lake, they founded a training school for missionaries (1577), where the novices were taught the native dialects. At that time the first printing press in South America was introduced by the order. Among their number were several of the most famous educators, historians, scientists, geographers, naturalists, and literary men of the period. Their educational institutions soon became renowned, not only in the American colonies, but also in Spain and Europe. The great and redeeming work of the Jesuits was flourishing when the decree of Charles III of 1769, ordering their expulsion from the Spanish domains, reached Peru and was executed by the Viceroy Manuel de Amat.

The Dominican Geronimo de Loayza, first Bishop of Lima (1546-1575) was succeeded by Saint Toribio de Mogrovejo (1538-1606). Nominated to the See of Lima in 1578, he entered that capital on 24 May, 1581. He learned the Quichua language thoroughly in order to find out for himself the real condition and actual wants of the Indians, whose interests he protected and promoted with the greatest zeal and care. Such was his activity that within comparatively few years he held fourteen synods and three councils, through which many beneficial reforms were instituted; and personally visited twice the whole territory under his jurisdiction, comprising at that time the greater portion of the South American continent. These tours of inspection he made on foot and accompanied only by two of his secretaries. He had scarcely started on his third journey when death surprised him on 23 March, 1606. Among other works which stand as a lasting monument to his memory are the Seminary of Saint Toribio and the Convent of Santa Clara in Lima. The Holy Office was established in Peru in 1570, during the regime of the viceroy Francisco de Toledo, the tribunal of the Inquisition sitting at Lima and extending its jurisdiction over the Captaincy-General of Chile, the Presidency of Quito, the Viceroyalty of Buenos Ayres, and part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. It was abolished on 23 Sept. 1813, when the Viceroy Abascal enforced the order to that effect, enacted by the Cortes of Cadiz on 22 Feb. of the same year. But shortly after Ferdinand VII was restored to the throne of Spain, the inquisition was re-established in Peru (16 January, 1815) and operated until its definite abolition in 1820, when the struggle for freedom had assumed full sway. By an express provision, the jurisdiction of the Holy Office never comprised the Indians, who continued under the authority of the bishops and the ordinary courts.

For nearly three centuries, Peru was ruled by thirty-eight viceroys, or, in their stead, the government was temporarily exercised by the Audiencia Real of Lima, founded in 1544. As the representative of the King of Spain the viceroy was vested with almost absolute powers, and besides his executive functions he discharged those of Vice-Patron of the Church, President of the Audiencia, captain-general of the army, and Superintendent of the Royal Exchequer. The movement for emancipation in Peru began early in the nineteenth century, but the first attempts were repressed with considerable severity, and it was not until 28 July, 1821, that independence was declared. The defeat of the royalists at the battle of Ayacucho (9 Dec., 1824) put an end to the Spanish rule. Under the independent government, the executive assumed the same rights of patronage vested in the viceroy, and the five different constitutions adopted since the establishment of the republic recognized the Roman Catholic religion as the official church of the country with exclusion of any other.


The last census of Peru was taken in 1876, hence the present population of the republic is known only approximately. According to the enumeration of that year, the number of inhabitants was 2,676,000. Recent estimates have, however been made (1906) that show the population to have increased to 3,547,829. Of this total fifty per cent. Is formed by Indians; fifteen per cent. By whites, mostly the descendants of Spaniards ; three percent by negroes ; one per cent. By Chinese and Japanese ; and the remaining thirty-one per cent. By the offspring of intermarriage between the different races. According to the "Annuario Ecclesiastico" of Rome (1909), the Catholic population of Peru is 3,133,830, distributed as follows among the various dioceses : Lima, 606,900; Arequipa, 270,460; Ayacucho, 200,610; Chachapoyas, or Maynas, 95,370; Cuzco, 480,680; Huánuco, 288,100; Huaraz, 350,000; Puno, 260,810; Trujillo, 580,900.


The ecclesiastical Province of Peru comprises: one archdiocese, Lima, erected in 1534 and raised to metropolitan rank in 1546; nine suffragan dioceses, enumerated in order of seniority: Cuzco, 1536; Arequipa, 1609; Ayacucho, formerly Huamanga, 1615; Trujillo, 1616; Chachapoyas or Maynas, 1843; Huánuco 1865; Puno, 1865; Huaraz, 1900; and three prefectures Apostolic : San Leon de Amazonas, 1900; San Francisco del Ucayali, 1900; and Santo Domingo del Urubamba, 1900. The cathedral and episcopal residences are situated in the capital city of Lima. There are 66 parish churches in the Archdiocese of Lima, 85 in Cuzco, 71 in Arequipa, 102 in Trujillo, 87 in Ayacucho, 44 in Chachapoyas, 58 in Huánuco, 52 in Puno, and 48 in Huaraz. The number of additional churches and public chapels is perhaps about three times this number, as each parish has three or four churches besides the parish church. Then number of secular priests corresponds to the number of parishes, approximately one-fourth of the entire number, when the number of assistant parish priests, chaplains, and priests without regular appointments are taken into consideration. The religious orders, both male and female, are well represented. In the Archdiocese of Lima the Franciscans have three convents, and the Lazarists, Redemptorists, Fathers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary , Jesuits, Mercedarians, Augustinians, and Fathers of St. Camillus one each. Among the women, the Tertiaries of St. Francis have five convents ; the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny four; the Dominicans, Carmelites, Conceptionists, Salesians, Religious of the Sacred Heart, and the SacredHearts of Jesus and Mary two each; the Poor Clares, Bernardines, Capuchinesses, and Augustinians one each.

In the various dioceses many religious houses are to be found. Cuzco : Franciscans two, Dominicans, Mercedarians, Poor Clares, Carmelites, Dominican nuns, Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary one each; Trujillo : Franciscans two, Lazarists, Conceptionists, Carmelites, Poor Clares, Tertiaries of St. Dominic one each; Ayacucho : Redemptorists Franciscans, Tertiaries of St. Francis (women), Conceptionists one each; Huánuco : Franciscans, Sisters of Our Lady of Lourdes, Tertiaries of St. Francis (women) one each. The Dioceses of Chachapoyas and Puno have no religious houses. The three prefectures Apostolic in the north, centre, and south of the republic, are under the care of the Augustinians, Franciscans, and Dominicans, who work principally for the conversion of the infidel native tribes. The Government allows a small subsidy for the maintenance of these missions, but their greatest source of income is derived from the "Propagación de la Fe en el Oriente del Per&uuacute;". This pious association has spread over the whole republic and collects the contributions of the faithful, which are, relatively speaking, very abundant. Each diocese has its own diocesan seminary for the education of its priests. Franciscans are in charge of the seminaries of the dioceses of Cuzco and Ayacucho, the Lazarists of those of Trujillo and Arequipa, the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, of that of Huaraz and the rest are under the care of the seculars. The Government does not claim supervision over the seminaries, which are under the control of the respective bishops.


There are some thirty hospitals in Peru administered by various charitable societies, one old people's home, one orphan asylum, and several congregations especially dedicated to charitable works, besides a great number of private associations devoted to the work of gratuitous teaching, visiting the sick poor in their homes, legalizing illicit unions, etc.



The constitution, promulgated on 10 Dec., 1860, expressly provides that the nation profess the Roman Catholic religion; that the State protect it and does not permit the public exercise of any other (Art. 4). There is, however, no interference in personal religious beliefs, and there are Protestant churches in the republic. Under the Organic Law of 17 Sept., 1857 (Arts. 49-54), the prefects of departments are given certain supervisory powers over ecclesiastical affairs connected with the national patronage. Article 94 of the Constitution, on the duties of the president of the republic, establishes that the chief magistrate shall: exercise the ecclesiastical patronage according to law ; nominate for archbishops and bishops, with the approval of Congress, those who have been chosen according to law ; nominate church dignitaries, canons, curates, and incumbents of ecclesiastical benefices ; conclude concordats with the Apostolic See, according to instructions given by Congress; grant or refuse, with the assent of Congress, passage to decrees of councils, or pontifical Bulls, Briefs, and Rescripts ; but in case that these affect matters in litigation, the supreme court of justice of the republic must be previously heard.

Article 1358 of the Civil Code in force, under which the Church and religious orders were prohibited from disposing of their property without the consent of the Government, was repealed, 30 September, 1901. Hence the Church in Peru, as a juridical entity, can acquire and possess property of all kinds, as well as contract obligations and exercise civil or criminal action, according to the statutes of the country, the concordat, and the ecclesiastic canons and discipline. Temples and all places of worship are exempt from taxation, but other church property yielding a revenue of $100 or more is subject to the ecclesiastical tax according to the Regulation of 20 December, 1886. Arts. 83 to 94 of the Civil Code refer to clergymen and religious, containing a definition of who are such; the qualifications necessary for the profession; their exemption from public services; the recovery of civil rights by religious upon their secularization, etc. The religious orders are governed by the Regulations for Regulars ( Reglamento de Regulares ), approved by Resolution of 12 Jan., 1872. Although the modern law obliges all citizens to military duty, there has never been a case where it has been applied to priests or seminarists. No special exemption is granted to clerics in regard to trials; they are tried in the public courts, civil or criminal, as the case may be. There is no law enforcing the observance of holy days, although in the capital a particular ordinance exists which requires that stores be closed on Sundays and Holy Days. Processions and other public acts of worship may be held without interference from the Government. The administration of the different branches of the Church in Peru, in so far as the national patronage is concerned, is entrusted to the Minister of Justice, Worship, and Public Instruction. The fiscal budget assigns the sum of $100,000 for the maintenance of the Church, including the salaries of prelates, rectors, etc.


The procedure that obtains in Peru is similar to that in force in Spain, being based upon the Roman law. According to the Civil Code, wills may be either open or closed. An open will ( testamento abierto ) may be executed in a public instrument, i.e. before a notary public, in a private document, or verbally (Arts. 651-656). There are, besides, special forms of wills, such as the military, the maritime, and others, in which on account of the unusual circumstances attending upon each particular case, the ordinary formalities of law are dispensed with, and others of a less restrictive nature prescribed instead. (Arts. 674-681). A closed will ( testamento cerrado ) must be duly sealed by the testator himself. A foreigner owning property in Peru must testate according to the provisions of the Civil Code (Art. 692); and if he have an estate abroad he may dispose of it by will executed in accordance with the laws of the country wherein such estate may be located, or with those of his native land (Art. 693), provided he have no rightful heir or heirs in Peru (Art. 695). The substantive law governing wills and testaments, succession, etc. is contained in Arts. 651 to 954 of the Civil Code.

Cemeteries are under the authority of charitable associations and the parish priests. Under the Resolutions of 20 November, 1868 and 19 January, 1869, the Municipal Councils of the republic are instructed to establish and maintain laic cemeteries for the burial of persons not belonging to the Catholic Church.

Marriage and Divorce

The Peruvian Civil Code expressly prescribes that marriages in the republic must be performed with the formalities established by the Council of Trent ; but in order to enable non-Catholics to marry in the country a law was enacted on 23 Dec., 1897, empowering the Alcaldes (mayors) of the Provincial Councils to solemnize marriages. Divorce in Peru, as established by Arts. 191 seq. Of the Civil Code is not absolute, i.e., does not terminate the bond of union. Marriage can only be nullified through the regular ecclesiastical procedure, if by reason of canonical disabilities, or through the ordinary courts of justice, if on account of civil impediments. Sec. III of the Civil Code (Arts. 120-217) is devoted to the subject of matrimony, including divorce.


Education in Peru is a national institution under the Department of Justice, Public Instruction, and Worship, but is also given by private establishments, of which there are several maintained by religious orders. It is divided into primary, secondary, and academic. Primary instruction was, until 1905, when the new public education law went into effect, in the hands of the municipalities, but in view of their limited resources the national Government found it necessary to take charge of it. It is free and compulsory and is given in about 2500 public schools, with 3105 teachers, and an attendance of 162,298 pupils (1909). Secondary education is furnished by thirty government colleges and several private institutions. Academic instruction is afforded by the universities of the republic. Foremost among them is the University of St. Mark, founded at Lima in 1574, which has faculties of theology, law, medicine, letters, sciences, and political economy. There are also the Universities of Saint Thomas of Cuzco, Saint Thomas of Trujillo, and Saint Augustine of Arequipa. Normal, agricultural, and manual training schools are largely attended.

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