Black Nazarene

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Black Nazarene
Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno
Poong Itim na Nazareno
Location Quiapo, Manila, Philippines
Date May 31, 1606
(408 years and 234 days)
Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico
Witness Recollect Priests
Basílio Sancho de Santa Justa y Rufina, S.P., Archbishop of Manila
Type Wooden statue
Holy See approval Pope Innocent X
Pope Pius VII
Shrine Basilica of the Black Nazarene
Patronage Quiapo, Manila, Filipino people, the Philippines
Attributes Dark skin, maroon and gold vestments, cross

The Black Nazarene (Spanish: El Nazareno Negro, Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno; Filipino: Poóng Itím na Nazareno), is a life-sized iconic statue of Jesus Christ enshrined in the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene located at the Quiapo district in the City of Manila, Philippines. The image, which was carved by an anonymous Mexican artist sometime in the 17th century, depicts Jesus bearing the cross en route to his crucifixion. The statue is renowned in the Philippines and considered miraculous by many Filipino Catholics.

There are three annual dates when the statue is brought out of its shrine for public veneration: New Year's Day (the first day of its novena); Good Friday; and January 9. The procession on the 9th of January reenacts the image's Traslación in 1787 (English: "passage" or "transfer"), or solemn transfer to the Minor Basilica from its original location in what is now Rizal Park. The Traslación procession is the largest of the three, drawing millions of devotees and lasting anywhere from 14 to 20 hours.


The statue derives its name from "Nazarene", which is a title of Christ identifying him as being of Nazareth in Galilee, and from its very dark complexion uncommon amongst Philippine depictions of Jesus.

The importance of the holy icon led to the Traslación procession through the streets of Manila. The event is taken from the Spanish term for translation referring to "passage" or "movement".


The image's wooden base is referred to as the peana, while its carriage or carroza used in processions is specifically called the Ándas (from the Spanish andar, "to move forward"). While the term andas is in the country otherwise applied to shoulder-borne palanquins for religious images, the carriage retains this name as until the late 20th century, the image was processed using such a device.


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

The statue was made by an anonymous Mexican sculptor, and the image arrived in Manila via galleon from Acapulco, Mexico, sometime in the mid-1600s. Traditional accounts attribute the colour to factors such as votive candles offered before the image, although the most widely-held belief is that it was charred by a fire onboard the galleon that brought it from Mexico.

Monsignor Sabino A. Vengco, Jr. from Loyola School of Theology meanwhile noted that the image was not charred but in fact dark through to its core, as it was carved from mesquite wood. Vengco based this claim on personal research in Mexico, where he said the wood was a popular medium in the period the statue was carved, and likened it to Our Lady of Antipolo, of similar provenance and appearance.[1]

The older and more popular copy belonging to the Recollects was destroyed in the Second World War during the Liberation of Manila in 1945. The surviving image has been enshrined in the Minor Basilica for centuries, withstanding several fires, earthquakes and war. A common misconception among devotees is that this copy is the same as the lost image from the Church of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, which belonged to the Recollects in what is now Rizal Park outside Intramuros. The Quiapo image was available for physical veneration by devotees, while the Recollects always kept their copy above the retablo mayor (high altar) away from crowds.

The present-day statue enshrined in Quiapo Church is in fact a composite of the original head and a replica sculpted by renowned Filipino santero (saint-maker) Gener Manlaqui, as commissioned by the Archdiocese of Manila. The second composite statue, comprising the original body and the head of the Manlaqui replica, is normally stored in a different location and brought out only for the three major annual processions. This arrangement began in the 1990s because of security concerns for the image as well as the to prevent further damage to it; up to that point, the original image in its entirety was processed.


The original wooden image itself has lost several fingers over the years. The head wears a braided wig made of dyed abaca, along with a golden crown of thorns. Attached to the crown of the statue's head are the traditional "Tres Potencias" ("three powers") halo, symbolizing the three powers of the Holy Trinity. These three rayos ("rays") are used to exclusively identify Christ in traditional Hispanic iconography, and are an angular variant of the common cruciform halo.

The image is dressed in a heavy velvet tunic of maroon, embroidered with floral or plant emblems in gold thread, and accented with lace trimmings on the collar and cuffs. Around its waist, a gold-plated metal belt embossed with the word "NAZARENO", while a golden chain and ball looped around the neck and held in its left hand represents the Scourging. The statue's vestments are changed in the Pabihis ("dressing") ritual, which is performed by a priest and devotees inside the basilica five times a year in preparation for major religious occasions.

The barefooted statue is shown in a genuflecting posture, symbolising the agony and the weight of the cross with the pain Christ endured during his Passion. The statue bears a large, black cross of wood decorated with gilded brass caps on its ends.


Marshals in yellow lift the Black Nazarene onto its ándas at the start of the Traslación. The peana or base of the image can be seen under the hem of its robes.

Every January 9, the Traslación of the Black Nazarene makes its way along the streets of the Quiapo district, with attendees reaching up to 12 million. In recent years, the processional route was altered due to a rise in vehicular and stampede accidents, to afford other neighbourhoods off the traditional route a chance to participate, and because of structural deficiencies in bridges along the route. It is normally only a school holiday for the schools along or near the path of the procession, but in 2014 the Mayor of Manila and former President Joseph Estrada, for the first time in the city's history, declared it a special non-working holiday due to the impassability of some thoroughfares and projected congestion in others.

As per custom, the statue of the Nazarene leaves the Minor Basilica a day or two before, either in a public fashion or clandestinely. Since 2007 and 2009, the procession begins at around 08:00 PHT (GMT+8) after a Mass at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park, near where the image was first enshrined, and ends in Quiapo early the following morning or at late night the same day, depending on how long the image is traveling. Some participants choose to wait for the image inside the Minor Basilica to greet it, while most devotees walk throughout the whole processional route. All devotees wear maroon and yellow like the image's garb, and they walk barefoot as both penance and in emulation of Jesus on his way to Golgotha. Authorities estimate that over 500,000 devotees strode barefoot in the 2013 procession, which was attended by 9 million people.[2] Attendees include families of devotees, tourists, and members of devotees' associations throughout the country (marked by their long gonfalone, usually coloured maroon or white and embroidered in gold, all with an icon of the image and the association name in gold or white surrounding it) and overseas.

Devotees around the "Ándas" of the Black Nazarene

The Black Nazarene is borne in procession on its carriage called the Ándas, and traditionally only men were permitted to be namámasán ("bearers", i.e. devotees pulling the Ándas by its two large ropes), but in recent years female devotees have been allowed to participate. It is believed that the Kanang Balikat, or right shoulder-side of the rope, is the most sacred side since it is believed to have been where Jesus bore the cross.

Marshals from the Minor Basilica, known as the Hijos del Nazareno, form an honour guard for the Black Nazarene, and are the only people allowed to ride with it in the Ándas for the duration of the Traslación. The Hijos are distinguishable by their yellow and white shirts from maroon-clad devotees, and their primary jobs are to protect the image from possible damage as well as direct the namámasán at the front and the crowd behind through hand gestures, voice commands (either directly or through a megaphone, especially at the front of the image) and whistle signals. They also help devotees clamber up the Ándas that they might briefly touch the image or its cross, and wipe towels and handkerchiefs tossed at them on parts of the image. The wiping of cloth on the statue, which is also done during the Pahalík ("kissing") vigil preceding the Traslación, follows the folk belief that a miraculous object's powers (specifically its curative abilities) "rub off" on cloth articles. This transfer of sanctity through contact descends from the custom of ex brandea (cloth wiped on the bodies or tombs of the Twelve Apostles), itself part of the wider category of Third-class relics.

The Traslación is also notorious for the casualties that result from the jostling and congestion of the crowds pulling the Ándas. The injuries and even deaths of devotees are brought upon by one or a combination of heat, fatigue, or being trampled upon by other devotees. The 2012 Traslación is the longest in the image's recorded history as it ended after 22 hours, arriving at Plaza Miranda around 05:15 PHT on January 10. The procession took longer than usual since the wheels of the Ándas broke early on at a point near Manila Hotel, and the rope broke near Liwasang Bonifacio. There were also reports of groups of devotees diverting the image from the previously decided route in order to pass by business establishments outside of the traditional route. This illicit act was done to allow homes and businesses off the planned route to receive the good luck and blessings of the image.[3]

Revival of the Dungaw[edit]

On January 9, 2014, the old tradition of the Dungaw (a Tagalog calque of its Spanish name Mirata, "to see" or "to view") was revived and reincorporated into the Traslación after old documents attesting to its practise were re-discovered. The custom involves the Black Nazarene being made to stop briefly at Plaza del Carmen along the southwest flank of the neo-gothic Basilica Minore de San Sebastián.

After the recitation of the rosary by the congregation inside the steel basilica and as the bells in the church's twin spires peal, the resident Recollect priests remove the statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel from its shrine in the retablo mayor (high altar). The image, which was given to the Recollects in 1617 by a Carmelite nunnery in Mexico City, is then brought to a high platform at the southwest face of the church, and lifted up by several priests to "see" and "meet" the Black Nazarene.[4] The moment is accompanied by relative silence and fervent prayer on the part of devotees, and shortly thereafter, the priests slowly turn the Virgin's statue so that it "watches" the Black Nazarene depart the vicinity of Plaza del Carmen with the crowds following.[5]

Theologically, the rite reflects the fourth of the Traditional Stations of the Cross, where Christ meets his mother, the Virgin Mary, as he was on his way to be crucified.

Papal approval[edit]

Pope Innocent X approved veneration of the statue in 1650 as a sacramental, and authorised the establishment of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Jesus Nazarene (Spanish: Cofradía de Nuestro Santo Jesús Nazareno). For a majority of the Spanish Era, Filipinos were barred from taking Holy Orders, while confraternities were groups of religious laymen and thus an open option. Pope Pius VII gave the statue his Apostolic Blessing in 1880, which granted plenary indulgence to those who piously pray before it.


A replica of the Black Nazarene at Plaza Miranda during the 2010 Traslación.

Religious veneration of the Black Nazarene is rooted among Filipinos who identify themselves with the passion and suffering of Christ which the statue depicts. Many devotees of the Black Nazarene relate their poverty and daily struggles to the Passion of Christ as represented by the image.

While the actual patron saint of the Minor Basilica is Saint John the Baptist (and thus the church's actual parochial feast day being 24 June), the Black Nazarene and its Traslación are more popular. At the end of each Mass offered in the Minor Basilica, devotees pay homage to the image by clapping their hands.

The Friday of each week in the year (except Good Friday) is colloquially known as "Quiapo Day" since the novena in the image's honour is held on this day nationwide. As with "Baclaran Day" (which is ascribed to Wednesdays), commuters associate these two days with heavy traffic in the city due to the influx of devotees to each shrine.

In addition to the novena, Traslación, Pahalík and the Pabihis, the Pasindi ("lighting") or lighting of devotional candles in prayer is another popular devotion, as is the creeping or walking on the knees down the nave of Quiapo Church towards the altar enshrining the image.


The hymn Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno was composed by Lucio San Pedro to honour the statue. It is used by the Minor Basilica as the official anthem of the devotion and its associated rites.

Tagalog lyrics
Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno,
Sinasambá Ka namin,
Pinipintuhò Ka namin
Aral Mo ang aming buhay
at Kaligtasan.
Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno,
Iligtás Mo kami sa Kasalanan!
Ang Krus Mong kinamatayán ay
Sagisag ng aming Kaligtasan.
|| Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno,
Dinarangál Ka namin!
Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno,
Nilul'walhatì Ka namin! ||
Literal English translation
Our Father Jesus Nazarene
We worship Thee
We admire Thee
Thy teachings are our life
and Salvation.
Our Father Jesus Nazarene,
Save us from sin!
The Cross Thou hadst died upon is
Emblem of our Salvation.
|| Our Father Jesus Nazarene,
We honour Thee!
Our Father Jesus Nazarene,
We glorify Thee! ||

Outside Quiapo[edit]

Similar processions replicating the Traslación are also held on 9 January in other parts of the country, such as Cagayan de Oro City, which has one of the largest such observances and uses a replica of the image given by the Minor Basilica in 2009.

Filipinos overseas have brought the tradition of a procession and Mass honouring of the Black Nazarene statue to countries such as Australia and the United States. As in Quiapo, a copy of the image is paraded through the streets or within the parish bounds, with devotees reciting prayers in its wake.

In September 2012, a replica of the Black Nazarene was canonically enshrined at Saint Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic Parish in Reseda, California, United States.[6]


Travel within the City of Manila during the day-long Traslación every January 9 might be difficult as heavy traffic is expected. Most jeepneys use alternate routes for the day to avoid the procession route, thus creating additional travel time. Some public transport systems such as the LRT-1, LRT-2, and MRT-3 provide free rides to devotees, who are easily recognisable as they are almost always barefoot and dressed in maroon. Traffic rerouting is implemented during the Traslación and the day before, and is enforced by the Manila Police District with reinforcements from the Philippine National Police and, in 2014, the Armed Forces of the Philippines.


  1. ^ De Guzman, Odi (8 January 2015). "Black or white: The Nazarene and the Pinoy devotion". GMA News Online. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  2. ^ '9M devotees attended Black Nazarene feast'
  3. ^
  4. ^ de Castro, Jay (January 9, 2014). "UPDATE | MGA DEBOTO, NAKAABANG NA SA SAN SEBASTIAN CHURCH PARA SA 'MIRATA' O 'DUNGAW'" (in Tagalog). TV 5. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  5. ^ Velasco, Ricky. "radio news report". Doctor Love (radio show). DZMM 630. 
  6. ^

External links[edit]

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