Holy Week in the Christian liturgical year is the week before Easter that begins with Lent and Palm Sunday. A week in which the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is commemorated. Special celebrations that commemorate the institution of the Eucharist of faith and devotion.
Holy Week in Cusco is a popular date that attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world. Religious and cultural traditions inherited over decades mark this period with intense manifestations of faith. For the residents of Cusco, these are essential dates because thousands of people attend the processions.
During the week of Lent, considered a time of penance, believers prepare for the celebration of Easter. They follow processions inherited from generation to generation and much devotion on the part of the believers. And it is that for the devotees these are dates of great faith and reflection. Next we will tell you why Holy Week in Cusco is a date that celebrates not only tradition – but also history.
Holy Week in Cusco is celebrated between the second half of March to the first week of April, the date is movable. It begins on a Palm Sunday where the traditional Palm blessing, procession and Eucharistic celebration take place in the Cathedral Basilica from 6 in the morning.
It is a religious commemoration, where Andean Catholic syncretism is revealed. It brings together about 80 thousand parishioners to receive the blessing of the Lord of the Earthquakes, considered as the Sworn Patron of the city. The devotion of the Cusco people is shown in this religious celebration that is broadcast by various local media.
The blessing has as its central day on Holy Monday because on that date the Jury Patron of Cusco, the Lord of Earthquakes, leaves in procession.
The Archbishop of the city offers the Mass of Communion in the Cathedral, from 6 am Masses are celebrated every hour until 12 noon in honor of the image.
On Good Friday, the meeting of the litters of Christ in the Holy Sepulcher and the Virgin of Sorrows takes place.
How do they celebrate Easter in Cusco?
As well as the Cathedral of Cusco, other churches in Cusco open their doors during Holy Week to receive millions of devotees. Between the masses, the peculiar processions and the feeling of faith that fills the streets of all Cusco, the celebrations begin.
Among the local beliefs, there is one that points out the healing properties that plants, herbs and roots acquire during Good Friday. For that reason, peasants from all over Cusco gather in the squares to offer an incredible variety of healing herbs.
Palm Sunday is the day that marks the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week in Cusco. On this day the faithful attend Mass from the morning and hear the liturgical psalm. In Cusco it is celebrated with the blessing of palm leaves and woven crosses, which are hung behind the doors of each home as a sign of protection.
It is on this day that the majority of the faithful visit the Cathedral of Cusco – the most important church in the city – since on Palm Sunday mass is held in the Quechua language from five in the morning. Likewise, the reading of the word is done in the Gospel of Saint Matthew.
Holy Monday marks the second day of Holy Week and is a symbolic day where you can see the devotion of the Cusco population and thousands of faithful gathered in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco. It is also on Holy Monday when the Archbishop of Cusco offers the Mass of Communion in the Cathedral.
However, the summit of this second day of Easter in Cusco is the procession of the Lord of the Earthquakes, considered as the Jury Patron of the city. Witnessing this procession is a truly unique experience as it is an example of deep faith and tradition that has been going on for several decades.
Procession of the Lord of the Tremors
The “Taytacha de los Temblores” or Lord of the Earthquakes is one of the main processions that brings together a large part of the population. During Holy Monday, a crucified Christ who is distinguished by having indigenous factions, walks the main streets of the city and the Plaza de Armas of Cusco.
This procession takes place the day after Palm Sunday, where the blessings have already been granted. The climax of this procession is when the Lord of the Earthquakes blesses the believers from the shoulders of the loading gangs. At this moment you can see the great devotion of thousands of women who cry before the image of the Andean Jesus.
It is known that on Holy Thursday, the authorities of Cusco – such as the mayor and the prefect of the city – carry the Holy Sacrament in procession. Masses are also celebrated in all churches.
On Holy Thursday, the tradition is that the bishop of Cusco performs the washing of the feet of twelve beggars. Although the tradition continues today, it is now performed with twelve elders. It is also customary to visit seven churches at night.
Good Friday is characterized by the tradition of the twelve dishes which allude to the twelve disciples of Christ. In the Sayllapata district in the Paucartambo province, for example, soups made with Andean ingredients are often prepared. Whether it’s the soup known as k’irku, made with tarwi, cheese, milk and eggs, or the soup made from whole chicken eggs, the food always represents a special tradition.
One of the customs that also occurs in Cusco is that on Good Friday you should not consume red meat, as the people are in abstinence. Other ingredients in which the dishes are concentrated are potatoes, corn, ollucos and wheat. In any of the streets you will find that dishes are offered with these Andean ingredients, including trout sweat and cod salted.
Resurrection Sunday begins with masses of faithful who come from 7 a.m. to the first mass in the morning to hear the homily for Easter Sunday. It is the most important day for Christians as the resurrection of Jesus is celebrated.
If you are in Cusco during Resurrection Sunday, you will see that in addition to celebrating masses in all the churches, the procession is also carried out with the image of the risen Christ. You will see that there is movement in the squares and you will be able to enjoy the typical food that is offered throughout the day.
Can I visit Machu Picchu during Holy Week?
In Peru, the days of Holy Week in Cusco are declared national holidays, so there are many local tourists who arrive at Machu Picchu on that date.
If you visit Machu Picchu on those dates, it is likely that you will meet many Peruvian tourists at the Inca archaeological site.
Due to the high number of visitors, it is recommended to buy the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu in advance online. The entrance to Huayna Picchu must be purchased 3 or 4 months in advance. The other tickets 3 or 4 weeks before.
What other places to visit at Easter in Cusco?
- The Sacred Valley of the Incas – The Sacred Valley was an area of great importance for the Incas since there they built their main cities and farmlands such as Pisac, Chinchero, Ollantaytambo, Moray, Urubamba and more.
- The Mountain of 7 Colors – The tour to rainbow mountain peru is, after Machu Picchu, the most important tourist destination in Cusco. It is a mountain whose soil is covered with minerals that give it a landscape full of colors (it resembles a rainbow).
- The South Valley of Cusco – The geographical area of the South Valley is comprised of Inca and pre-Inca archaeological sites of great importance. During the visit you can visit Tipón, Piquillacta, Raqchi and the colonial church of Andahuaylillas (a very interesting attraction during Holy Week).
Touring Cusco is discovering endless mysterious places, with hidden stories in corners that you may have never seen before stepping on this country. We recommend you to visit another impressive destinations in Cusco like the humantay lake tour from cusco, which only takes one day. But if you are gonna to stay more days in Perú, other archaeological places you can know will be the choquequirao trek peru, the salkantay trek to machu picchu, and the classic inca trail 4 days 3 nights.
What church to visit?
- The Cathedral of Cusco – The most important church in the city. The beauty of its buildings combines Andean tradition with colonial architecture. One of the most representative paintings in its interior is the Virgin Mary dressed in a skirt alluding to the Pachamama (the sacred mother earth).
- Church of the Society of Jesus, Cusco – The architecture of its temple is representative of the Andean Baroque of Cusco. Its high summit stands out as well as its representation of the Immaculate Conception carved in marble. It was built on the destroyed bases of the ‘Amarucancha’, palace of the Inca governor Huayna Capac.
- Santo Domingo Convent Cusco – This religious temple was built on the basis of the Temple of the Sun (Coricancha). Inside there is a collection of paintings from the Cusco school. After the earthquakes of 1650 and 1950, the church suffered serious damage that took time to repair. The Inca site of Coricancha, on the other hand, did not suffer any damage.
- San Pedro Church – This church is famous for housing a variety of paintings made by the Cusco school of painting. Its pulpit was carved by the famous artist Juan Tomás Tuyru Túpac. It was built on the old natural hospital of Cusco. Its building consists of two side towers and a front. Right in front is the famous San Pedro market.
- La Merced – The temple of La Merced in Cusco is considered one of the most beautiful in Latin America. It is popular for housing the remains of Diego Almagro el Mozo, Diego Almagro el Viejo and Gonzalo Pizarro. Its building has three naves with vaults and domes. Its altars and interior have beautiful sculptures as well as paintings from the Cusco school and wood carvings.
- San Blas Church in Cusco – This religious temple was one of the first to be built in Cusco after the Spanish conquest. In its place was an Inca temple dedicated to the god of lightning or thunder ‘Illapa’. Its construction is simple, composed of a rectangular base without towers. Its main attraction is its pulpit made of cedar. Like the ‘Altar mayor’, it has a mixed style typical of the Cusco Baroque style.
What dishes to eat in Cuscoduring Holy Week?
- Chupe de choros – This delicious soup is made from choros (mussels). It is usually the main dish during the Cusco tradition of the ‘Twelve Plates’.
- Ají de lizas – This dish is made from lizas, an Andean tuber also known as olluco. It is usually accompanied by rice or baked potato.
- Empanadas – Sweet Easter empanadas are a tradition in Cusco. It is a type of baked cookie decorated with dragees. Donuts and other sandwiches are famous on those dates.
- Tarwi – This characteristic Cusco dish is made from tarwi, a legume also known as chocho. Cusqueños usually accompany this dish with rice and a stew.
- Mazamorra – This delicious dessert is made of chancaca and panela. It is usually accompanied by orange peel and cloves. It is one of the favorite desserts of Cusco at Easter.
- Fried fish – This main dish is made from trout, a characteristic river fish throughout the Andes Mountains. It is usually accompanied by rice, potatoes and salad.
- Peach stew – As its name suggests, this popular Cusco dessert is prepared from peach, which is widely sold in the city’s markets as well as syrup sweets.