Holy week in Ayacucho is an unforgettable experience. Whether you are there for all 10 days, or just for the grand finale, you can’t help but take part in the euphoria that is in the air.
Learn about the daily processions and activities that take place in Ayacucho for Semana Santa- Holy Week.
On “Sábado de Pasión” (Saturday of Passion) the “Señor de la Parra”, a statue of Jesus holding a cluster of grapes, starts its procession beginning from the temple of Pampa San Agustin. This temple stands out due to its early seventeenth century Italian style architecture. The temple’s tall stone pillars at its entrance are decorated with grape vines.
Unlike the other days in the 10 day celebration, “Domingo de Ramos” or Palm Sunday is the more commonly known and celebrated day by people worldwide. The “Señor de Ramos” is a statue which is kept in the Basilica Cathedral throughout the year. A day before the procession it is moved and decorated in the Santa Teresa monastery.
The procession begins as the statue is mounted on a pony and heads toward the main square of the city. During the trip, the statue is surrounded by twelve apostles and a multitude of devoted followers carrying specially-made and artistically braided palm leaves. The followers make sure to keep the palm leaves in constant motion as they praise the Lord and sing hymns. The statues return to the cathedral is symbolic of Jesus’ return to Jerusalem.
On Holy Monday the “Señor del Huerto” or Lord of the Garden, which symbolizes Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, leaves the temple of the “Buena Muerte” (Good Death) for the procession. The statue’s throne is decorated with many candles and olive branches.
“Miércoles de El Encuentro” is a completely different type of procession. This procession involves four different statues: Jesus of Nazareth, The Pain filled Virgin, Saint John and the Veronica. The streets on which the procession takes place are completely covered with ornamental flowers. At about 9 p.m., Jesus of Nazareth enters the main square.
At a few meters distance he meets the Veronica, who bows and symbolically cleans Christ’s blood and sweat. The Veronica then goes to Saint John and tells him of her meeting with Jesus. They both then go and search for Mary (The Pain filled Virgin). Mary finally finds her son and “El Encuentro” takes place.
Holy Thursday & Friday
Holy Thursday is a day of sacred sacraments. Several mass sessions take place in which blessings are made and covenants are renewed. The Last Supper is celebrated and the ceremony of the “Washing of the feet” takes place.
Everyone from devoted followers to city authorities to military leaders gather together in Santo Domingo temple to commemorate Jesus’ death at Calvary. Holy Friday is a day where everyone is to where black.
After days of reflection and meditation the citizens of the city head to the hill of Acuchimay, where a traditional fair is held. There are all types of activities that can be enjoyed. After the fair everyone heads back to the main square for a long and joyous celebration. Having the whole main square as a celebration area, dances are held food is served and fireworks are lit.
A town tradition in Ayacucho is to feed any and everyone during Holy Week. Huge pots are taken out and lines are made to receive free food which has been prepared by the townspeople. Concerts are held on every corner of the main square. This is truly a time of jubilee.
Resurrection Sunday is the close of Holy Week. People stay up all Saturday night celebrating, awaiting the beginning of the final procession at dawn. The procession is received with fireworks and music from live bands. After Sunday mass the statue of the resurrected Christ makes its spectacular appearance.
The statue, adorned with hundreds of candles, is received with fireworks, applause and the burning of “castillos,” large colored structures of all shapes that have fireworks attached to them. This is the most impressive of all the processions. The statue’s base is huge and has to be carried by 200 people. Another mass is held and the statue enters the temple among songs, praise and applause.
Cover photo: pinterest.es
This article has been updated from its original publication on April 17, 2007.
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