Seven Chruch Visit in One Night, Popular in Cuenca Ecuador

Seven Church Tradition

There is a tradition here in Cuenca and around the world in urban Catholic communities to do a seven church visit on the evening of Holy Thursday (the night before Good Friday). The history of this tradition is not clear. The pilgrimage to each church may correspond to the seven stations of the cross that were made by Jesus on his way to Calvary. Visiting churches on Holy Thursday probably originated in Rome.
Here in Ecuador, the faithful want to keep Jesus company on the eve of his crucifixion. I never heard of this tradition even though I was Catholic. Most likely because I did not grow up in an urban area. I decided to try and visit seven churches on Holy Thursday. In Cuenca, these visits begin after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday evening). After the mass, the main altar and sometimes the side altars are covered, and they place the Blessed Sacrament in a Tabernacle on the Altar of Repose. Churches are then left open until midnight for silent adoration.
Come with me as I visit seven churches:
seven church
Santuario Mariano. The plaza in front of this church is home to Cuenca’s daily flower market
seven church
San Sebastian
seven church
San Roque
seven church
Iglesia San Alfonso
san blas
San Blas
seven church
Old Cathedral
seven church
Avemaria Redemptrix Captivorum

Stations of the Cross

My mother took me to Stations of the Cross a couple of times when I was young. I did not like going. The service was too long, and I did not understand what was going on. One thing I noticed as I did the seven church visit was that there were a lot of families with young children as well as teenagers entering the churches. Because you visit seven churches in one evening, you do not spend much time in one particular church and are frequently on the move. The other thing I notice was that outside of the churches people were selling carnival or celebration food. I saw hard-boiled quail eggs, grilled meats, and corn for sale as well as many different kinds of sweets.


Outside of the New Cathedral, there were people selling votive candles and religious objects as well as photo opportunities for children with movie characters. For young kids who do not grasp the meaning of the evening what they take away is that this is a fun night to spend with their family. I think this is how this tradition survives here in South America. This night becomes a tradition they look forward to each year. As God is the Father of us all, like any parent, I think that anything that brings families together makes him happy.

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