Wednesday, August 8, 2012

St. Rose of Lima in Mexico

This is the third in our series of posts highlighting some of the more unusual Mexican santos.

These images portray St Rose of Lima and, again, are all from churches in Oaxaca.

Capulalpan, St Rose  (Felipe Falcón)
St. Rose of Lima has the honor of being the first person born in the Americas and the first mestiza to be canonized by the Catholic church. She was born on April 20, 1586 of a Spaniard, Gaspar de Flores, and Maria d'Olivia, a woman of Inca descent. Although her parents were anxious to have Rose marry, and there were several worthy suitors for her hand, she refused and instead joined the Third Order of St. Dominic.

Rose seems to have taken for her model St. Catherine of Siena. She donned the habit and took a vow of perpetual virginity.  For many years Rose lived almost as a recluse, indulging in extreme forms of penitence and mortification of the flesh. These led to visions, revelations, visitations and, as she thought, voices from God.

But Rose was not wholly detached from the everyday world of Peru around her. Her awareness of the suffering of others led her to speak out publicly against the abusive practices of the Spanish colonial overlords.  She brought the sick and hungry into her home, inspiring devotion among the poor inhabitants of Lima.

Due in part to the rigors of her ascetic life, she died on August 25, 1617, at the early age of thirty-one, deeply venerated by the common people. She was laid to rest in the Dominican convent at Lima and, as time went on, miracles and cures were attributed to her intervention.
Finally she was canonized by Pope Clement in 1671 and today is honored in all Spanish-American countries.

St. Rose in Oaxaca
In colonial times, as a trading partner and principal entry point for trade goods, Oaxaca enjoyed close ties with Peru. As a Dominican and a new American saint, St. Rose became a favorite in Oaxaca, appearing frequently in the Dominican churches and missions of the region.

Oaxaca cathedral, south facade
Basilica de La Soledad, facade
Several emblems are associated with St Rose: traditionally she wears a crown of roses and holds up a bouquet of roses, usually in association with an image of the infant Jesus. This reflects not only her name and her personal affinity with Christ's sufferings but also signifies her status either as a novice or member of a Third Order rather than a cloistered nun.
She is also usually shown wearing the Dominican habit and a Rosary—another reminder both of her name and her link to this quintessentially Dominican devotion.

Her portraits in Oaxaca have a distinctive look and often include other attributes, notably an anchor and a city—the former holding the latter. This commemorates one of her miracles, in which she reputedly saved Callao, the port city of Lima, from a disastrous earthquake.

Santa Ana Zegache
text © 2012 Richard D. Perry;  photography: Richard D. Perry; Felipe Falcón & Richard Stracke.
All rights reserved 
For more on the colonial churches of Oaxaca and their santos, consult our regional guidebook
and the Stracke website

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