My Peru - A Guide to the Culture and Traditions of the Andean Communities of Peru

A Guide to the Culture and Traditions of the Andean Communities of Peru



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Fiestas & Festivals > Corpus Christi (Cusco)


(Cusco, 60 days after Easter Sunday)

Sixty days after the Sunday of Resurrection, Cusco celebrates the Catholic festival of the Eucharist, the body of Christ.
Just a few years after Francisco Pizarro rode into Cusco, the Spaniards began to celebrate in all its pomp and splendour this festival. It was strange however that the way that the Indians celebrated Corpus Christi was very similar to how they celebrated their festivals and rites before the Spaniards arrived. There was a great similarity between parading their Inca mummies in the Cusco main square and the latter processions of virgins and saints.
The truth, according to most historians, is that Corpus Christi turned into a sort of continuation of the Inca festivals. Moreover, as it was celebrated between May and June, it coincided with the high point of the Inca ceremonial calendar, the months when work was finished in the fields, and prayers were offered up to the Sun god and the Inca's ancestors.

The festival gets under way on the Sunday 11 days before Corpus Christi when the Virgin of Bethlehem leaves her church and is carried shoulder high by the faithful to the church of Santa Clara.  

On the Wednesday 8 days prior to Corpus Christi, images from many churches, some of them several miles out of town, start wending their way to Santa Clara, the meeting point for saints and virgins.

On the Wednesday before the big event the procession of the entry of Corpus Christi starts up, usually around mid-day. Under a blinding sun which blazes out of the clear blue sky, crowds gather to watch the procession of an impressive silver carriage topped by a chalice decorated with the image of the Holy Sacrament. Leaving the church of Santa Clara, the carriage is carried along the streets of Santa Clara, Marquez and Mantas to reach the main Plaza de Armas where the procession enters the Cathedral amidst a great deal of rejoicing, accompanied by bands of musicians, troupees of dancers and the crackling of fireworks. When the carriage and the ecclesiastical authorities enter the Cathedral, it's the turn of the saints and virgins to make their journey to the Cathedral, entering one by one. Each believer follows their favorite image through the narrow streets.

From the early hours of the morning, on the Thursday of Corpus Christi, tens of thousands of Cusco residents gather in the main square to wait for the procession. Around mid-day the silver carriage bearing the image of the Holy Sacrament leaves the Cathedral to be carried around the Plaza de Armas in a colorful procession. On returning to the Cathedral it will again be the turn of the saints and virgins, decorated in all their finery, including finely embroidered robes and gold and silver jewelry.

Images include San Jeronimo, San Sebastian, and San Christopher. Legend has it that the teeth of the burly image of San Christopher are made from the teeth of Seri Topaz, one of the last Inca descendants.

Following the lively procession the crowds gather in the street Plateros to eat the typical Corpus Christi dish of Chiriuchu, whose main ingredient is roast guinea pig garnished with toasted corn, pork, chicken and seafood like seaweed and fish roe. This is all normally washed down with Cusqueña beer or the local home brew known as chicha.

During the next 7 days the Virgin of Belen and the saints will stay within the Cathedral in the company of the Dark Christ, conducting their mysterious business and being recharged with sacred power. Thousands of people will visit the Cathedral during this week, before the images are returned to their respective churches, again accompanied by musicians, dancers and the faithful.


The above information has been used with permission from Andean Travel Web Guide to Peru © All rights reserved


San Antonio Abad

San Jeronimo

San Cristobal

San Sebastian

Santa Barbara

Santa Ana

Santiago Apostle

San Blas

San Pedro

San Jose

Virgen de la Natividad de la Almudena

Virgen de los Remedios

Virgen Purificada

Mamacha Belen

La Virgen Inmaculada "La Linda"



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