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Black Nazarene

Coordinates: 14°35′56″N 120°59′1″E / 14.59889°N 120.98361°E / 14.59889; 120.98361
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The Black Nazarene
Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno
Poóng Itím na Nazareno
LocationThe Minor Basilica and National Shrine of Black Nazarene, Parish of Saint John the Baptist, Quiapo, Manila, Philippines
Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico
WitnessRecollect Priests
Archbishop of Manila, Basílio Sancho de Santa Justa y Rufina
TypeWood carving
ApprovalPope Innocent X
Pope Pius VII
Pope John Paul II
Venerated inCatholic Church
ShrineMinor Basilica and National Shrine of the Black Nazarene
PatronageQuiapo, Tagalogs, Filipinos, Philippines
AttributesDark skin, maroon and gold vestments, the Cross
Feast day

The Black Nazarene (Spanish: El Nazareno Negro; Filipino: Poóng Itím na Nazareno[1]) is a life-sized dark statue of Jesus Christ carrying the True Cross. The venerated image is enshrined in the Minor Basilica and National Shrine of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila, Philippines.[2]

Described in Revelations 1:14-15 -- 14"His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;

15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. The image was reputedly carved by an unknown Mexican artist in the 16th century and then brought to the Philippines in 1606.[2][3] It depicts Jesus en route to his crucifixion.

Pious believers claim that physically touching the image can bring miracles and cure diseases.[2][3][4] The original image or its replica is given a religious procession three times a year:

Name and parts[edit]

The image derives its official name from "Nazarene", a title of Christ identifying him as a native of Nazareth, along with its dark complexion (unusual for depictions of Jesus, even in the Philippines).

Main carriage[edit]

The image's wooden base is referred to as the peana while its carriage or carroza used in processions is called the ándas (from the Spanish andar, "to move forward"). The term ándas commonly refers to the shoulder-borne palanquins of religious images, and was retained for the icon's carriage which replaced the silver palanquins used until the late 20th century.

Composition and main replica[edit]

There is no singular complete image of the Black Nazarene as there are several images and replicas in different combinations.

  • The Vicário is the replica processional image, used for the annual Traslación, as well as the New Year's Eve and Good Friday processions.
  • The head of the original Black Nazarene is on the image enshrined in the high altar, which has a body made of molave wood (Vitex parviflora or Vitex cofassus).
  • The original right hand of the image is kept in the office of the parish priest that is used for blessing people, especially the sick and dying.
  • The Vicário retains the original body torso, with a replica head of Litsea leytensis wood (Filipino: Batikulíng)

Other replicas[edit]

Aside from the original image on the high altar and the Vicário main replica, the basilica also owns three external replicas of the image, called Callejeros.

These sanctioned replicated statues are sent to visit various shrines in across the different dioceses in the country according to popular demand.


Original image[edit]

The image enshrined above the high altar of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, Manila.

The image was made by an anonymous Mexican sculptor and arrived in Manila via galleon from Acapulco, Mexico on 31 May 1606. Folk belief attributes the colour of the image to soot from votive candles burnt before it, although the most popular legend is that it was charred by a fire on the galleon that brought it from Mexico.

Researcher of Catholic theology Monsignor Sabino Vengco, meanwhile, claims that the image is not charred, but is in fact dark through to its core, being carved from mesquite wood. Vengco based this claim on personal research in Mexico, where he said mesquite wood was a popular medium in the period the image was carved. He also likened it to Our Lady of Antipolo, another popular image of similar provenance and appearance.[12]

The image was first enshrined in the Church of San Juan Bautista of the Augustinian Recollects in Bagumbayan, Luneta. In 1608, the image was transferred to the Church of San Nicolás de Tolentino (popularly known as the "Recoletos Church") inside Intramuros. It was enshrined in the retablo mayor or high altar of the church, leaving only for a procession on Palm Sunday. Both the church and the image were destroyed in the Allied bombardment of Manila during its liberation in 1945.

Replica and vandalism (1998)[edit]

On 9 January 1787, the Augustinian Recollect priests donated a copy of the image to the Church of the Camisa (later renamed Quiapo Church). This donation is celebrated by the faithful every January 9 by means of a procession (the Traslación) from Quiapo Church to Rizal Park (where the aforementioned Church of San Juan Bautista, the image's first home once stood in Bagumbayan) and back to Quiapo.

In the 1990s, the Archdiocese of Manila feared that the image might be damaged during the Traslación, fire, or natural disaster. The most notable case was when during the 1998 Traslación, a fanatical member of the Iglesia ni Cristo religion shot the image's left cheek using a gun. It caused a hysterical commotion that led to the shooter's death. To date, the gunshot wound on the cheek has remained unrestored and not remedied by pious popular demand. [13]

The archdiocese later commissioned Mr. Gener Maglaqui, Filipino santero (English: a sculptor of religious images), to sculpt a replica of the head and body. The Augustinian Recollects head of 1787 now sits atop the 1990s body, which remains enshrined behind the church's main altar. The 1990s head was placed atop the Augustinian Recollects body. It is this composite combination which is used during major processions.[14]

The image celebrated its quadricentennial (that is, 400th) anniversary on 9 January 2006.


The Black Nazarene wears a braided wig made of dark, dyed abacá, along with a golden Crown of Thorns. Attached to the Crown are the traditional "Tres Potencias" ("three powers") halo, variously understood as symbolising the three powers of the Holy Trinity; the faculties of will, memory, and understanding in Christ's soul; or his exousia (authority), dunamis (power), and kratos (strength). These three rayos ("rays"), likely an angular variant of the cruciform halo, are used exclusively for and proper to images of Jesus Christ in traditional Filipino and Hispanic iconography to signify his divinity. The original image has lost several fingers over the centuries.

Jesus is shown barefoot and in a genuflecting posture, symbolising the agony and the weight of the Cross, along with the overall pain Christ endured during his Passion. The Cross itself is of black wood tipped with flat, pyramidal brass caps.


The image is dressed in a heavy velvet tunic of maroon, embroidered with floral and plant designs using gold thread, and trimmed with a matching set of white lace collar and cuffs. Around the waist is a gold-plated metal belt embossed with the word "NAZARENO", while a golden chain ending in spheres is looped around the neck and held in the left hand, representing the Flagellation of Christ.

The vestments of the image are changed in the rite of Pabihis (English: Vesting the image), which is presided over by a Catholic priest vested in an alb, red cope and stole. Devotees watching the ceremony either sit inside the basilica, or follow along outside in Plaza Miranda. The rite comprises with several hymns, the reading of scriptural lessons, the recitation of prayers, and then the blessing of the new vestments. As a sign of modesty and reverence, a curtain is raised to shield the statue from public view as the male attendants called Hijos change its vestments, and then it is dropped once the actual changing is complete. The old vestments are folded and presented to the faithful, who queue to kiss and touch these in the belief these bear the image's miraculous properties. The rite of vesting is officiated five times a year in preparation for major religious occasions; since 2022, a few of the vesting day rites are also livestreamed online.

Pontifical approbations[edit]

Pious cult and veneration[edit]

A replica of the Black Nazarene at Plaza Miranda during the 2011 Traslación.
Devotees raise their hands to receive blessings of the Black Nazarene after Mass at Quiapo Church.

Veneration of the Black Nazarene is rooted among Filipinos who strongly identify with the passion and suffering of Christ the image depicts. Many devotees of the Black Nazarene relate their poverty and daily struggles to the Passion of Christ.

Some believers practice walking in barefoot as a form of piety while others make an effort to ride on the carriage in the belief of obtaining graces from the devotional image. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, procession of the image was relatively solemn and peaceful. The rowdy and massive nature of the procession began in the 1960s as the population grew and greater hype surrounded the image.

While the actual patron saint of the basilica is John the Baptist (making its feast day June 24, concurrent with the secular Manila Day), the Black Nazarene and its Traslación are more popular.

At the end of each Mass said in the basilica, devotees pay homage to the image by clapping their hands. In addition to the novena, Traslación, Pahalík, and the Pabihis, the Pasindí ("lighting") or lighting of votive candles is another popular devotion, as is the decades-old, reverential custom of creeping on one's knees down the main aisle towards the altar and image.

The Friday of each week in the year (except Good Friday, the image's liturgical commemoration) is colloquially known in Metro Manila as "Quiapo Day", since the novena for the image is held on this day nationwide. As with Wednesday (which is comparably called "Baclaran Day"), this day is associated with heavy traffic around the basilica due to the influx of devotees and pilgrims.

The attached Nazarene Catholic School (formerly the Quiapo Parochial School) reflects the devotion of school authorities; its official newsletter is likewise named "The Nazarene", with pupils called "Nazareñans."

The largest annual procession for the Black Nazarene is the January 9 Traslación procession on the Feast of the Black Nazarene, attracting millions of Catholic devotees, who try to touch or get their towel wiped by the image carriers on the image to attain its blessings and power.[7][8][17] Along with Santo Niño (Child Jesus), it is the most popular object of devotion in the Philippines.[10] In 2011, over six million Catholic devotees flocked to the Feast of the Black Nazarene.[18]


The hymn Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno was composed by National Artist of the Philippines, Lucio San Pedro to honor the image. It is used by the basilica as the official anthem to the image and associated rites.

The image is also prominently featured on the front cover of Pabasa books, a Lenten manual hymn commemorating the life and Passion of Jesus Christ.

Claims of indigenous idolatry[edit]

According to the rector of the basilica, Father José Clemente Ignacio, the image's procession and devotional practices reflect the "Filipino trait to want to wipe, touch, kiss, or embrace sacred objects if possible", and reflect an indigenous belief in "the presence of the Divine in sacred objects and places."[19]

According to Jaime Laya, these practices are a modernized form of indigenous idolatry, a continuation of the pre-Christian practice of revering sacred objects by pious touching (Filipino: Hipo / Himas).[20] Elizabeth Pisares also states that this is a revised idolatry of pre-colonial times, and suggests its link with social disparities among Filipinos.[21]

According to Mariano Barbato, the debate over the icon comes down to personal interpretations of what constitutes idolatry.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sison, Antonio D. (2015). "Afflictive Apparitions: The Folk Catholic Imaginary in Philippine Cinema". Material Religion. 11 (4). Routledge: 421–442. doi:10.1080/17432200.2015.1103474. S2CID 192961308.
  2. ^ a b c John Lyden (2009). The Routledge Companion to Religion and Film. Routledge. p. 184. ISBN 978-1-135-22065-5.
  3. ^ a b c J. Gordon Melton (2011). Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations. ABC-CLIO. pp. 118–119. ISBN 978-1-59884-206-7.
  4. ^ John N. Schumacher (1968), The Depth of Christianization in Early Seventeenth-Century Philippines, Philippine Studies, Vol. 16, No. 3 (JULY 1968), pages 535-539
  5. ^ John Lyden (2009). The Routledge Companion to Religion and Film. Routledge. pp. 184–185. ISBN 978-1-135-22065-5.
  6. ^ Jean-Guy A. Goulet; Liam D. Murphy; Anastasia Panagakos (2015). Religious Diversity Today: Experiencing Religion in the Contemporary World. ABC-CLIO. pp. 147–152. ISBN 978-1-4408-3332-8.
  7. ^ a b Tony Twigg (2015), THE BLACK NAZARENE, A PHILIPPINE NATIONAL ETHO Archived December 22, 2018, at the Wayback Machine, TAASA Review, Volume 24, Number 2 (June 2015), pages 16-18
  8. ^ a b Paul-François Tremlett (2008). Religion and the Discourse on Modernity. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 1–5, 121–122. ISBN 978-0-8264-9823-6.
  9. ^ Joi Barrios (2015). Intermediate Tagalog. Singapore: Tuttle. pp. 182–183. ISBN 978-1-4629-1427-2.
  10. ^ a b Geoffrey Wainwright (2006). The Oxford History of Christian Worship. Oxford University Press. p. 674. ISBN 978-0-19-513886-3.
  11. ^ J. Gordon Melton (2011). Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations. ABC-CLIO. pp. 116–119. ISBN 978-1-59884-206-7.
  12. ^ De Guzman, Odi (January 8, 2015). "Black or white: The Nazarene and the Pinoy devotion". GMA News Online. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
  13. ^ Pineda, Patrick. "Pamimintuho bilang Pakikiisa: The Black Nazarene and Physical Practices of Devotion as Imitatio Christi". Academia. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  14. ^ de Guzman, Nicai (January 9, 2019). "Black Nazarene: The Tale of Traslación". Esquire. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  15. ^ Michael M. Ramos (2015), POPULAR RELIGIOSITY: A FILIPINO EXPERIENCE OF AN INCULTURATED FAITH, Canadian International Journal of Social Science and Education, Volume 7, page 246; Quote: "This confraternity of the Nazarene was officially authorized by the bull of Pope Innocent X expedited in Rome on April 20, 1650, "By which the confraternity of N.P. Jesus Nazareno was erected and founded in the Church of the Agustinos Recoletos Descalzos in the city of Manila, and by virtue of which many graces and indulgences were granted to the members".
  16. ^ Leonardo Mercado (2002). Jesus Christ and the Gentile Mission. Gregorian Biblical BookShop. pp. 320–321. ISBN 978-88-7652-944-3.
  17. ^ Joi Barrios (2015). Intermediate Tagalog. Singapore: Tuttle. pp. 182–184. ISBN 978-1-4629-1427-2.
  18. ^ Jose Alain Austria (2012), Hijos de Enero 9: Quiapo's Black Nazarene Procession as a Male Rite of Passage, Manila Journal, Volume 8, Number 1, page 15; Quote: "This year [2011] approximately 6.5 million devotees flocked to Quiapo and the Luneta, joining the longest procession on record of sixteen hours. (...) What seems to be pure mayhem in the eyes of the on-looker, or pure faith on the part of the religious, is also a complex of herculean tasks that the young male devotee must perform not only to gain graces, but also to earn the approval of both his peers, the elder male devotees, and most importantly the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno.".
  19. ^ Jazmin Badong Llana (2014), Inaesthetics of Performance in the Black Nazarene Procession, De La Salle University, DLSU Research Congress 2014, page 3
  20. ^ Jaime C. Laya (2001). Letras Y Figuras. Manila: Anvil. pp. 89–90. ISBN 978-971-27-1143-5.
  21. ^ Elizabeth H. Pisares (1999). Daly City is My Nation: Race, Imperialism and the Claiming of Pinay / Pinoy Identities in Filipino American Culture. University of California Press. p. 58. OCLC 43832108.
  22. ^ Barbato, Mariano (2013). "Self: Pilgrim, Nomad, Homo Faber". Pilgrimage, Politics, and International Relations. pp. 55–82. doi:10.1057/9781137275813_3. ISBN 978-1-137-27581-3.
  1. ^ Ioannes Paulus Secundum, Papam. “Qui Loco Petri” (1987) Sigillium Vaticanus: Prænotanda Numerorum #209—291. Vatican Secret Archives.

External links[edit]

14°35′56″N 120°59′1″E / 14.59889°N 120.98361°E / 14.59889; 120.98361