Exhibiting its public faith in ways that are unseen in other Latin American cities, Quito is preparing for its annual rituals and festivals to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Below is your guide to this year’s religious activities.
Date: March 24
Times: 8:30 a.m. & 7:30 p.m.
Place: Squares and Churches of the Historic Center
Palm Sunday commemorates the entrances of Jesus into Jerusalem where he was welcomed with olive and palm branches as a symbol of peace. In Quito, residents will take decorative items woven from palm leaves to mass to be blessed and then return the items to their homes where they will remain until the following year at which time they will be burned and the ashes used during the ceremonies of Ash Wednesday.
In Quito, the Wax Palm (Palma de Cera) is traditionally used as the source of leaves for making branches. The wax palm is a natural tree found throughout Ecuador between 800-3000 meters above sea level, though many alternatives are used today as conservation awareness has grown.
THE DRAGGING OF THE ROBE
Date: March 27
Time: 12:00 p.m.
Place: The Cathedral of Quito
The Municipal Cathedral is the stage for the "Arrastre de Caudas," or Dragging of the Cape procession, a unique tradition that takes place only in three cities worldwide.
The Dragging of the Cape is a ritual that originates from the Roman Empire, when the Roman army would pay homage to a fallen general by waving a flag over his soldiers in a symbolic act of passing his valiance and spirit to his troops.
The tradition was adopted by the Catholic Church and performed throughout the Catholic world. In place of a fallen general, the ceremony is performed in honor of Jesus. The Archbishop waves a large black flag with a red cross over his followers, called canónigos, who are prostrated before him, symbolically transferring the spirit of Jesus. Today, the ritual is performed in Quito, Lima, Peru and Seville, Spain.
Those who wish to observe should arrive at the Cathedral approximately two hours prior.
CHRISMAL MASS & ALTAR EXHIBITS
Date: March 28
Time: 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Place: historical center
Thursday, the Pontifical Chrismal Mass of Oils takes place in the Cathedral Church at 8:30 a.m., presided by the Archbishop of Quito. In the evening, at 5:30 p.m., Pontifical Mass for the Last Supper will occur along with the washing of the feet and procession of the Blessed Sacrament will be performed.
Following these ceremonies, at 6:00 p.m., a tour of the altars of the historic center begins. More than 10 churches open their doors to exhibit their most sublime altars on the night of Holy Thursday (until 10:00 p.m.).
JESUS ALMIGHTY PROCESSION
Date: March 29
Time: 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Place: San Francisco Plaza and Historic Centre streets
More than a quarter of a million people will descend on the Plaza of San Francisco for the procession of "Jesus de Gran Poder,” or the Parade of Almighty Jesus. At noon, the hour in which Pontius Pilot condemned Jesus to death, the procession begins from the San Francisco Church and returns three hours later, the hour of Jesus’ crucifixion.
During the procession the image of Jesus is preceded by 800 persons dressed and veiled in purple garments. The color purple signifies penitence.
The men are known as cucuruchos, a name that derives from the cones they wear on their heads, which are a sign of humility. Those who wear them do so as an act of faith, between them and God, but for all to witness during the procession. The women, who are veiled, are called Veronicas after the woman who is thought to have offered her veil for Christ to wipe his face.
Plaza San Francisco, Calles Bolívar, Venezuela north to Manabí, Vargas, José Riofrío, Venezuela, Manabí, García Moreno, Sucre and Plaza San Francisco.
RITUAL OF THE DEVILS
Date: March 29
Time: 6:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Place: Parish of Alangasi, town square
On Saturday, the Mass of Glory in Alangasi celebrates Jesus’ rise from the dead in a way that few will see elsewhere. During the mass, as the word “Glory” (Gloria) is verbalized by the priest for a second time, parishioners cast the devils from the church. Two dozen devils will immediately come out of hiding, exiting the church and entering the town square. They will later gather at the house of the “priosta”, the financial sponsor of the celebration. There, they continue the celebration with food and drink and a cleansing ritual using smoke.