El Señor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles) refers to one of the oldest and largest Catholic traditions in Peru and (some say) in the Americas. It’s celebrated every year in October during which a massive image of Jesus is carried through the streets in pilgrimage-like processions of hundreds to thousands of people from church to church over various days. The Señor de los Milagros Brotherhood who are central to the processions are always dressed in purple robes, which is why October is referred to as Mes Morado (Purple Month), and many more people from all walks of life accompany the processions either to watch or follow behind.
The History of El Señor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles) in Peru
This all started with an image of Jesus, now referred to as El Señor de los Milagros, that was painted in 1651 by an Angolan slave known as Pedro Dalcón or Benito. It was painted on an adobe wall of a church (the Sanctuary and Monastery of Las Nazarenas) in the current city center of Lima, Peru. Only a few years later in 1655, there was a strong earthquake that led to a ton of destruction in Lima. Miraculously, the wall with the image of Jesus at the Nazarenas Church survived the chaos and remained intact even when the other walls around it (not to mention, other churches and buildings) tumbled to the ground. Needless to say, people started gathering regularly to worship the image.
What’s less well known is that at one point, authorities tried to ban the gatherings and erase the image by hiring people to paint over the Lord of Miracles painting, but each of them were deterred. As the legend goes, the first hired painter started to tremble and felt chills as he approached the image. The second saw something in the image that stopped him from taking any action. And the third was a royal soldier who saw the image grow in beauty and specifically saw the part of the image with Jesus’ crown turn green.
It wasn’t until another earthquake in 1687 when the same wall survived yet again that Limeños started the tradition of carrying the image (a duplicate was made) in a procession.
How Is El Señor de los Milagros Celebrated Today?
The Lord of Miracles festival in Peru can vary depending on where you are in the country. These are some traditions surrounding the experience:
- Local schools and companies get together to create images made of colored sawdust and/or flower petals on the ground to prepare the path for the processions.
- The air is filled with the smoke and smell of incense.
- People sing hymns during the processions.
- Many people join the processions to pray to El Señor de los Milagros and ask for a special request.
- The processions may stop at certain places to give a blessing. For example, El Señor de los Milagros used to stop by my apartment in Huancayo every year to give a blessing. More significantly, the procession has stopped at the Archbishop Loayza National Hospital in Lima to bless the sick and to bless hospital workers there since 1688.
- Turrón (or torrone) is a type of nougat confection that’s associated with Mes Morado (Purple Month) and is often sold in purple boxes in booths and fairs during October.
El Señor de los Milagros in Lima, Peru & Abroad
Feliz Mes Morado! Or, Happy Purple Month wherever you are in the world! Although Lima’s Señor de los Milagros procession is the largest of them all, many Peruvians abroad have kept the tradition going even after immigrating. Here are some examples:
- This year, El Señor de los Milagros was taken to the Vatican where he was blessed by Pope Francis (reference)
- There are over 1 million Peruvians in Europe, which has led to Lord of Miracles processions in major cities such as Paris and Madrid (reference)
- The largest Señor de los Milagros processions abroad are held in Japan, Germany, Australia, Chile, Mexico, and Argentina (reference)
- These are other countries where I can find Señor de los Milagros celebrations in 2022: Canada, Chile, United States, Switzerland