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435: La Catedral, Cuzco, Peru
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La Catedral, Cuzco, Peru
Mystery Worshipper: Corpus Cani.
The church: La Catedral, Cuzco, Peru.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: Actually three conjoined churches. Since La Catedral itself is undergoing mammoth restoration, the service was held in El Triunfo. The small church of Jesu Maria has already been restored at vast expense and to great effect. Internally, La Catedral resembles a huge, derelict warehouse. All three churches are typically South Amreican – dark, damp, full of altars, flowers and tacky statues.
The neighbourhood: Plaza de Armas is the centre of Cuzco and is permanently busy with tourists and touts. Allegedly a crime hot-spot, we actually found it comfortable and filled with warm and friendly people. Not far away from the Plaza, with its swish hotels and restaurants, there is tremendous poverty.
The cast: Absolutely no idea, but they were in there ending the first mass as we arrived and they stayed to begin the third mass as we left.
What was the name of the service?

How full was the building?
Absolutely jam-packed – every seat occupied, every aisle full, crowds thronging around the altar rail and more people coming in all through the service.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Only the hawkers on the doorstep trying to flog us candles and gaudy silk flowers as offerings to the statues within.

Was your pew comfortable?
No. A most uncomfortable bench and unpadded wooden kneeler that left dirty marks on Corpus's clerical black trousers and left Mrs Corpus in a some pain and a bad mood until post-gig refreshments.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The six o'clock mass was still ending, the congregation was changing over, chaos reigned.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father..." in Spanish.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. Everybody either knew the words or kept quiet, except Mrs Corpus who insisted on saying the Lord's Prayer very loudly in English at the appropriate moment, much to the delight of a crusty looking man in front.

What musical instruments were played?
Harmonium, flute and violin with a small choir of sorts. It sounded just like "The Mission".

Did anything distract you?
The crowds. Even when the place was packed to the gunwales, still they came. After the blessing, half the congregation got up and left and the others just stayed there for seconds, whilst there was a huge influx of newcomers, all jostling for seats at the back or standing room at the front.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Modern Roman, trying to be dignified in the midst of a rugby scrum.

La Catedral, Cuzco, Peru

Exactly how long was the sermon?
25 minutes. In Spanish.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
Hard to say, since I don't speak Spanish, but he did some funny voices which amused the locals very much so it must be a 10, unless, of course, he was preaching Liberation Theology or some other heresy.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Erm... "Jesus Christi" cropped up somewhere, I think...

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Nothing I'm afraid, although the music was quite moving in a grating sort of way.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The above-mentioned crusty old bloke in front who couldn't wait to pounce on Mrs Corpus during the peace and need to be prised off by his wife, who looked as if she didn't wish us much peace at all.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We crawled between the legs of the incoming worshippers to get out and were immediately button-holed by hawkers who assumed we wanted to take candles and gaudy flowers home with us.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
G+T at a bar in the Plaza, where Corpus had his shoes cleaned by a bootblack. Simply too exquisitely divine.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – Bit of a trek on a weekly basis, but much of the absence of spiritual fulfilment was due to my lack of Spanish rather than anything the church did.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes – it was good to see true devotion amongst Christians in a very distant and very different part of the world.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The crowds – my church is never this full!

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