In the Lima of “all bloods”, where the most cosmopolitan trends coexist with popular and religious traditions rooted in the heritage of our pre-Hispanic ancestors, there is a transversal component to the lives of the people of Lima: religiosity, always charged with mysticism and spirituality, with that ingredient of syncretism, a mixture of Hispanic and Andean heritage.
The icon par excellence is the cult of the Señor de los Milagros, also called Cristo de Pachacamilla, Cristo Moreno and Señor de los Temblores. As is known, the cult originated more than three hundred years ago, from a mural painted by an Angolan slave in the area of Pachacamilla, in what used to be the surroundings of the current convent of the Nazarenas in the centre of Lima.
Chroniclers say that this image miraculously survived the earthquake of 1655 and since then it has been venerated because it was believed to be the true image of Jesus Christ. This image, impressive from the point of view of the plastic design, as well as for the psychological expression of pain and redemption, can be admired today on the main altar of the Church of the Nazarenes. A true work of art, beyond its iconic religious value that unites the people of Lima.
The story is well known. In 1687, an enormous canvas was made that is a faithful copy of the image, and that year the first procession of the Lord of Miracles took place, considered the most important Catholic festivity in Peru and also the most multitudinous procession in the world.
The month purple alludes to the colour of the habit of the Nazarenes, and this in turn is the colour of the wounds and “bruises” on the scourged body of Christ on the cross. If one asks for an icon of Lima that has survived the centuries, it is precisely the Señor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles), which is carried in procession every October. There is no other that surpasses it in the whole world and for decades it has been replicated with the same fervour in cities such as New York and Paris, and in all Peruvian cities.
The Hermandad del Señor de los Milagros de Nazarenas (Brotherhood of the Lord of Miracles of Nazarenas) is in charge of transmitting this devotion from parents to children. And now, faithful to modernity, the processions are transmitted “on-line”, in real time on the internet, and applications have been created to follow the route via GPS. This year, during the sixth virtual procession, images from previous years’ processions were transmitted.
The year 2018 saw the premiere of the excellent documentary “The true face of the Lord of Miracles”, by the journalist Kevin Carbonell, based on a remarkable documentary investigation that sheds light on the origins, history and restorations of the canvas. In 2019 it was awarded the National Prize “Cardenal Juan Landázuri Ricketts” by the Peruvian Episcopal Conference. There is also a series of publications and research dedicated to the Christ of Pachacamilla. And as for the plastic artists, many Peruvian painters have dedicated excellent versions to him, such as the masters Víctor Humareda, Camilo Blas (José Alfonso Sánchez Urteaga) and Jorge Vinatea Reinoso, among others.
But if the Señor de los Milagros is a popular icon, let us not forget that Lima has the honour of having given birth to Peruvian saints who are venerated all over the world: Santa Rosa de Lima and San Martín de Porres. In addition, Saint Toribio de Mogrovejo, Saint Francisco Solano and Saint Juan Macías lived and died here, giving their all for the faith and the people. Around these devotions are grouped a series of centuries-old religious brotherhoods, institutions of help, mutual aid and devotion to God, with the traditional recitation of the holy rosary, which is a custom that still silently persists in popular fervour.
Saint Rose or Rosa de Lima (Lima, 1586 – 1617), Patron Saint of the Americas and the Philippine Islands, was a Dominican tertiary, the first saint born in the Viceroyalty to be canonised by the Church on the basis of her merits. She was practically a mystic, and it has now been revealed that she also wrote religious poetry, as documented by historian and philologist Rosa Carrasco Ligarda in her book Santa Rosa de Lima: escritos de la Santa Limeña (Facultad de Teología Pontificia Civil de Lima, 2016).
“Oh sweet martyrdom, that with harpoon of fire has wounded me. Wounded heart, with a dart of divine love, cry out for those who wounded it, Purify my heart. It receives a spark of love, to love its Creator (…) Oh happy union! Close embrace with God!”, expresses one of the poems of Saint Rose published in the research.
Let us not forget that there is an extensive iconography of Saint Rose in Peruvian painting, by masters such as Angelino Medoro, Francisco Laso, and the brilliant Sérvulo Gutiérrez, among others abroad.
Likewise, Saint Martin de Porres (Lima, 1579 – 1639), a friar of the Dominican order. He is the first Afro-descendant saint in America, also known as “the saint of the broom”, a symbol of his humility. He united “dog, pericote and cat” around a plate of food. He is the “Patron Saint of Social Justice” (so named by Pope John XXIII in 1962). He is also the universal patron of peace, patron of the sick, protector of the poor, patron of barbers, patron of street sweepers and public cleaners, patron of animal intercession, patron of Caritas (along with St. Teresa of Calcutta), Patron of World Youth Day 2019, along with seven other patrons and intercessors).
In 2016 the book The Five Saints of Peru. Vida, obra y tiempo. It details the lives of other saints who were not born in Peru but who were sanctified in our land, which we recall below.
Santo Toribio de Mogrovejo (Mayorga, 1538 – Zaña, 1606), second archbishop of Lima, missionary and organiser of the Catholic Church in the viceroyalty of Peru. His work is vast. According to Wikipedia: “During his episcopal work in Lima, Mogrovejo convoked and presided over the III Limense Council (1582-1583), which was attended by prelates from all over Latin America, and which dealt with matters relating to the evangelisation of the indigenous people. Important pastoral norms were obtained from this assembly, such as preaching in native languages, for which a faculty of native languages was created at the University of San Marcos, and catechesis for black slaves, as well as the printing of the catechism in Castilian, Quechua and Aymara, which would become the first printed texts in South America.
Likewise, San Francisco Solano (Montilla, Córdoba, 1549 – Lima, 1610), considered the “Thaumaturge of America”, preached in Quechua, Aymara and other aboriginal languages, travelling through the north of Argentina and practically all of Peru on foot. He was the builder of the Convento de los Descalzos and its first guardian father. He was characterised by his humility and his preaching, accompanied by a kind of violin called a “rabel”. On 21 September 1715, the Cabildo of Lima declared the Cristo de los Milagros as “Patron Sworn by the City of Kings against the earthquakes that strike the earth”.
He is also considered the patron saint of sailors, bullfighters and many Peruvian cities such as Huamanga, Chancay and Cusco. His remains rest in the Catacombs of the Convent of San Francisco de Lima, which was his final resting place.
The most complete book on this Andalusian saint was written by Father Luis Julián Plandolit OFM, entitled: The Apostle of America, San Francisco Solano. As the journalist Nivardo Córdova Salinas points out in his article “El retrato post mortem de San Francisco Solano“.
Plandolit began his research in 1949 (the year of the fourth centenary of the birth of San Francisco Solano) under the premise that the saint Solano is known more by the blurred and chiaroscuro contours of legend than by the precise nuances of history. Plandolit reviewed all the documentation on the saint in the Vatican Secret Archives, the Vatican Library (Manuscripts and Printed Documents sections), the Archives of San Isidoro (Irish Fathers, Rome), the San Isidoro National Library, the National Library of Paris, the San Francisco Archives of Lima, the Archives of the Archbishop’s Curia of Lima, the National Library of Lima (sic), the Library of the Convent of Ocopa, the General Archive of the Indies (Seville) and the Archives of the Spanish Embassy in Rome”.
We close the list with San Juan Macías (Ribera del Fresno, Badajoz, Extremadura, 1585 – Lima, 1645), a Spanish Dominican religious and saint who evangelised Peru from 1620 and was canonised only in 1975.
Now that Lima and the whole nation is torn apart by an overwhelming health, economic and political crisis, it is necessary to return strongly to these ideals of spirituality.