Filipinos, especially in Quiapo, are intensely devoted to the image of the Nazarene–the black Christ. It is the suffering Christ of the Passion, portrayed as a dark-skinned Moor. 

Poóng Itím na Nazareno (replica)

The statue, carved from dark mesquite wood, originated from Mexico in the 17th century. But tradition attribute the dark skin to soot from votive candles or charring by fire during its galleon transport–as if Christ, the Imanu’el, transformed himself to minister to the swarthy Indios of the Pacific islands.

While the Buddha became more east Asian as the cult spread to China and Japan, the Christ remained staunchly semitic, or at least Mediterranean, even in Spanish Catholic Philippines. In the Black Nazarene, he is an African from the Maghreb or Andalusian Spain.

In the Chapel of the Holy Cross, atop the red rocks of Sedona, there is a bust of the crucified Christ from the Cathedral in Chartres. It’s medieval visage has slender, feminine features. The beard trimmed to the jaw-line tapers at the chin and parts like a hoof. The crown of thorns, fat and spikeless, coils around the head, like a saracen’s turban. He could be the Venetian Othello in Orientalist paintings, Christ, the ultimate outcast.


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