On Good Friday in Quito, when the fever of the Procesión del Gran Poder has died down, when the bands have stopped their funeral dirge, the penitents put down their heavy crosses, the Cucuruchos have taken off their cone heads and the throngs have gone home; when the city is quiet and the sun has set, a very different parade prepares to head off.
No multitudes in their hundreds of thousands here: less than 250 people gather outside Santo Domingo, armed only with lighted candles, rosaries, and the odd torch crackling in the night.
This is the Procession of Silence, a Good Friday custom of Easter in Quito to mark Jesus’ removal from the cross to the tomb, remembering his humility in an atmosphere of introspective intimacy. A fairly modern custom, the Procession of Silence originated no more than 20 years ago, created by the Dominican monks of Santo Domingo.
It is here that the ritual begins, first with the celebration of mass at 6 PM. At the end of the service, a group of 10 men assembles, dressed as nazarenos in purple hooded robes, and bring down a large image of Christ from the cross, placing it on the Holy Sepulchre, a casket adorned with laurel, glass baubles, and gold dust. From the altar, the congregation accompanies the image towards the church’s exit out onto Rocafuerte Street, where they are joined by others and the procession begins. Quietly, even silently, the participants walk the streets of the Old Town, casting shadows with their flickering candles and torches.
It’s a beautiful, emotive scene, painting a very different picture of the devotion of Quito’s Catholics. For many, it embodies the true essence of the Easter message; for others, it is a way to capture the Old Town Quito at its most serene. It is another face of the giant that is Easter here.
Over two hours, the procession travels along the streets of Rocafuerte, Salvador, Milagros, Montúfar, Sucre, and García Moreno, before returning to Santo Domingo in peaceful contemplation. Some also carry images of Mary Magdalen and Saint John, but with none of the fanfare of the parade that took place around the same streets earlier in the day.
Want to join the Procession of Silence yourself? Head to Plaza Santo Domingo at 6 PM on Good Friday. Wrap up warm, and don’t forget to bring a candle!
Lighting the way
The Procession of Silence asks that each participant carries a lighted candle, and it’s far from the only religious ceremony in Quito that calls for wax and wick. In fact, there’s such a high demand that La Vela Mágica (the Magic Candle), a shop that opened 30 years ago, produces some 300 candles a day during the peak seasons of Holy Week and Christmas.
Candles here come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and scents and extravagant flower designs in bright pastel colors known as cirios are among the best sellers, and while slim candles are the most popular, the shop also sells heavy, thigh-high versions.
Scented with coconut, cinnamon, sandalwood, rose, and patchouli, the candles aren’t the only thing on sale at La Vela Mágica, there is also communion wine, religious figurines, communion wafers, and scents.
La Vela Mágica
Pereira and Montúfar