The streets of Cuenca’s historic district will be filled with people tonight for the traditional Holy Thursday visit to the seven churches. The visits begin about seven and continue to midnight.
The Cuenca diocese estimates that as many as 10,000 will participate.
Today’s Easter activities commence this morning at the cathedral with the Chrism Mass, the blessing of the oils, and renewal of priestly vows. Tonight at seven, the Lord’s Supper is celebrated followed by the church visits.
The Catholic tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday — also called Maunday Thursday — dates to Roman times when Christian pilgrims visited the seven basilicas as an act of penance. In Cuenca, the visits attract thousands of tourists due to the short distances between churches in El Centro. “In most cities in Ecuador, you would walk many kilometers between seven churches,” says priest Nelson Ramirez. “Here, the distances are short and churches are very beautiful.”
For those who cannot join the faithful tonight, Cuenca’s tourism office is organizing guided tours of churches on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., at the cathedral. In addition to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the tour will visist the Old Cathedral Museum, Carmen of the Assumption, San Francisco, Santo Domingo, Church of Conceptas, San Alfonso and Todos Santos. The tours will be run by local tour operators and cost $5 per person.
There is no charge for tonight’s visits to the churches.