Wednesday, April 2, 2014


SAINT JOHN VIANNEY. A rarely seen vintage santo of the Cure of Ars, patron of priests. Carved locally, the all-wood santo dates from the 50s and once belonged to a Manila family.

St. John Baptiste-Marie Vianney, (b. 1786/ d. 1859) is known as the Cure of Ars, the patron saint of priests. Ordained in 1815, he was known for his pastoral works and ministry in the community, thus his patronage. As a parish priest of Ars, a remote French hamlet, he gained a reputation as a confessor and director of souls.

St. John's life was marked with extreme mortifications.  He demonstrated utmost patience in a life characterized by abject austerities. It was said that he was besieged by the devil but this great mystic ward him off with his acts of holiness, remaining to this day the living image of the priest after the heart of Christ.

St. John was beatified only in 1905 and canonized in 1925,  and so, there are very few sculpted representations of him. That is why, I was delighted to see this wooden image of the saint that was found for sale, in a Manila home, which led me to thin--could a family member have been a religious? Was this a commissioned work for his private devotion?

I will never know--but I do know that this was done in the late 50s, judging from the carving style of the figure. Most St. John statues are carved in the round (de tallado),and I still have yet to see one in the manikin style.

As in all his representations, he is depicted as an oldish priests, with white or greying hair, slight and frail looking. His hands are clasped in prayer.

He wears a surplice with lace trims at the edges. Upon closer inspection, the realistically painted lace trims are actually real fabrics decoupaged or glued onto the wooden statue, then painted over, hence the texture. Around his next is a short stole, also made from real lace material. Around his waist is aloosely-knotted cincture.

In honor of the 150th anniversary of Vianney's death, Pope Benedict XVI declared 2009-2010, a year for priests. St. John Vianney's Feast Day: August 4.

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