Black Nazarene

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The Holy Black Nazarene
Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno
Poong Itim na Nazareno
LocationQuiapo, Manila, Philippines
DateMay 31, 1606
Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico
WitnessRecollect Priests
Archbishop Basílio Sancho de Santa Justa, S.P.
TypeWooden statue
Holy See approvalPope Innocent X
Pope Pius VII
ShrineBasilica of the Black Nazarene
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The Holy Black Nazarene
Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno
Poong Itim na Nazareno
LocationQuiapo, Manila, Philippines
DateMay 31, 1606
Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico
WitnessRecollect Priests
Archbishop Basílio Sancho de Santa Justa, S.P.
TypeWooden statue
Holy See approvalPope Innocent X
Pope Pius VII
ShrineBasilica of the Black Nazarene

The Black Nazarene (Spanish: Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno), (Filipino: Poóng Itím na Nazareno), is a holy life-sized iconic statue of Jesus Christ carrying the cross to Calvary Hill in the Philippines. It displays one of the stations of the cross during the journey of His crucifixion. The image is one of two statues sculpted from pure ivory and were burnt aboard a ship during the Manila galleon expedition from Mexico leaving the other destroyed. The descriptive name of the sculpture is then taken it being "Black" resulting from the incident that happened. The older and more popular copy belonging to the Recollects was destroyed in the Second World War during the Liberation of Manila in 1945. Originally both of fair complexion referring to the natural skin tone of Jesus Christ as an impression of the artist. The statue is well-renowned in the Philippines and is believed to be miraculous and a religious pilgrimage to many Filipino Catholics.

The Black Nazarene is currently in its resting place at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Basilika Minor ng Itim na Nazareno)(colloquially known as the "Quiapo Church"). In honour of the statue, the image is carried and brought around the streets of Manila as an event of the "Fiesta of the Black Nazarene" (Pista ng Itim na Nazareno) displaying the importance of the Holy Stations of the Cross. The event is removed from public procession from its home basilica on two of three annual occasions on New Year's Day, Good Friday and is only currently being held on January 9 of its first novena feast. The January 9th feast was chosen as a date for the original transfer in 1787, the ninth day after New Year's Day and an enshrinement in the present Basilica is commemorated. The event is attended by millions of devotees that crowd the streets of processional route.


The Black Nazarene derives its name from Jesus' hailing from Nazareth in Galilee, and the image's very dark complexion unusual among most Philippine religious images. Adorning the statue's head are the traditional "Tres Potencias" ("three powers") halo, symbolizing the three powers of the Holy Trinity. The three rayos ("rays") are used to exclusively identify Christ in traditional Hispanic iconography, and are an angular evolution of the common cruciform halo.

The importance of the holy relic lead to a procession through the streets of Manila. The event is taken from the Spanish term translation (Spanish: Traslación) referring to "Passage" or "Movement." The term was later modernized or adapted from English in the Latin root form "Trans" or "Port" (Transport/to move or carry) in addition to the prefix of the word "Translacion" to move the image from one place to another parading around the city in a certain specific sequence. The word "Translacion" is often mistaken as the Spanish or Tagalog word for "translation," however both "Traslacion" and "Translacion" are applicable accordingly for the holy event.


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"). Until the latter part of the 20th century, the Ándas, as the name implies its original head is resting on its main altar and survived by the World War II.


The image enshrined in 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 first decade of the 1600s. Folk tradition attributes the dark colour of the statue to a fire on the ship that charred the originally white skin.

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 body, the latter sculpted by renowned Filipino Santero (saint-maker) Gener Manlaqui. A second composite statue of the original body and the Manlaqui replica's head is enshrined in a different location, emerging only for the three major annual processions. This arrangement began in the 1990s because of security concerns for the image; up to that point, the original image in its entirety was processed.


The Black Nazarene is constructed from ivory kneeling with the height of 5'5 along with the halo and the cross of 6'0. The image is built during the early 1600s transporting from Mexico by the Manila Galleon route founded by Andres de Urdaneta fouded in 1565.

The image is dressed in a heavy velvet maroon tunic, embroidered with floral or plant emblems in gold thread, and 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 loops around the neck and is held in its left hand, representing the Flagellation. The barefooted statue is in a genuflecting posture, symbolizing the agony and the weight of the cross with the pain Jesus Christ went through during His crucifixion.

The statue's original body has lost several fingers over the years, and the original head has since been transferred several times onto a full-scale replica body by renowned Filipino sculptor Gener Manlaqui as commissioned by the Archdiocese of Manila. The statue also bears a large wooden cross with gilded brass caps on its ends while the head wears a braided wig made of dyed abaca, along with a golden crown of thorns.


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 9 January, 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 all levels, 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. 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.[1] 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) and overseas.

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 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. These officials are distinguishable from devotees by their yellow shirts, 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 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 10 January. 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.[2]

Revival of the Dungaw[edit]

On 9 January 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.[3] 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.[4]

It is notable how the images are from a similar period and provenance, and that the practise echoes the Fourth Station of the Cross, which commemorates how Christ met his mother, the Virgin Mary, as He was walking to his crucifixion.

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 feast day on 24 June), the Black Nazarene is 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.

There are three annual dates when the statue is brought out of its shrine for public veneration: New Year's Day; 9 January; and Good Friday. The procession on the 9 January feast commemorates the image's Traslación (English: "passage" or "transfer"), or solemn transfer to the Minor Basilica, and is the largest of the three.


The hymn Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno was composed by Lucio San Pedro to honour the Black Nazarene. 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! ||


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.[5]


Travel within the City of Manila during the day-long Traslación every 9 January 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, MRT-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. ^ '9M devotees attended Black Nazarene feast'
  2. ^
  3. ^ de Castro, Jay (9 January 2014). "UPDATE | MGA DEBOTO, NAKAABANG NA SA SAN SEBASTIAN CHURCH PARA SA 'MIRATA' O 'DUNGAW'" (in Tagalog). TV 5. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  4. ^ Velasco, Ricky. "radio news report". Doctor Love (radio show). DZMM 630. 
  5. ^

External links[edit]

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