Wednesday, March 12, 2014


The image of San Mateo (St. Matthew) , one of the 4 Evangelists and one of Jesus's apostles, rarely is seen in home altars of yore in the Philippines. Many that I've seen are usually church images, comprising a collection to represent the 4 Evangelists--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. So it was a delight to see this small, 15 inch wooden San Mateo, being unloaded by a collector through an antique shop.

San Mateo, author of the first Gospel, was the son of Alpheus and a Roman tax collector by profession at Capernaum. Nothing definite is known about his life, except that he was also known as "Levi". It is also uncertain whether he died from natural causes or was martyred--there are various accounts of his martyrdom, but it is not known whether he was stoned, burned or beheaded.

This santo, adheres to his traditional iconography--San Mateo holds a book to designate his authorship of the Gospel, and a money sack (now missing) in the other hand to denote his former life as a ta collector. A small angel holding an inkwell stands by his side to signify his new life as a messenger of Christ. The santo stands on a squarish damaged base.

Based on the carving and painting style, this stocky San Mateo seems to date from the midcentury. The halo, which  looks original to the piece, looks more contemporary. Sadly, I could not afford this santo which came with a hefty price tag, so I had to look the other way. It was eventually sold to another willing collector.

San Mateo's feast day on the Western calendar is September 21. he is quite predictably, the patron saint of bankers, bookkeepers, accountants, money managers, stockbrokers, financial officers, customs officers, and tax collectors.

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