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Every year, thousands of sworn brothers in purple robes carry a 2-ton mural of Christ through the crowded streets of Lima. This is the procession of El Señor de los Milagros, a celebration of a miraculous fresco and an expression of Catholic gratitude, one of the more enthralling sights when touring Peru.
A tenacious fresco
The centerpiece of this festival is a 350-year-old mural of Christ that survived a number of disasters shortly following its creation. It was originally painted on the wall of a chapel in the 1650s by a freed slave. Shortly thereafter, an earthquake wrecked a large swath of the cities, save for the chapel. More earthquakes followed over the next few decades, but it wasn't until the 1680s that the chapel was finally leveled. All that remained amid the rubble was the altar and the mural. Since then the mural and the festival that celebrates its survival has been called the El Señor de los Milagros, or the Lord of Miracles.
The mural now occupies a two-tiered pedestal trimmed with gold and arches, guarded by bouquets of white and lilac flowers. The color purple carries royalty connotations, and as such has a strong connection to Christianity, wherein Christ is considered king of kings. It is also a color associated with advent and lent. Sworn brothers haul the mural from the Church of Las Nazarenas to the Church of La Merced on Christian feast days in October. The brothers are 2,500 strong, and turn out in long, vibrant purple robes adorned with thick, white braided ropes worn around the neck, mirroring the nuns who look after the image while it resides at Las Nazarenas. Some 30 men at a time hoist the pedestal, flanked by brothers, sisters, and onlookers, all donning purple in celebration and homage.
As with any proper festival, scents and sounds waft languidly alongside the slow march. More than 500 sisters and singers fill the air with burning incense and the sound of solemn hymns, while heaps of flowers are strewn across the roads to form a walking path. Many followers are moved to tears.
When to go
Those who wish to see the procession will have three opportunities in the latter half of October, roughly every 10 days according to feast dates in the latter half of October. Streets and transportation services are closed temporarily to allow for the crowded procession.
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