I bought this beautiful antique santo for its beautiful symmetry, and not for any other reason. In fact, I didn’t even know its identity—I was simply struck by its perfect proportion, balance, and reflectional symmetry—that is, if there is a line dividing the santo into two, the pieces will be mirror images of each other. Remarkable for a folk santo carved by an anonymous, and perhaps, untrained artisan.
After some time sitting on a shelf, I took a more serious look at this 20 inch. santo. I knew it was a Dominican santo, but the biretta he was wearing stumped me. It was only after a thorough cleaning that details appeared, which led me to suspect that this was a rare Santo Tomas de Aquino.
This Dominican priest (1225-1274) is regarded as one of the greatest thinkers and writers of the Middle Ages. But save for his association with the Pontifical University of Sto. Tomas, and the town of Sto. Tomas in Batangas, the saint is largely unknow; there are few examples of hims as a carved santo figure.
The tell-tale sign that this was indeed Sto. Tomas de Aquino was a faded painting of a sunburst drawn on the saint’s breast—the sun of truth, a symbol of his teachings illuminated by divine truth. Another painted detail as this string of rosary beads that one can faintly discern hanging from his neck---the Dominicans often wore the rosary around their cowls or hoods.
As to the crown-like biretta with four points, this represents his being a angelic Doctor of the Universal Church (which is why, he is sometimes also represented as having wings). If he still had his hands, he would have held a pen to an open book. Or he would have held a small church on his left hand (as doctor of the church). Some portraits show a dove at his ear to symbolize the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which is hard to capture in 3-dimensional images.
Sto. Tomas de Aquino is considered as Patron of Students, Universities, Catholic schools, Doctor of the Church . His feast day was moved to January 28 in 1970, but Filipinos continue to celebrate the original feast day of March 7, which actually is the date of his death.