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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

St. Malachy in Mexico

Santa Prisca de Taxco, Guadalupe altarpiece detail: St. Malachy
Saint Malachy was born in Northern Ireland around 1100 and in a rocket like rise he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh, primate of Ireland, at the precocious age of 32. His chief claim to fame was the gift of prophecy. He was even alleged to have predicted the day and hour of his death, dying in Rome in 1148, in the care of his dear friend and biographer St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
In 1139 Malachy experienced a vision which revealed a long list of popes who would rule the church until the end of time—112 in total. This vision, known as the “prophecy of the succession of the Popes,” has resurfaced from time to time over the centuries, most recently with the election of the new pope Francis l, who is viewed in some quarters as the "last pope" of the line, with the "end of days" soon to follow.
To our knowledge, St. Malachy had no connection with Spain and is virtually unrepresented in religious art of the colonial period in Mexico.  However, a full length statue depicting the archbishop resides in one of the sumptuous gilded altarpieces of the great baroque church of Santa Prisca de Taxco.  
St. Malachy is only one among numerous Catholic bishops and seers represented in this retablo and its companion altarpieces.  Here, the bearded saint is shown wearing his cap and archiepiscopal robes and holding the papal cross, while below, an angel holds up his gold trimmed miter. A book of his writings formerly rested in his left hand.
Although many consider his prophesies to be so much medieval "malarky," the saint cuts an imposing figure. 
text © 2016 Richard D. Perry. image by Taxcolandia  


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