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Learn more about the Feast of San Sebastian in Cusco

In a region full of customs and very strong traditions, it is inevitable not to think about the development of each of its saint festivities. Each celebration in the land of the Incas becomes anecdotical and mystical, thanks to its believing people with ideals that are passed from generation to generation.

Cusco has a festival declared Cultural Patrimony of the Nation and it is due to its impressive convocation, as much of travelers as of the locals. The feast of San Sebastián, takes place in the district with its same name and is celebrated every January 20th of each year, representing religious faith and devotion with an Andean and European blend.

Who was San Sebastian?

The Feast of San Sebastián in Cusco, is linked to the life of a French military man, son of rich parents. The story tells that Sebastián (nowadays a saint) was cruelly beaten for claiming to be a Christian. The Emperor Maximilian felt that he lacked respect and decided to condemn him to die with arrows. His friends saw him lying on the floor still alive, they took him to the home of a Christian woman who cured him and kept him hidden for a while.

After his long recovery, Sebastián went to reproach the emperor for his persecution against the Christians. Maximiliano, when challenged, sends him to flog for a second time, Sebastián did not resist in this opportunity. His body was thrown and abandoned in a place full of mud. A group of Christians decided to rescue the body and buried it in the Via Apia, a catacomb that carries to this day the name of San Sebastián.

Why is The Fest of San Sebastian celebrated in Cusco?

This festivity is very representative in Cusco, especially in the district of San Sebastián. The image arrived in Cusco approximately in 17th century. After the conquest, it quickly became the patron of the Cusco people, who built the first chapel in 1664.

Legend has it that the people were invaded by the plague, the main reason for the devotees of San Sebastián to come to his temple with prayers, then a miracle occurred and all the plague of the city disappeared, after this response the settlers began To offer him gifts and offerings.

The Feast of San Sebastian

The party starts with a very early mass. National and international tourists must be awake from before 6:00 a.m. to not miss any detail of this religious tradition. Then, a procession takes place with the San Sebastián platform, which is strolled through the streets of Cusco, while its most faithful devotees carry it on their shoulders and walk barefoot for long minutes. The platform is very heavy so it takes about 60 men to carry it.

The rhythm is not alien to this festival; dance groups go along with this procession, performing dances such as: contradanza, coyacha, mistiza coyacha, chunchachas, saqra, among others.


On January 19th is The Feast of San Sebastián’s Eve, where the people are in charge of organizing everything, district authorities are present. First the so-called “triumphal entry” is given, while the dancers enter with the guild and the majordomos with gifts blessed by the priest of the chapel.

La octava

La octava is the farewell party given to San Sebastián, which takes place eight days after its central day. Those in charge of performing this incomparable party are the majordomos, who invite collaborators and devotees of the patron saint.

Every Cusco history is incredible thanks to its customs and cultures inherited through time. Discover more of Cusco and its festivities, its people are waiting all travelers with open arms to share their traditions.

Come to San Sebastián and enjoy this great celebration with the people of Cusco!

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