The Church of the Black Nazarene, a Basilica Minore is also know as the Quiappo Church or officially as Saint John the Baptist Parish in the City of Manila.
The basilica is the home of the shrine of the Black Nazarene, a dark statue of Jesus which many of the faithfully claim is miraculous. The parish is under guidance of its current rector is Rev. Msgr. Jose Clemente Ignacio.
Before visiting the Church itself, let’s explore the history and the Veneration of the “Black Nazarene”.
What is it?
The Black Nazarene (Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno; Tagalog: Poóng Itím na Nazareno) is a holy life-sized iconic statue of Jesus carrying the cross to Calvary. It displays one of the stations of the way of the cross during the journey to His crucifixion.
It is one of two statues sculpted from pure ivory which were burnt aboard a ship during the Manila Galleon expedition from Mexico. One of the two statues was completely destroyed in the on-board fire. The descriptive name of the sculpture results from the black soot that covered the statue as a result of the fire.
The older and more popular copy of the statue which belonged to the Recollect Fathers was destroyed at the end of the Second World War during the Liberation of Manila in 1945.
The Black Nazarene is made of ivory. It is pictured in the kneeling position and measures about 5’5” along with the halo and the cross itself is 6’0 in length.
The statue is dressed in a heavy velvet maroon coloured tunic, embroidered with floral or plant emblems in gold thread with lace trimmings on the collar and cuffs.
Around its waist, is a gold-plated metal belt inscribed 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 position, symbolizing the agony and the weight of the cross with the pain Jesus suffered 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 carries a large wooden cross with gilded brass caps on its ends. The head of the statue is covered with a braided wig made of dyed abaca and a golden crown of thorns.
On January 9th each year, 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 after mass at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park, near where the image was first enshrined and ends in Quiapo early the following morning.
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Some participants choose to wait for the arrive on the grounds of the Minor Basilica to greet it, while most devotees walk throughout the whole processional route.
All devotees wear maroon and yellow shirts similar the statue’s ‘colours’, and they walk barefoot as a form of penance and in remembrance of Jesus’ way to Golgotha. Municipal Authorities estimate that over 500,000 devotees walked barefoot in the 2013 procession, which was attended by 9 million people. Attendees include families of devotees, tourists, and members of devotees’ associations throughout the country (marked by their long vertical standards coloured in maroon or white or other colors) and overseas visitors and participants.
The Black Nazarene is carried in procession on its carriage, the Ándas, which by tradition can only be carried by men who are called 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 on theÁndas for the duration of the Traslación.
These marshalls are distinguishable from other devotees by the yellow shirts they wear. Their primary job is to protect the statue from possible damage as well as to direct the namámasán from the front of the procession and the crowds following behind through hand gestures, voice commands and whistles.
They also help believers to climb the Ándas so that they might briefly touch the statue or its cross, wipe towels or handkerchiefs tossed at them on parts of the statue. The wiping of cloth on the statue, which is also done during the Pahalik (kissing) vigil that precedes the Traslación. The Pahalik, is based on the belief that the miraculous object’s powers (its curative abilities) “rubs off” on cloth or the lips of the believer. This transfer of sanctity through contact descends from the custom of ex brandea (cloth wiped on the bodies or tombs of the Twelve Apostles).
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 procession’s recorded history it ended on arrival at Plaza Miranda around 05:15 on 10 January a full 22 hours after setting out. The procession took longer than usual because the wheels of the Ándas broke early on at a point near The Manila Hotel and the rope broke near Liwasang Bonifacio.
There were additional reports of groups diverting the procession from its previously agreed upon route in order to pass by business establishments outside of the traditional route. This was done to allow homes and businesses off the planned route to receive the good luck and blessings of the image.
Religious veneration of the Black Nazarene is rooted among Filipinos who identify themselves with the passion and suffering of Christ which the statue represents.
Many followers 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 Sainjt John the Baptist (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 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.
Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno,
Sinasambá Ka namin,
Pinipintuhò Ka namin
Aral Mo ang aming buhay
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!
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.
As with most major churches in Manila, (this is something that doesn’t happen here “in the Provinces”) for some reason it is forbidden to photograph within the precincts of the church itself.
Rommel Legaspi tried without success to speak with someone in charge at the Church to obtain the necessary permissions. Unfortunately they were all otherwise occupied with Parish business in the Community and were not able to speak with him directly.
On 29 August 1586, Governor-General Santiago de Vera founded the District of Quiapo as a suburb of Spanish Manila.
Santiago de Vera was a native of Alacal de Henares, Spain and was the sixth Spanish Governor of the Philippines, from May 16, 1584 until May 1590. Prior to his arrival in the Philippines, the ‘current’ Governor, Gonzalo Ronquillo de Peñalosa and Domingo de Salazar, the first Bishop of Manila had requested that the King establish a Supreme Court in the Philippines, then called an “Audiencia” to settle disputes between the Church and the Civil Authorities.
In 1584 three judges arrived from Mexico and started the Court of Justice with Santiago de Vera as the First Chief Justice.
Following the sudden death of Governor Peñalosa, Diego Ronquillo, his nephew, became the interim governor. He was later charged for defalcation in the trust of Peñalosa’s estate and was sent back to Spain as a prisoner.
As the chief justice of the court, Santiago de Vera succeeded as the governor of the islands on May 16, 1584.
Following the great fire of Manila on March 19, 1583, which started during the wake of Governor Gonzalo R. de Peñalosa which started in San Augustine Church. Santiago de Vera ordered that all future construction in Manila should be of stone. It was found that stone could be easily cut near the banks of the Pasig in Guadalupe (now Guadalupe Viejo in Makati) and brought to Manila in boats.
Peñalosa also built the first stone fort of Manila called Nuestra Señora de Guia (Our Lady of Guidance) in 1587 located at the present location of San Diego Bastion (Baluarte de San Diego) at the south western corner of Intramuros with plans by a Jesuit named Sedeño. The artillery for this fort was cast by Panday Pira.
De Vera also began to dig the moat which surrounded the city. He also built the stone breastwork along the Pasig riverfront. The great wall was not begun until Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas became Governor following De Vera’s death.
The Franciscan Missionaries built the first church on the site, using bamboo for the frame and nipa as thatching. Saint Pedro Bautista, a Franciscan missionary and martyr, was one of the founders of the Quiapo Church and several other churches in what is now Metro Manila and Laguna. The original church burned down in 1639 and was replaced by a stronger edifice, which was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1863.
Under the supervision of Rev. Eusebio de León and Rev. Manuel Roxas, the third church was completed in 1899. Roxas had raised the unprecedented amount of Php 40,000.00 from donations and lay contributions.
On 30 October 1928, the church again caught fire and was almost completely destroyed. Doña Encarnación Nakpíl de Orense, then the head of the Parish Committee, raised funds for the reconstruction. Filipino National Artist, architect Juan Nakpil (the son of composer Julio Nakpil) added the dome and a second belfry to the church.
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