Rorate Caeli

The Un-nailing of the Corpus

The pictures were taken during Good Friday devotions in the St. Joseph church in Las Pinas, Metro Manila, Diocese of Paranaque. The devotion of the "un-nailing" was introduced by the Spaniards in the 16th century and used to be widely practiced in the Philippines. Today it is observed only in a few parishes in the Philippines, although similar devotions are said to remain in vogue in Eastern Europe, and the "burial of Christ Crucified" continues to be observed by the Franciscans in the Holy Sepulcher. It is, of course, a relic of medieval Holy Week rites. (I speak here only about this devotion in the context of the Latin Catholic tradition -- the Eastern practice is well-known and needs no comment).

The men in white robes and purple sashes are not deacons, but laymen representing the apostles. The "apostles" are a feature of Holy Week ceremonies in many parishes in the Philippines (and perhaps in other countries).

In the final picture, veiled women are preparing to cover the "Santo Entierro" (the Dead Christ) with a black veil. The statue of the recumbent Christ will then be taken in procession in the evening of Good Friday. In a few parishes that procession is followed by yet another procession -- the "Soledad", representing Our Lady of Sorrows going home in grief. The first procession -- which remains very popular -- is often accompanied by the loud recitation of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, while the second procession is normally done in complete silence. In a few parishes the "Santo Entierro" is also displayed for veneration until midnight of Good Friday-Holy Saturday.


  1. Anonymous3:48 AM

    The un-nailing of the image of Christ Crucified is much older practice than the middle ages. The greeks do this universally, when they remove the icon of the crucified from the cross in the sanctuary and place it, wrapped in white lines in a symbolic tomb.

    The introduction of the three dimentional image of the crucified is merely a western innovation on the devotion.

  2. Anonymous6:08 AM

    I wonder if Mr. Palad could update us on the status of the two cardinal-archbishops in the Philippines. Cardinal Vidal of Cebu has passed his 79th birthday, while Cardinal Rosales of Manila is approaching his 78th. They must be pleasing Benedict XVI more than, say, Roger the Rogue, Cardinal Baloney.


  3. It looks very interesting and moving.

    Another example of a mimetic burial procession as found in the Byzantine rite with the Epitaphios, and found is so many local medieval Uses and rites such as Braga etc.

  4. During what part of the celebration did they do this un-nailing? Our parish priest recently commissioned an image of the Lord for this purpose. We had the un-nailing after the Celebration of the Lord's Passion that marked the start of the Santo Entierro procession.

  5. In my blog a year ago I posted a video clip of this kind of celebration in our parish. It is the parish of St. John the Baptist in Tabaco City, Albay, Philippines. Notice that the diorama includes the two thieves crucified with Christ. Notice also that the two thieves are depicted with their other hand un-nailed. This is the artists rendition of the conversation of the two thieves while talking to Christ. The thief on the left reviled our Lord, while the one on the right beg for Christ's mercy which he immediately received. I used my cell phone camera for this video clips. You can view these clips from thins link to my blog called Traditional Filipino Roman Catholic

  6. Why did this practice die out in the West, and yet continues in the Byzantine tradition?

  7. "Two younger prelates who are frequently mentioned as contenders for Manila are Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Imus (63) and Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan (50)."

    Bishop Tagle is 53, not 63. Sorry for the typo.

  8. They do this at the Franciscan monastery in DC.


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