SAN ILDEFONSO’S GOLDEN CHASUBLE. One day in year 657 A.D., the Blessed Mother came down from heaven to personally reward the Archbishop of Toledo, Ildefonso with a golden chasuble for writing a book in the Her honor. Centuries later, the archbishop became a saint and pilgrimages are made on the site where the Blessed Mother appeared to San Ildefonso.
In Tanay, Rizal, a church dedicated to San Ildefonso de Toledo was built in 1773 where we climbed the stairs behind the main altar to touch the image of the saint dressed in a golden chasuble.
A NATIONAL CULTURAL TREASURE. We went to Tanay on a chilly January for brunch at a street-side carinderia that serves generous bowls of steaming bulalo. Rambull’s Bakahan sa Tanay is just across the 200-year old Iglesia Parroquial de San Ildefonso de Toledo.
Construction of Tanay church is a product of the Baroque taste of the Franciscan friar Alonso de Fentanes. The church was declared a National Cultural Treasure for its architecture and for the exquisitely-carved Baroque retablos along with the antique images of saints and the wooden relleves with folksy sculpture showing the Stations of the Cross.
BAROQUE RETABLOS. The smell of old wood mixed with fresh floor wax dominates the air upon entering Tanay Church. Glowing in Baroque splendor at the end of the dimly lit interior are the massive wooden retablos. Baroque style became popular after the completion of the Jesuit mother church Il Gesu in Rome. This style is characterized by the lavish use of serpentine scrolls, decorative spirals and grandness that will make the viewers feel they had glimpse of the richness of heaven.
The retablos at Tanay Church were installed in 1786. It was an era when the Baroque style was predominantly applied in church buildings and interiors in order to strike the natives with awe and make a statement of wealth, power and dominance of the Catholic Church.
FOLKSY RELLEVES. Equally impressive were the wood reliefs with primitive sculpture depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross carved by a native artist.
When the Spaniards came, they admired the ability of the natives at imitating things they see and make copies of them on wood. Relleves were at first folksy and crude copies from estampitas or illustrations from prayer books brought over by the friars. As the demand for religious images became more immediate, woodcarving skills developed and the relleves became ornately carved with colors and gilt.
EPILOGUE. There are those that say that the golden chasuble of San Ildenfonso is just a legend akin to the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail. Some say that relic is kept in a Holy Chest along with a bloodstained piece of cloth believed to had came in contact with Jesus after the Crucifixion.
True or fiction, the message of this legend is clear. The Heaven never forgets to say thank you.
23 January 2016
Feast of San Ildefonso de Toledo