Reuters

Over 60,000 pilgrims come each year to pray for forgiveness.

The sleepy beach town of Portobelo, Panama, is best known for its life-sized effigy of Nazareno of Portobelo, or black Jesus. The sculpture dates back to the 17th century, and its origins are shrouded in mystery. The statue's arrival coincided with the "miraculous" ending of a brutal plague.

Once a year, the black Jesus is brought to the center of the Iglesia de San Felipe for a festival. Thousands of pilgrims converge upon the city, often walking or crawling from Panama City and Sabanitas. Many come wearing purple robes, which they lay on the steps of the church. Over 60,000 make the pilgrimage each year, including robbers and thieves who come for forgiveness - the Nazareno of Portobelo is the patron saint of criminals.

Below, photos from this year's festival.

A worshipper of the Black Christ of Portobelo wears a crown of thorns in Colon. (Alberto Lowe/Reuters)
Worshippers light candles at the Black Christ of Portobelo church in the province of Colon. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)
A worshipper of the Black Christ of Portobelo crawls to an altar in Colon. (Alberto Lowe/Reuters)
Rosaries of Black Christ of Portobelo are seen during the annual celebratory pilgrimage in Portobelo. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)
A worshipper kisses a statue of the Black Christ of Portobelo during the annual celebratory pilgrimage in Portobelo. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

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