Called the "spiritual center of Central America" by Pope John Paul II, the Basilica of Esquipulas attracts many pilgrims to its miraculous statue of the Black Christ carved in 1595.
History of Esquipulas Basilica
The statue of the Black Christ (El Cristo Negro) was comissioned by Spanish conquistadors for a church in Esquipulas. It was carved in 1594 by Quirio Cataño in Antigua and installed in the church in 1595. By 1603, a miracle had already been attributed to the icon, and it attracted increasing numbers of pilgrims over the years.
The 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.
In 2009, celebrations were held to mark 250 years since the basilica's construction.
What to See at Esquipulas Basilica
The town of Esquipulas is located in southeast Guatemala near the borders with Honduras and El Salvador, at a lofty altitude of 3,018 feet (920) meters. A lovely Baroque structure painted a gleaming white, the basilica dominates the town's skyline. Remarkably, it has survived many earthquakes over the centuries with little damage.
The Black Christ, named for the dark wood from which it was carved, is housed in a glass case on the altar at the east end of the basilica. A large statue that depicts Christ suffering on the cross, it is part of a Crucifixion group with Mary Magdalene and St. John.
Pilgrims stand in line along the west side of the church to see El Cristo Negro up close, sometimes waiting for over an hour. After viewing the statue and saying their prayers, pilgrims back away from it on the other side, believing it an offense to turn their back on the holy image.
Festivals and Events
Special processions and services are held on the Festival of the Black Christ (January 15), July 21-27, and during Holy Week each year. The basilica is crowded with Guatemalan pilgrims on these days.
Located 80 miles east of Guatemala City, Esquipulas can be reached by air or car.
Quick Facts on Esquipulas Basilica
|Names:||Basilica del Cristo Negro · Esquipulas Basilica · La Basilica|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||14.565495° N, 89.351549° W|
|Address:||3a Av Basílica|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Esquipulas Basilica|
- La Basílica & El Cristo Negro - Frommer's Guatemala
- Esquipulas (Guatemala) - Encyclopaedia Britannica
- Photos of Esquipulas Basilica - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Esquipulas Basilica
Below is a location map and aerial view of Esquipulas Basilica. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.