Black Christ of Esquipulas: Chiquimula, Guatemala

Esquipulas Basilica

         Guatemala’s eastern region, which includes the departments of Zacapa, Chiquimula, El Progreso, Santa Rosa, Jalapa and Jutiapa, has a wide variety of landscapes, ranging from tropical forests to the magnificent mountains that rise 9,800 feet above sea level.  In spite of the area’s many natural treasures the biggest tourism attraction is located in the municipality of Esquipulas, in the department of Chiquimula. The main church, which the Vatican upgraded to the category of Basilica in 1968, is the home of the “Cristo Negro de Esquipulas” or “Black Christ of Esquipulas,” in English. It is one of the most popular images of the Catholic faith, because of the many miracles attributed to it, peasants all over the country pray to the Black Christ.

Cristo Negro de Esquipulas, Esquipulas Chiquimula
Black Christ of Esquipulas
Esquipulas, Chiquimula, Guatemala

         The sculpture of the Black Christ dates back to 1595 and is made of cedar wood. It inspires one of the most important Catholic pilgrimages, topped only by the Virgin of Guadeloupe in Mexico. Quirio Cataño sculpted the dramatic art piece in  March 9, 1595. Nine years later, in 1603, it had already performed at least one miracle. In 1736, the Bishop of Guatemala XV and first metropolitan Archbishop Fray Pedro Pardo de Figueroa began the process of the construction of a grand Baroque temple to house the Santo Cristo de Esquipulas. On November 4, 1758, the church was inaugurated, that now shelters the venerated image . The Basilica Esquipulas is the second most important religious site in the Americas, after the Virgin of Guadeloupe in Mexico.

Cristo Negro de Esquipulas
Black Christ of Esquipulas
Esquipulas, Chiquimula, Guatemala.

            On January 15, an estimated one millions pilgrims from Central America and Mexico gather at the Basilica to honor the Black Christ of Esquipulas. The Basilica of Esquipulas is a wonderful work of Christianity in America, a colossal idea of missionary vision.  One of the many interesting Catholic traditions performed at the Basilica is the blessing of objects that followers wish to have protected by the Black Christ. It is common to see cars, trucks and animals with multi colored decorations, waiting in line to be blessed. Around the Basilica you’ll find stalls selling traditional sweets, souvenirs of the Black Christ and religious paraphernalias. The Black Christ of Esquipulas, a colossal site of religion and culture.

Cristo Negro de Esquipulas
Souvenir stalls around the Basilica

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