The tradition of the Lord of the Miracles has been carried from generation to generation and is considered to be the largest Catholic procession in the world. The city of Lima attracts thousands of visitors from all over the country and abroad, who yearn to be part of this religious festival known as the ‘Purple Month’.
In the middle of the 17th century Lima’s historic centre was divided into barrios. Black slaves from Africa used to live in the barrio of Pachacamilla , and it is here that an Angolan slave painted a black Christ on a wall in 1650. It was named the ‘Christ of Pachacamilla’.
A powerful earthquake in 1655 hit Lima and Callao leaving behind many collapsed temples and houses, thousands of people dead and many injured. The houses around the barrio of Pachacamilla collapsed leaving just the wall with the painting of the Christ, this drew the attention of slaves and indigenous people who started to gather round the image, singing, playing the guitar and offering prayers. Some people found these gatherings offensive so a complaint was put to the Viceroy of Peru who ordered the image to be erased. After numerous attempts to erase the mural, it remained intact. Unable to remove the image, the Viceroy gave his blessing to the mural and also allowed a shrine to be erected, where devotees could congregate for prayers.
In 1687 two earthquakes destroyed Lima and Callao and again the mural remained untouched, devotees of the image decided to make a replica of the original painting in order to carry it in procession through the streets. A few years later the image was named ‘Patron Saint of Lima’.
In 1746 Lima suffered the most destructive earthquake in history, the image was taken to the streets of Lima in a procession and the aftershocks stopped, thus reinforcing the beliefs of people, the wall remained intact and the beginning of the ‘Dark Christ’ traditional procession started.
The 4,000 members of the Lord of the Miracles brotherhood are organised into 20 cuadrillas, they are the ‘cargadores’ or carriers in charge of transporting the heavy silver litter which weighs 2,000 kgs without flowers, candles and other items. They take breaks during the procession and cover a distance of 80 metres.
The devotees of the Lord of the Miracles are dressed in a purple habit during the whole month of October. The main dates for the procession are 18th, 19th and 28th of October. Along the route of the procession, the streets are decorated with purple and white flags and the atmosphere is impressive. The streets are also filled with vendors selling a variety of typical dishes and sweets, one of which is the famous ‘Turron de Doña Pepa’ – an appetising sweet made of flour, eggs, butter, anise, fruit syrup and dried fruits.
The thickness of incense in the air is caused by women called ‘sahumadoras’ who burn incense during the procession, they walk along the ‘cantoras’ who hold candles and sing hymns during the duration. The festivity is also celebrated in many countries such as USA, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Brazil, Chile, Canada and more recently in the UK. An image of the Christ of Pachacamilla was recently donated and brought by the Peruvian Navy, it resides at St Anne’s Church in Vauxhall for all devotees to revere.
Images courtesy of Coltur and Promperu
Credit: Walter Silvera and Elena Larkin