Short History of the Lord of the Miracles
Benito, a slave and resident of the Pachacamilla ranch in Magdalena, Lima, dedicated himself to treating the victims of a yellow fever epidemic that struck the city. He himself survived the plague and was freed by his master. Upon gaining his freedom, Benito began painting a fresco showing the cruicified Christ. As he painted, he was said to have received visions and hear celestial music. Upon completing the work, Benito died. His incorrupt body was found a few days later.
After the discovery of Benito's incorrupt body the mural acquired a miraculous reputation. Public veneration of the image grew and prompted the authorities to order the image erased. The first workman to attempt this was thrown to the ground as he began his work. The second workman suffered a sudden paralysis of his arms. The authorities rescinded their order and the image was transferred to a chapel. Later, as workers attempted to move the image to an altar, the sides of the mural, containing the images of the Virgin and Mary Magdalene, were damaged, but the image of Our Lord remained intact. In light of these astonishing events, the image began to be referred to as the Lord of the Miracles.
On November 13, 1655, an earthquake struck Lima, levelling several churches. The district of Pachacamilla was also affected. In spite of the great devastation, the sacred image remained intact.
On October 20, 1687 a tidal wave destroyed much of Callao and an earthquake struck neighboring Lima, destroying the chapel where the image was kept. Only the altar and the image survived. That day the people elevated a canvas with a copy of the sacred image and made the first procession through the streets of Pachacamilla.
On October 28, 1746 Lima shook again, damaging the chapel. Nonetheless, the miraculous image came out unscathed. The procession that year was the largest ever up that that time, and the cult of the Lord of the Miracles expanded to include residents of Lima of all races and social levels. The crowd proceded through to Barrios Altos and other far corners of the city.
The Viceroy Amat y Juniet ordered the construction of a new temple to house the image. It was inaugurated in on January 20, 1776.
One of the Nazarene nuns charged with the care of the image received the design of the familiar purple habit in a vision. The habit was initially for the use of the nuns only but came to be adapted by devotees of the Lord of the Miracles for purposes of the three-day procession.
La Brotherhood was constituted in 1878. Today there are about 2,500 registered bearers organized into 20 squads. Each squad covers about 300 yards of the procession.
Each squad has a captain and lieutenant. After coming into formation the squad awaits three signals given by the captain before beginning their turn. First of all the captain alerts the 24 men in the squad by shouting "¡Gente!". When he says "¡Armen!", the bearers kneel to take up the litter in their shoulders. Finally the captain rings a silver bell and in that moment all bearers lift the litter simultaneously and the procession is resumed again.In addition to the bearers there are: sahumadoras who carry large censers ahead of the procession, musicians and singers, a cerero who attends to candles placed on the litter, a mixturero who tends flowers on the litter, and of course vendors offering all manner of refreshments and religious articles
The cult of the Lord of the Miracles has a national character. There is an alter with the effigy of the Lord of the Miracles in every town in Peru, and those who participate in the annual procession include visitors from the provinces. In the U.S. there are ten officially recognized Brotherhoods who organize processions in places such as New York and Washington, D.C.
Josefa Marmanillo, known as Doña Pepa, was a slave from the Cañete. valley (about 2 hours from Lima). Because of an acute paralysis that prevented her from working, she was released by her owner. Motivated by stories of miracles conceded to the faithful, she decided to go to Lima to take part in the procession in the year 1800. On the first day of the procession, she miraculously recovered the use of her arms and hands. In return, she decided to do something that would increase the devotion of the people. That night, in a dream, she saw the preparation of the now famous confection. The next day she entered the procession carrying her new creation. The turrón is made from fruit syrup, egg yolk, shortening, wheat, anise, and hard candy, and is sold in Lima throughout the year with the greatest sales in October.