Like most countries in South America, Peru is quite religious. The vast majority of its population still holds true to Catholic tradition. One of the biggest annual religious festivals in Peru, or anywhere in South America, is the Lord of Miracles festival (in Spanish: La Fiesta del Señor de los Milagros).
If you are planning on being in Lima in October, here is a guide for attending the Lord of Miracles festival. We’ll also introduce you to a few local traditions related to it.
What is the Señor de los Milagros?
Señor de los Milagros is Lima’s Patron Saint. The Lord of Miracles is a 17th century mural of a crucifix with the Virgin Mary and St. Mary Magdalene at the bottom of the crucifix.
For the several hundred years of the mural’s existence, there have been miracles associated with it. Faithful believers began to worship the image. In the 18th century, a replica was built to carry around the city in religious processions where it could be honored by worshipers.
A quick history of Señor de los Milagros
The history of the Lord of Miracles, sometimes called the Christ of Miracles, goes back to the Spanish colonial era in the 17th century. An unknown former African slave painted the mural on a clay building. The painting survived several major earthquakes throughout the centuries, as well as many attempts to erase the image.
The surviving wall with the image is recognized as a miracle, and a festival with several processions is held every year in October to honor the Lord of Miracles.
The most important procession happens every October 18th, the commemoration of the second major earthquake. That day, about 2,500 people hoist the one-ton replica for a 24-hr procession through central Lima.
Where is the real Lord of Miracles mural?
The original structure was destroyed hundreds of years ago in an earthquake, but the wall with the crucifix mural was still intact – i.e., “The Miracle.”
Today, you can visit the Church of the Nazarenas to view the original mural. The wall is now part of the main altar of the sanctuary. You can see it clearly as you enter the church.
The Iglesia de Nazarenas is an active house of worship in Lima. The Nazarenas Carmelite nuns care for the complex, which includes the National Sanctuary of Peru and the Monastery of Las Nazarenas.
Lima Dining Tip: If you’re looking for a first class dining experience in Lima, check out our experience dining at Central Restaurante. It’s expensive, but worth every penny!
The Lord of Miracles procession
Throughout the month of October and November 1st, there are religious parades in Central Lima where they carry the one-ton replica of the painting in the streets of Lima.
Peruvians often call the mural “Cristo de Pachacamilla.” It refers to the historic district where the Church of the Nazarenas sits. The Lord of Miracles procession in Lima follows different paths for all five tours:
- 5 October
- 18 October (the main procession)
- 19 October
- 28 October
- 1 November
The main procession happens on October 18 each year, where they carry the Lord of Miracles in a procession for the full day and night. The procession involves placing the replica on men’s shoulders, where they carry it to several different churches throughout central Lima.
Tens of thousands of worshipers line the streets of Lima. The staff dresses in purple outfits with a white sash. The faithful pray, burn incense, and observe the solemn procession and hope for the miracles in their lives.
The procession route (18 October)
The Lord of Miracles route starts at the Monastery of Las Nazarenas and finishes in the church of Our Lady Virgin of Carmen. It passes through the Plaza Mayor, by the Lima Cathedral, and Church of San Pedro.
Each year, the route and time slightly differ. Check the local newspapers (or just ask locals) to see the actual route and time to observe this big festival in Lima.
The Lord of Miracles parade crosses the main square of Lima around noon. Honorable guests and dignitaries sit on the Palacio Municipal de Lima balconies, just across from Lima Cathedral.
And after Plaza de Armas in central Lima, the Señor de los Milagros parade continues through Central Lima, passing the San Pedro Church. Finally, it reaches Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Carmen after midnight. This is where they keep the replica overnight.
The following day, October 19, the procession heads back along a different route to Iglesia las Nazarenas.
Why is the Lord of Miracles important in Peru?
The biggest reason, of course, is the Catholic faith. Most people here are Catholic devotees who believe miracles can still happen in their lives.
The Lord of Miracles depicts a Jesus who is black. Many Peruvians can relate to a Jesus who looks more like them than the white Jesus more prevalent in the rest of the world.
What to do during the Lord of Miracles festival?
If you are not familiar with the Lord of Miracles, here is a quick rundown of what to expect during the Señor de los Milagros.
For many believers, this is a time of blessing and hope for miracles. For others, especially visitors, it’s a chance to see a huge South American festival up close and to enjoy the celebration.
Even though this is a Catholic religious festival, don’t expect it to be like similar religious festivals in Europe. In Europe, Catholic celebrations, at least in public, have become far more secular. In South America however, religious believe still runs very wide and deep. There is no partying, with drinking or dancing.
Heading to Lisbon, Portugal? Check out the biggest religious festival in Lisbon – the Lisbon Sardine Festival. It is a feast and celebration to honor Lisbon’s Patron Saint, St. Anthony of Padua.
Lord of Miracles traditions
There are several Lord of Miracles traditions that believers associate with the festival.
1. Wear purple clothing
In Lima, the month of October is known as “el mes morado” – the purple month. For nearly all of October, devoted Catholics wear purple clothing as a sign of repentance. Even Alianza Lima, the most popular soccer team in Lima, wear purple jerseys at games instead of blue and white.
Starbucks’ baristas wear purple during the festivities!
2. Head to the Plaza Mayor at Noon
Starting at around 11:30 am to about 1 pm, the procession arrives at the Plaza Mayor in Central Lima. Here, dignitaries and important people gather with thousands of spectators.
The Government Palace Regimental Band plays solemn music to honor the Lord of the Miracles. Crowds of thousands ask for blessings. Tourists and locals try as hard as they can to see the procession.
No matter who you are – a true believer, a gawking onlooker, or a complete atheist – you’ll be able to purchase anything related to the Lord of Miracles from the many street vendors who also flock to the festival. Purple rosaries, scapulars, Lord of Miracles candles and calendars – it’s all available.
3. Attend a Catholic Mass in Lima
From the time the Lord of Miracles procession starts at 6 am, to the dark hours of 9 pm, the Church of the Nazarenas of Lima celebrates hourly mass. You can attend one of these masses, shoulder to shoulder with many devoted believers, while staring at the real Lord of Miracles.
Inside the Santuario del Señor de los Milagros, they celebrate the most important Mass at 2 pm. This is when the “Veneración al Señor” happens. This Mass ends at 3:30. At 6, they offer Rosaries and Novena. They celebrate Mass in Spanish only.
You may purchase purple candles in front of the church to light inside.
4. Get religious articles blessed
True to Catholic tradition, you can get your religious articles, like candles, scapulars, and rosaries, directly blessed by the Lord of Miracles.
Behind the Church of Nazareth, there is a mosaic replica of the mural where many gather to light candles and receive blessings for their religious articles. One of the attendants will gladly bring it to the mosaic and gesture a sign of the cross to bless it.
5. Eat Turrón de Doña Pepa for dessert
Like many festivals around the world, the Señor de los Milagros festival in Lima involves a culinary tradition as well: the Turrón de Doña Pepa.
What is Turrón de Doña Pepa? It is an anise-flavored cake, soaked in a special brown sugar syrup and sprinkled with colorful bits of sugar. It is super sweet and sticky! Check out some of our favorite Peruvian dishes right here.
You will find Turrones stalls everywhere around the Church of the Nazarenes. There are a few varieties and they cost 14 Peruvian soles per kilogram – that’s a lot of sugar! You can also try turrones first. Sellers will gladly give you a sample.
Another food choice at Lord of Miracles festival is Picarones. It is a Peruvian take on Spanish buñuelos, a donut-type of snack from the days of the Spanish conquistadors. Instead of wheat dough, picarones are made of squash and sweet potato dough, fried in oil and served in donut form.
You typically eat picarones with chancaca – solidified molasses syrup. You’ll usually spot colorful picarones carts around the main square in Lima.
6. [Don’t] attend a Bullfight in Lima
We never support animal cruelty, and add this section for information only.
Following the Señor de los Milagros festivities, on five consecutive Sundays in November, this controversial tradition continues: bullfighting.
After Spain and Mexico, Peru is the third-largest country that still participates in the tradition of bullfighting. The Feria Taurina del Señor de los Milagros attracts the best matadors on earth for sold-out events.
The renowned Plaza de Acho arena hosts the largest bullfight festival in Peru. And with that comes an increasing number of protesters who congregate to condemn the cruelty.
Things to prepare for the Lord of Miracles Festival
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare to attend the festival in Lima:
Thousands and thousands of people
Expect to see a lot of people in the Señor de los Milagros procession, especially in popular places such as the Plaza Mayor in Central Lima. Being among that many people can get pretty exhausting – especially if it’s hot outside (it sometimes is) and people are bumping into you constantly.
Be aware of pickpocketers
Be aware of your surroundings. It may be more practical to avoid taking big backpacks or bags. Watch and secure your pockets from pick-pockets, and leave any valuables at your hotel.
Drone flying in Lima
If you own a drone and want to fly it over the procession, you are probably out of luck. Here are a few things to consider.
In Lima, officially, you can fly a drone. However, keep in mind that Plaza Mayor hosts the important government and presidential palace, as well as some of the most important guests and people in the country.
We would advise anyone not to fly the drone during this time in Central Lima.
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Halef moved from Indonesia to the US nearly two decades ago to go to college here. He hasn’t looked back. He’s been to over forty countries and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. He’s a Landscape Architect in Atlanta, GA.