Government Palace

The Government Palace of Peru, also known as House of Pizarro, renoved in 1937, is located on the north side of the Plaza Mayor, Lima, "City of the Kings." It was the house of the Peruvian government headquarters and was built over a huge Indian burying ground Waka that had a shrine of Indian chief Taulichusco. It has been through many alterations. The current structure was built in the 20th century, designed by Peru's dictators in the style of grandiose French Baroque architecture.

The Government Palace was built by Francisco Pizarro, the governor of New Castile. When the viceroyalty of Peru was established, the palace became the viceroy's residence and therefore the Peruvian government's headquarters. The main architect of the palace was Ricardo de Jaxa Malachowski.

The palace is a stately government building with a set of ornamental guards. It is recognizable by the large wrought iron fence that surrounds the building and lines one side of the Main Square (Plaza Mayor). It was enlarged in Field-Marshal Oscar R. Benavides's governmental period.


The Government Palace of Peru lies on the Plaza Mayor of Lima, and Pizarro used it as head office of his legislation until his assassination in 1541.

The location of the Government Palace is of historical importance for two main reasons. It was house of Taulichusco, the ruler of the Rimac Valley during that time period. This was also the location where the General José de San Martín declared the Independence of Peru on 28 July 1821.

Pizarro laid down the building in 1535, a modest two-story pile of adobe. The old Pizarro's house was built following the Castile's line. It had two big yards for troops and stables.

The palace has a had a violent history. Pizarro had scarcely finished it in 1536, when the Indians revolted and Lima was enveloped by a vast army. The building was turned into a fortress and from its adobe walls Pizarro and his mistress (she was the sister of the Inca Atahualpa whom Pizarro had strangled) could look out of their window to see the bald peak of San Cristóbal (Saint Christopher) which frowns over the city, covered with shouting Indians. The siege lasted twelve days. Scarcely was this over when Pizarro and his palace were involved again – This time with Almagro the blinkard, the one-eyed warrior who as Pizarro's partner had made possible the conquest of Peru. They were enemies now. Eventually captured, after a bloody battle, old Almagro was put to death by Pizarro's brothers; but a son survived to keep alive the feud between them. Although repeatedly warned about the younger Almagro and the disbanded men of his army; gaunt, white-bearded Francisco Pizarro paid scant heed. He was at dinner on the Sunday afternoon of 26 June 1541 when a group of soldiers, called the Knights of the Cape, entered. Shouting “Death to the tyrant”, the killed his retainers and rushed into Pizarro's room, where the old warrior was fastening on his buckler. Although outnumbered ten to one, Pizarro killed two of them until, as William Prescott wrote, the rebel leader called out, “Why are we so long about it?... and taking one of his companions... he thrust him against Pizarro... who ran him through with his sword. But at the moment he received a wound in his throat, and, reeling, he sank to the floor, while the swords... were plunged in to his body”. “Confession”, exclaimed the dying Pizarro, when a stroke... put an end to his existence. Pizarro was rolled into a bloody shroud, taken in the still of night and buried in the Cathedral Church. There he lay unmarked until in 1977 he was fished out and put into the glass crypt in the Cathedral Church.

The Viceregal Period

After Pizarro's death, the Viceroys arrived, took over the building, converted it into a Viceregal Palace and Peru entered into its long viceregal period.

In this period it was enlarged from time to time and occupied by 43 Viceroys, beginning with Pizarro, and ending with José de la Serna, who was forced out in 1821.

The Republican Period

After viceroyship, it is the headquarters of all the Presidents of the Republic of Peru, until now.

Time passed and it was modified but its original disposition was honored. It was decorated and enriched with paintings, furniture, sculptures. It is only in the second half of the 19th century that it was decided to excel the Government Headquarters.

On December 1884, there was a fire in the government palace and a new building was to be built after the disaster in General Miguel Iglesias' governmental period.

In 1921, a fire turned to ashes a great deal of the building. The President of that time, ordered its reconstruction by modifying its facade, starting, in that way, the construction of the present government palace.

Construction of the palace started in 1926, during the presidency of Augusto B. Leguía. The first phase was designed by the French architect Claudio Sahut, although work on the palace stopped in 1932. The second phase was built between 1937 and 1938, during the presidency of Oscar R. Benavides, who assigned completion of the palace to Polish architect Ricardo de Jaxa Malachowski. Work began on 24 August 1937 with the demolition of the older structure. The project was completed the following year and the new Government Palace was officially inaugurated.


The main porch at Palacio Street shows the Pizarro's Coat-of-Arms and is in the style of neo-colonial (neo-plateresque) architectural design. It dates back to 1920s and was designed and constructed by Claudio Sahut, architect of French origin.

The facade facing onto the Main Square is in the style of neo-baroque architectural design of a French inspiration. It dates from 1938 and was designed and constructed by Ricardo de Jaxa Malachowski, architect of polish origin.

The Interior

The House of the Peruvian Government Headquarters has several ceremonial rooms. There is a well-kept garden in the same place that the Spanish conqueror wanted it to be. The legend affirms that a fig tree log reached Pizarro's hands and that he planted and took care of it. It grew and the same tree, challenging time, is still alive in the place.

Today, the palace features a number of courtyards, halls and rooms dedicated to notable figures of Peruvian history (V.G. the Presidential Office is named after "Colonel Francisco Bolognesi", the Agreements Room is named after "Admiral Miguel Grau", the Ministers Council Room is named after "Captain of the Peru's Air Force José A. Quiñones Gonzáles and the Ambassadors Room has recently been named after "Inspector of the Guards Mariano Santos Mateos") and at the moment are conserved magnificent living rooms, like the Golden Living Room that has rich pictorial collections. It also has an elegant area which is the official residence of the President of the Republic.

Jorge Basadre Room

Previously called Eléspuru and Choquehuanca Hall. Spanish-Styled, it dates back to 1920s and is decorated. Big arcs rest over marble columns. Four big windows lighten the hall. While visitors continue their tour, find a chaise escorted by an “Hussars of Junín” Regiment's dismounted trooper, there is another one. In these “Limousines” of the past, former Presidents took rides, showing the splendor in which they lived. In this hall there is a peculiar sculpture of the General José de San Martín, Peru's Liberator. His right hand shows that the artist knew an unknown phase of the Liberator. José de San Martín belonged to the Lodge of Freemasons.

Sevillan Room

It dates back to 1920s. It has glazed tiles made in Seville, Spain. Each set displays a shield from Peru, from Lima and from Pizarro.

Golden Hall

It dates back to 1920s. Perhaps the most impressive place in all the Government House is the Golden Hall. The huge living room with a vaulted ceiling is decorated with aboriginal and European motifs.

The walls of this room are decorated with mirrors. the furniture is in the Louis XIV's style; four bronze and crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling.

In is central part a jaspe marble banister, framed by two marble columns, two matching marble tables, an old clock over a central table, there is a little statue of Duke Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, the winner at the battle of St. Quentin in 1557, over the old clock, big mirrors contribute to make of it the most impressive spot of the room.

This room is the main living room for receptions. Its design is inspired on the Mirror Gallery of the Versailles Palace in Paris. It is here where Ministers take oath, and where Ambassadors deliver credentials to the President.

The Golden Hall honoring its name has golden leaf coverings all over the place, golden bronze in columns, and shining crystal chandeliers.

Pizarro Room

It dates back to 1920s. Today called Túpac Amaru II Room, the Pizarro Room, is a colonial-styled living room. There is a fireplace carved in wood over which hangs a big portrait of Túpac Amaru II, a Peruvian hero. Since 1972 this portrait replaces the portrait of Pizarro. The environment displays rich and interesting artistic works. There are four sculptures representing the four seasons of the year, by Mateu, artist of French origin.

Visitors can also appreciate a throne given by the Japanese emperor Akihito to Peru, and paintings. This room is used by the President to give messages to the nation, also where press conferences take place, work meetings are held and eventually used as dining room.

Peace Room

It was designed by Ricardo de Jaxa Malachowski. This room is the Main Dining Room of the Government Palace and is so called because was the location where Honduras and El Salvador signed a peace treaty on 30 October 1980 due to the mediation of the late president of Peru José Luís Bustamante y Rivero.

Banquets are served in the Main Dining Room, big room, in the east side between the honor hall and the Sayhuite Garden.

It has a colonial style, with a balcony on each side and where the entertaining orchestra is places, when needed. It has a beautiful crystal chandelier, made in quartz from Bohemia, hanging from the ceiling. This piece of huge size weighs around 2,000 kg. It is also remarkable the length of the table and carved chairs which have a leather back stamped with the Pizarro's shield in gold. The lining of the chairs has different colors for men and women. Paintings by Abraham Brughel and Gerónimo Cenatiempo decorate this unique place.

Admiral Miguel Grau Room

Previously called Agreements Room, there is a painting of the Admiral Miguel Grau, a Peru Navy's hero, the seaman also called “The Gentleman of the Seas”, because in command of a small turret-ram ironclad named after "Huáscar" –The lion of the south seas and Admiral's ship of Peru, he managed to keep the whole enemy navy at bay in the so called Pacific War (1879–1883).

A decorated chimney, made in dark wood and adorned with an maquete of the Monitor "Huáscar", is to be found to the right.

Ambassadors Room

This room is so called because is here where Ambassadors deliver credentials to the President. It is decorated, in wood and bronze, in the Louis XIV style and its furniture is in the Regency style.

On 31 December 2007, the Minister of the Home Office Luis Alva Castro proclaims this room will be named after Inspector of the Guards Mariano Santos Mateos, a Home Guard of Peru's national hero called The Brave of Tarapacá. On 27 November 1879 Mariano Santos Mateos, a Home Guard belonging to the "Guards of Arequipa" Battalion Nº 25, in a war action captured a Chilean army's flag belonging to "2nd. line infantry" battalion in the battle of Tarapacá during the Pacific war (1879–1883). The room shows two pictures, one portrait of Mariano Santos Mateos and one painting depicting the Peruvian victory in the Battle of Tarapacá.

Presidential Residence

It dates from 1938 and is located inside the government house; there lives the President and his family, before the main entrance, there is a two-level great hall ornamented with roman columns; the floor displays beautiful Indian motifs worked in marble. In the back, there is a staircase frame by two busts of Peru's South American Liberators: Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín, both sculpted by the Peruvian Luís Agurto.

Over the main entrance door there is a valuable painting of Francisco Pizarro, by Daniel Hernández, a Peruvian painter. This painting was on the Pizarro Room wall until 1972.

Guards of the Palace
The Viceregal Period

When the Viceroyship was established the Guards of the Viceregal Palace was the Royal Halberdier Corps, a Company of Infantry of the Viceroy's Guard.

When Lt. Antonio de Ulloa, of the King's navy, turned up in 1740 to Lima, he, as a soldier, admired the uniforms of the bodyguards of the Viceroy: “blue turned up with red and laced with silver”.

The Royal Halberdiers were the Viceroy's Guard for three hundred of Lima's years.

The Republican Period

In Augusto Bernardino Leguía Salcedo's second governmental period the 1st. Battalion of Infantry Gendarms was named after "Republican Guard of Peru" Battalion of Infantry Gendarms Nº 1 and the men of this Unit of the National Gendarmery of Peru were the Guards of the Palace from 7 August 1919 until 1940.

Since 1940 the responsibility of caring for the President and the facilities of the Palace of Government of Peru was taken over by the Palace's Detachment of machine guns of the Civil Guard, a name that held until January 1944 when was transformed in the 23rd. Command - machine guns that until 1969 was responsible for the custody of the Head of State.

Today the Government Palace is a stately government building with a set of ornamental guards for the amusement of tourists.

The Dragoon Guards of the “Field Marshal Nieto” Regiment of Cavalry, Life-Guard of the President of the Republic of Peru were the classic Guard of the Government Palace until 1987. This Regiment of Dragoons was created in 1904 following up a first French military mission's suggestion who undertook the Peruvian Army reorganization in 1896. The Dragoon Guards of the “Field Marshal Nieto” Regiment of Cavalry were to Perú what the British Royal Household Cavalry Brigade is to United Kingdom.

At 13.00 p.m. every day, the main esplanade in front of the building and fronting the Main Square served as the stage for the changing of the guard, directed by those gallant Dragoons of the Presidential Guard of mounted infantry.

In 1987 the Peruvian president Alan García did not like the regimental drill, patterned after the French fashion, of the "Field Marshal Domingo Nieto" Regiment of Cavalry, Life-Guard of the President of the Republic of Peru and ordered the 1st Light Cavalry, "Glorious Hussars of Junín" Regiment, Peru's Liberators, to be his life-guard and the Junín Hussars are his Horse Guards ever since. The Hussars were raised in 1821 by Jose de San Martin as part of the Peruvian Legion of the Guard, and fought at the final battles of the Latin American wars of independence in Junin and Ayacucho. Wearing uniforms similar to the Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers "General San Martin", but in red and blue, they carry sabres and lances on parade, both on the ground and while mounted on horses.

Other ceremonial guards units in the palace include:

  • Peruvian Legion of the Guard 1st Infantry Battalion (Peruvian Army)
  • Cpt. Juan Fanning Marine Company (Peruvian Navy)
  • 72nd Squadron-Airborne Wing (Peruvian Air Force)
  • Guards Inspector GC Mariano Santos Company (National Police of Peru)

The Fanning Marine Company of the Peruvian Navy has since 2007 become part of the Palace's ceremonial foot guards, alternating with the Junin Hussars and the Peruvian Legion of the Guard Foot.

  • Guides to Perú – Lima by Victor W. Von Hagen, Third Edition, 1960, pages 8,9 and 18.
  • Caminante Magazine of Ecology and Tourism Nº 12, 1995, Essay: Behind the Government Palace House's threshold by Juan Puelles, pages 13–14.

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