ESQUIPULAS is a town located in eastern Guatemala near the place where Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala meet. Esquipulas is, to many, including me, a sacred place. Hundreds of thousands of devoted pilgrims travel from Central America to Esquipulas every year to visit the Cristo Negro de Esquipulas at the Shrine of Esquipulas.
The Cristo Negro de Esquipulas was sculpted by Quirio Cataño in 1594 and brought to Esquipulas in March 1595. The Christ know as El Cristo Negro (The black Christ) gets its name from the skin color of the image. During restoration processes it was determined the wood was not as dark originally but it turned that way with the smoke from the candles burnt by the pilgrims. (more pictures here)
Before the coming of the Spanish the area was populated by the Chorti, conquered in 1525, taken back by the Chorti and reconquered by the Spanish in 1530, by the year 1570 the Spanish city of Esquipulas was established.
The Cristo Negro was venerated at the Parochial Church of Esquipulas for more than 200 years. Around the year 1740, when the small church hardly was able to fit the amount of pilgrims, the newly installed Bishop of Guatemala, Fray Pedro Pardo de Figueroa, payed a visit during which he turned ill. He ask the Cristo de Esquipulas to help him trough the illness and after being cured he promised to build a temple for the Black Christ. In January 1759 the new and actual temple was dedicated to the Cristo Negro.
In 1961 Pope John XXIII elevated the Shrine to Basilica. In 1994 the church and image underwent major renovation preparing for the year celebration of the 400 years of the Christ of Esquipulas. The celebration culminated with a Solemn Mass celebrated by John Paul II in his third visit to Guatemala.
These pictures are pictures from a coffee table book our friends Ceci and Fredy gave us for Christmas 2005
That same year as proof of one more miracle of Christ the peace agreements, which started inside the Shrine in 1986, were confirmed and peace was signed during that year.
Pictures from our 2009 pilgrimage.