Holy Week celebrations in Cusco: A yearly cultural renewal of faith
23 April 2019
Holy Week, or Semana Santa, is among the most significant yearly celebrations of the Catholic faith.
Every year in Cusco, Catholic families gather to celebrate this joyous commemoration of the resurrection of Christ, usually in early April.
One of the main activities of Cusqueños is to make the rounds of Cusco’s many beautiful churches, which are specially decorated and bedecked with flowers for the occasion.
Most of the churches are located in the downtown Historic District, and within walking distance of the Plaza.
For visitors, even for non-believers, a visit to Cusco’s churches is a must.
The city’s imposing Cathedral, with a chapel attached on each side, is not only a formidable example of colonial-era architecture, but also houses a collection of hundreds of paintings, many altars, countless statues and effigies, carved pulpits and more
For tourists, a visit to Cusco’s Cathedral requires the religious sites tourist entrance ticket, which can be purchased at the Tourism Office, located on the first block of El Sol Avenue, just a block away from the main square, the Plaza de Armas.
This ticket includes entrance to several of Cusco’s many impressive colonial churches.
HOLY WEEK CELEBRATIONS
We return to Cusco’s traditions and family celebrations. The week begins on Domingo de Ramos, or Palm Sunday, with a blessing at the Cathedral followed by a procession and Mass.
The following day, Holy Monday, is the most important day of Holy Week in Cusco, because it marks the procession of the city’s patron saint, The Lord of Earthquakes, or El Señor de los Temblores.
This striking beautiful image of a crucified Christ emerges from the Cathedral and is slowly paraded around the downtown as thousands of devout Cusqueños fill the Plaza de Armas in devout admiration.
Red flowers of the ñukchuplant are strewn from balconies upon the statue, and local people attribute the Christ statue’s dark, nearly black color to a pigment that comes off the flowers, as well as to the smoke from the cathedral’s candles. Mass is celebrated throughout this truly impressive day.
On Good Friday, the Via Cruxis procession goes from the San Francisco Plaza up to the Pope’s Cross, near the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman.
For the culmination of the Holy Week festivities, extended families gather on Easter Sunday for a special afternoon-long lunch that consists of 12 traditional dishes, including several types of soups, fish-based dishes, stews, tamales, corn on the cob and several desserts.
Tasting the sweet unfilled Easter empanadas (pastry turnovers) is not to be missed.
It’s entirely appropriate that in Cusco a devout celebration of Catholic faith such as Holy Week should end with a large family gathering and a lavish culinary feast. In Peru, where food is so diverse, so tasty, and such an essential part of the culture, it combines naturally with splendid celebrations of Catholic spirituality.
By the way, early April, as the dry season begins and before peak season for tourism, is a nice time to visit Cusco. Find out how you can experience all the cultural wonders that Cusco has to offer by visiting our website:.