It’s October and this means Limeños pay homage to their most venerated religious figure: El Señor de los Milagros or also known as Cristo de Pachacamilla.
It is the custom, that on the 1st of October an altar with on image of the Lord of Miracles, patron saint of Lima, leaves the Monastery of the Nazarenas and will be carried through the historic city center of Lima to return to the Church of the Nazarenas. Usually Thousands of devotees, many of them dressed in purple frocks, from all races and economic backgrounds participate in the first religious procession of the year.
The second procession is normally on or around the 18th of October and includes a visit to The Church of San Francisco in Lima’s city center. The image spends the night at the Nuestra Señora de las Victorias church from where the Lord of Miracles makes his third journey through the streets of Lima the next day.
On the last Friday of the month, the principal day of the celebrations, the huge altar once more is carried through the city, this time including the district of Breña. With a small procession around the Convent and Church of the Nazarenas Peru's most revered religious icon bids farewell on the first of November and returns home to his place within the convent, where he usually stays from November to September.
The Lord of Miracles – how a simple painting became the largest procession in Latin America
According to religious belief an Angolan slave painted an image of a black Jesus Christ on a wall of one of the barracks in his neighborhood in 1651. As usual for Christianized Africans, a few slaves soon worshiped the painting by night, praying and bringing offerings. In 1655 a heavy earthquake struck Lima leaving the city reduced to rubble. It is said that the only thing still standing was the wall where a few years earlier the Angolan slave had painted the Christ image. Since then the adoration for the painting grew steadily.
Soon devotion for the Christ image annoyed the Viceroyalty. Despite all attempts to remove and paint over it, the image stayed intact. In 1687 another earthquake hit Lima, once again destroying much of the colonial city center, including the chapel that had been built around the Christ image. But once again the one wall with the image remained untouched.
Soon after the tremor a copy of the Christ image was made and carried around town. The cult and adoration for the Lord of Miracles was born. When the image of the Lord of Miracles once again survived the massive 8.6 earthquake and tsunami on October 28th 1746, which completely destroyed Lima and everything else along the central Peruvian coast, the adoration for El Señor de los Milagros reached new heights and increased even further over the centuries.
Since then each year in October faithful believers carry the 2 tons’ altar with a copy of the painting of the Lord of Miracles on their shoulders from the Convent and Church of Las Nazarenas through Lima’s historic city center and other districts of the metropolis, singing hymns and praying.
To this day the Lord of Miracles is believed to cure the sick and protect against earthquakes. As the traditional habit of the Nazarenas nuns, who protect the image, is purple, October is considered the purple month in Lima and many female believers wear purple the whole month. And to even further honor the Lord of Miracles for the entire month typical Peruvian October dishes and sweets, such as the famous Turron de Doña Pepa, are sold on the streets.