Wednesday, February 12, 2014



One rarely seen santo in the Philippines is the figure of St. Catherine of Alexandria (Sta. Catalina de Alejandria), who is regarded as the patroness of such Philippine towns as Arayat (Pampanga), Leon (Iloilo), Carcar (Cebu) and Dumaguete City. Church figures and processional statues depict this great virgin-martyr holding a sword, with the head of Emperor Maxentius at her feet. Sometimes,  a spiked wheel, symbol of her martyrdom, is set on her side. The above image of Arayat's Sta. Catalina adheres to her prescribed iconography. The santo is of wood with silver accoutrements, and lavishly dressed in embroidered garments

Santa Catalina, as a santo figure, is seldom seen in commercial antique shops, possibly because the saint is largely unknown outside of the places of veneration. So it was a surprise that a fellow collector sent me photos of a carved santa for sale--immensely popular in Europe, by the way--which, according to his runner, was obtained from Ilocos.

Indeed, this Sta. Catalina sports a distinctive Ilocos commercial carving style--with a fairly generic cafe and a typical octagonal base. Usually, such santos were outfitted with a manikin body and with wire armature arms--but this example has a body that is carved in the round.

The santa is incredibly complete--with a wooden crown on top of her head which still has remnants of a human hair wig. Her emblems and iconographic elements--the sword, the head of Maxentius at her feet-- are also present. She has also kept her original paint and coloration-light blue cape, white vestment with a pink peplum--with painted floral patterns. An incredible find indeed--but too bad, it did not go to me. But happy to note that another collector will take care of this rare Sta. Catalina, most certainly--by taking it to a church museum!

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