Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Thirteen Holy Souls

Not sure anyone knows how 13 skulls came to be placed in this unmarked modest adobe structure in central Chiclayo. One story tells of how a bus accident killed over 50 people and the skulls were a result of that accident. Another account says that a flood destroyed over 90% of the area and that weeks later the 13 skulls were found clustered about a large wooden cross. However it happened, the skulls have reportedly been in this structure for over 100 years, and are visited daily by hundreds of people in need of help.

There is a mystical feeling to the tiny room where often people are standing shoulder to shoulder in silent prayer. There is a traditional oration to be offered to the souls, ending with the promise to recite 13 times daily Ave Maria and Our Father for 13 days. An important part of the ritual is the burning of a single white candle, which can be purchased in a small side room. One source claims that 3,000 candles are offered daily.

Over time more skulls and other objects of a religious nature have been added to the collection, apparently offered as thanks for miracles received. Every inch of wall space is covered with plaques placed there by individuals who are absolutely certain the 13 souls answered their call for help. Most of the plaques simply read… “Gracias por el milagro concedido” (Thank you for the miracle granted), though other more elaborate plaques include a description of the miracle granted. And it is not just Chiclayanos who visit the 13 souls. Many of the plaques have city names from locations all over Peru.

It is my understanding that Catholic Church authorities in Peru neither condone nor condemn the practice of visiting and praying to the 13 souls, though it is likely that an official church position either way would have no effect on the many believers.


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