Architecture / History / Peru / Travel

Lima’s Luscious Balconies: A Tale of Jealousy

Archbishop Palace Lima Balcony

Paris has the Eiffel Tower and London has Big Ben. When you stroll the historic streets of Lima, Peru you realize the City of Kings has its Balconies.

As the city expanded during the Spanish Colonial rule of the 17th and 18th centuries, so did the distinctive Spanish architecture with its striking Moorish influences. One of the stand-out features of public and private buildings was the addition of balconies … but not just any balcony. They were “Jealousy Balconies.”

These astounding feats of workmanship, with their intricate geometric carvings, were designed so the ladies of the house could look out on the streets of Lima without being seen. Women were enclosed behind these elegant partitions so that no passerby could gaze upon their beauty; consequently the men of the house had no need for jealousy.

In the minds of many, the balconies became the symbols of seduction, whether with the city … or its citizens.

Torre Tagle Palace Balconies

One of the most striking of these “Jealousy Balconies” is on the front of the Archbishop’s Palace. As to why the Archbishop needed a jealousy balcony … hmmm. I can only surmise.

Over the centuries, many balconies fell victim to neglect and fire. In the 1950s, significant structures were toppled by the wrecking ball to make way for modern architecture.

Balcony-Conde de Superunda Street in Lima.

Luckily, clearer heads prevailed as the 20th century wound down. City planners, architects, and citizens realized the importance of the iconic balconies that made the historic center of Lima so distinctive.

Lima BalconyAt the turn of the new millennium, Lima Mayor Alberto Andrade launched a program to save the balconies called “Adopt a Balcony.” He reached out to businesses, private donors, and other countries to donate enough money to save, restore, or rebuild the balconies. And it worked!

Balcones-Casa de Osambela

And as for the tale of the Jealousy Balconies … fortunately for women, the styes and times evolved. Lima still retained her love of elegant balconies … where women could see … and be seen.

Happy to be seen,
Terri

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like others in our Peru Series:

Mysterious Machu Picchu: City of Chosen Women or Royal Palace?
The Train,Terrain, and Rain at Machu Picchu
Ollantaytambo: A Living City of the Inca
Art: The Secret Language of the Andes
Cusco: Navel of the Inca World
Lima’s Major Domo
Before You Launch From Lima: 5 Faves

Art Nouveau Balcony Lima

Photo Credits:
3, 5. By Guillermo Arévalo Aucahuasi via Wikimedia Commons
4, 6. By David Berkowitz via Wikimedia Commons

30 thoughts on “Lima’s Luscious Balconies: A Tale of Jealousy

  1. I find it fascinating how the Spanish still managed to bring Moorish influence to the Americas. These ornate balconies remind me so much of the Middle Eastern ‘mashrabiya’ – not just the boxy shape or geometrical patterns but also their intended purpose. Your sequence of photos also suggest how they may have evolved through the ages, reflecting the shifting status of women in society. Thank you for sharing, Terri!

    • James, You’re right! When we lived in Khartoum, Sudan it was common for Middle Eastern architectural elements to be mixed in with the English Colonial. We also saw mashrabiyas in Nepal and India. Do you know if those are also of Moorish influence? Your observation about the balconies evolving with the shifting status of women in Lima society is spot on. Thanks for your wonderful insights. All the best, Terri

    • Thanks LuAnn. We enjoyed Lima very much, and are surprised that lots of folks zoom through without stopping. Of course, it is a city of contrasts, and you have to be able to see beyond the sprawl and poverty. But, that is the case in lots of places.

  2. Hey thanks for your great pictures. Just arrived in Canada a week ago and will go on to Lima in September. Wow, seems I kind of have something to look forward to! 🙂

    • Thanks Miya, for the comment and for dropping by the blog. You will enjoy Lima. In addition to the historic district in Lima, make sure to visit Miraflores for a totally different feel. ~James

  3. I had breakfast on one of those balconies, I can imagine why the Kings loved them! 🙂 I didn’t actually know about the whole jealousy history that went with it! Thank you for sharing these images, I spent four months in Peru and have been missing it since 🙂

    • Hi Amy, I bet it was wonderful to have breakfast on one of those gorgeous balconies. And 4 months – that must have been a great education. I loved your post on Machu Pichu – wasn’t it incredible? So glad that you stopped by. All the best, Terri

    • Thanks Elizabeth, for the comment and dropping by the blog. These balconies are wonderful, and it’s so sad to think that some of them were destroyed for new construction. They are a true artform, and they certainly aren’t crafting any more. BTW, I love it that you’re blogging while on tour. On our last RTW, we blogged for 6 months on an iPad. Boy I could tell you some stories on that experience. ~James

    • Hi Lu, We really did enjoy the architecture of historic Lima. We’ve seen similar balconies in India and the Middle East, constructed for similar reasons. I’m so fascinated by how these patterns repeat around the globe. ~Terri

    • Hi Virginia, So glad you stopped by. We thoroughly enjoyed Lima, and the balconies were icing on the cake. Although the newly-renovated ones are gorgeous, I particularly enjoyed the old wonky balconies too. Previously the city lost several balconies to neglect, so now they have an active preservation program. All the best, Terri

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