Retablo Series. Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Relief in hardwood, the image of St. Catherine of Alexandria is located on the first level,the first frame from the left, Gospel altar. The polychrome relief features the virgin and martyr whose feast is celebrated every 25th of November. The focal image wears a rose-colored tunic with a crown on her head symbolizing her noble birth.
Wearing the cross close to her chest and known to be armed with great intelligence, her quest to defend early Christians was so strong that she questioned Emperor Maximinus’ persecution. She was imprisoned and eventually condemned to die by the wheel. This device often carved near her left hand along with a branch of a palm symbolized her martyrdom. The instrument of torture, however, was miraculously destroyed according to stories. This enraged the emperor who ordered that she be beheaded. Stories told that she was carried by the angels to Mt. Sinai, thus, the appearances of cherub heads and flashes of light shining through the clouds as part of the relief’s composition.
From there, a monastery was built in her honor and thus, the Acts of Saint Catherine. Now considered as one of the fourteen helpful saints in the heaven, she has been a patroness of students for her intellectual prowess and patroness of cloistered young females to protect their virginity. The wheel had become the saint’s emblem, thus, the patroness of mechanics and wheelers. “…according to tradition, she not only remained a virgin by governing her passions and conquered her executioners by wearying their patience, but triumphed in science by closing the mouths of sophists, her intercession was implored by theologians, apologists, pulpit orators, and philosophers. Before studying, writing, or preaching, they pray to her to illumine their minds, guide their pens, and impart eloquence to their words.” (Clugnet)
This is part of the series deciphering the iconographies of Silang Parish Retablo in Cavite.
Clugnet, Léon. “St. Catherine of Alexandria.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908.