July 8, 2016
Called the “Spiritual Center of Central America” by Pope John Paul II, the Basilica of Esquipulas in Guatemala attracts many devotees to its miraculous statue of the Black Christ.
The statue of the Black Christ (El Cristo Negro) was comissioned by Spanish conquistadors for a church in Esquipulas, which is called the Land of Miracles and Home of the Black Christ. It was carved in 1594 by Quirio Cataño in Antigua and installed in the church in 1595. Legend has it that the artist carved the representation in the image of the indigenous Mayans – with dark skin. By 1603, a miracle had already been attributed to the icon and it has attracted increasing numbers of pilgrims over the years. It is now Guatemala’s largest pilgramage center and is the second most important religious site in the Americas, after the Virgin of Guadelupe in Mexico.
History of the Basilica begins in 1735, when a priest named Father Pedro Pardo de Figueroa experienced a miraculous cure after praying before the statue. When he became Archbishop of Guatemala, he commissioned a beautiful basilica to properly shelter the beloved statue. The church was completed in 1759 and is the largest Baroque church in Guatemala. Hundreds of thousands of devout Catholics from Central America, Mexico, and the US travel to Esquipulas during the annual celebration of the Black Christ which happens on January 15th to pray and ask for help in front of this religious icon known as the Cristo Negro/Black Christ.
An important sacred symbol, the image of the Cristo negro is found in various art forms like in these poweful paintings:
With Central American and Mexican migration to the United States and Canada, the image of the Cristo Negro, especially that directly associated with Esquipulas, has received importance in new areas. The image is invoked by Hondurans and Guatemalans contemplating the journey, and the image has become the patron of Central Americans in the United States. Sanctuaries have been established in U.S. and Canadian cities and even a replica of the Esquipulas image was brought from Guatemala to Los Angeles (using illegal immigration routes) and has been dubbed the “Cristo Mojado” (“Wet Christ”) with “mojado” referring to illegal immigrants. The Black Christ has been an object of deep devotion for hundreds of years by Guatemalans, but it also speaks to black Catholics with a growing number of urban churches in the US finding themselves with congregations composed of blacks and Latinos
Many of the faithful have home altars to the Cristo Negro/Black Christ with wonderful hand carved figures of a Black Crucifix along with candles, flowers, and other elements. We have collected several of these wonderful pieces over the years and now have them for sale on our Etsy Shop: Coleccion Luna Vintage Because they are hand-carved…each one is unique. They date from the 1800s-mid 1900s.