Holy Week & Easter in Quito
Holy Week is the week which precedes the Sunday of Resurrection or Easter Sunday, and commemorates the Passion of Christ and the events which led to it. The last week of Lent, the interval between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, is known as Holy Week.
The rituals and ceremonies of Holy Week have become an important part of the local cultural heritage of Quito, testimonies of a tradition that reaffirms our identity. Visitors to Quito during Holy Week have the opportunity to immerse themselves in local culture, including, of course, by enjoying the special foods prepared for the occasion.
Two processions are massive events: The Palm Sunday procession that ends at the Church of San Francisco and the massive Good Friday procession, that includes the participation of hundreds of cucuruchos or hooded penitents dressed in purple conical hats and flowing robes reminiscent of similar clothing used in Seville’s Holy Week processions.
On Holy Thursday, the Chrism Mass takes place, for the consecration of holy oils, and the Maundy, or washing of feet. Later, to commemorate the Last Supper, Ecuadorians serve fanesca, a soup made with 12 different grains (representing the 12 apostles), salt cod fish (the symbol of Christianity) cooked in milk and adorned with hardboiled egg and dumplings with mashed potato (molo) on the side. A favorite ritual food that takes days to prepare and serves as an excuse to reunite entire families in both its preparation and consumption, this labor-intensive gastronomic delight is served only at this time of year.
Everybody is welcome to participate in very interesting ancient rituals and ceremonies that take place in different churches in Quito, including: The gradual darkening or “Tenebrae” that takes place on Friday evening; the “Arrastre de Caudas” at noon on Wednesday at the Cathedral; or the visit on Thursday to “The Seven Crosses”, seven specially decorated churches. Guests to Quito can also attend the Sacred Music Festival with antique organ recitals at La Compañía Church and the Cathedral.
Quito’s unusual religious traditions, a cultural heritage that has endured through four centuries of Ecuadorian history, despite natural, cultural and political changes, are still very much alive. During Easter week, this heritage shows its great beauty with indigenous spiritual practices honoring the arrival of spring combining with Catholic teachings and commemorations of the church to offer a unique experience to visitors from all over the world.
HOLY FRIDAY’S PROCESSION OF THE PENITENTS
One of the largest processions in South America takes place in Quito on Good Friday with hundreds of penitents, locally called cucuruchos, wearing purple robes tied with a cord at the waist and a tall pointed hood concealing the face, with openings for the eyes permitting the wearer to see without being recognized. They are followed by religious images, mainly the much venerated Jesus the Almighty, of the San Francisco Church and thousands of devout Catholics carrying candles who sing and pray along the way.
Holy Week is one of the holiest and most solemn times of the year for Ecuadorians, a time to remember Jesus’ death and resurrection through a series of processions in the different cities and towns of the country. The procession in Quito both begins and ends at the doors of the Church of San Francisco, established by the Franciscan friars in 1535. Visitors to Quito are welcome to participate in this moving cultural experience.