St. Cajetan

The feast of St. Cajetan, also known as the ‘Saint of Divine Providence’ is celebrated on 7th August. He is the founder of the Theatine Order and the Patron Saint of  the unemployed and the job seekers.

Gaetano dei Conti di Thiene, popularly known as St. Cajetan, was born on 1st October 1480 in the territory of Vicenza in Lombardy, Italy to pious and noble parents, Gaspar de Thiene and Maria Porta. As a child he was known as a “Saint’ and in later years as “the Huntsman for Souls”. He studied Law in Padua, Italy and at the age of 24 obtained a doctorate in Civil and Canon Law. In 1506, he was made a protonotary apostolic at the Court of Pope Julius II.

St Cajetan was ordained a Priest in 1516, after which he renounced his wealth and ecclesiastical dignities for a life of service to the Lord. Shortly after his ordination, he joined the Oratory of Divine Love, a group devoted to piety and charity. After the death of Pope Julius II, St. Cajetan returned to Vicenza and joined the Confraternity of St. Jerome. In 1522 he founded a hospital for incurables in Vicenza and by 1523 he founded one in Venice. He founded a bank, monte de pieta, to help the poor and offer an alternative to usurers (loan sharks). It later became the Bank of Naples.

St. Cajetan intended to form a group that would combine the monastic spirit with the exercises of an active ministry. On 3rd May 1524 in Rome, with the help of three others, St. Cajetan founded the Congregation of Clerks Regular, who came to be popularly called the Theatines after the city of Chieti (Latin: Theate). With absolute reliance upon Divine Providence the new Congregation’s members were forbidden to own any property or to beg for their sustenance; and were only allowed to retain what was freely donated. The Theatine Order grew slowly, but made substantial contribution to the work of Church reform. St. Cajetan died in Naples on August 7, 1547.

The Theatine Order settled in Goa in October 1640 and established the Convent and Church of the Divine Providence (popularly known as the Church of St. Cajetan in Old Goa). The spherical dome of this notable building, the last large sacred edifice to be raised in Old Goa, is meant to recall St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

As far as the iconography of St. Cajetan is concerned, most images keep to the same details with regard to his appearance and dress: a short beard, male pattern baldness, a black cassock with a high collar, and in some cases a surplice.

Sometimes St. Cajetan is shown holding ears of wheat in one hand, which is symbolic of his title as the Saint of Divine Providence and as the intercessor for bread and work. This symbol of the ear of wheat was introduced into the iconography of St. Cajetan after his first publicised miracle in Argentina. During a great drought in Argentina, a poor farmer faced with losing his crops and possible destitution, placed an ear of wheat at the feet of a statue of St. Cajetan and it rained three days later.

In some images, St. Cajetan is shown holding the Infant Jesus in his arms. It is said that St. Cajetan had a great devotion to Mother Mary as a result of which on Christmas eve at the Church of Saint Mary Major, he was rewarded with a vision of Mother Mary who came to him and placed the Infant Jesus in his arms.

This 18th century polychrome and wood image of St. Cajetan is from the collection of the Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa. It was originally from the Pius X Pastoral Centre in Old Goa, which was once an old monastery of the Theatines, more commonly associated with St. Cajetan or the Divine Providence, and has thus been identified with the Order’s founding saint. This possibility is confirmed by the fact that the first letters of St. Cajetan’s name are visible in the painted part of the base upon which the image rests. In this representation, St Cajetan is seen clad in the habit of the Theatine clerks regular, though not displaying his usual attributes.

St. Joachim and St. Anne

The feast of St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of the Virgin Mary, is celebrated every year by the Roman Catholic Church on 26th July. Since St. Joachim and St. Anne are the patron Saints of grandparents, this day is also celebrated as Grandparent’s Day.

There is very little information available to us about St. Joachim and St. Anne. They are not mentioned in Holy Scripture. However, their names are mentioned in the 2nd century Protevangelium of James, the principal source of the Golden Legend’s account of Mary’s nativity.

As the story goes in the Golden Legend, St. Joachim and St. Anne had been childless for 20 years. Consequently St. Joachim was refused entrance to the Temple when he brought his offering on the Feast of Dedication. With a heavy heart, he went with his sheep to the mountains. A few months later an angel announced to the two that their prayers for a child were answered and they should meet at the Golden Gate of the Temple. When the child was born they named her Mary.

In Goa, in the village of Talaulim, the 26th of July is celebrated as the Feast of St. Anne. The Feast is also known as Touxeanchem Fest (Cucumber Feast). People from different walks of life and communities attend this festival with the belief that prayers made through the intercession of St. Anne are always answered.

Specific offerings are made to the Saint by the faithful inorder that their prayers may be answered. Newlyweds and childless couples offer a cucumber saying, ‘Senhora, tomai pepino dai me menino’. The bachelors offer a wooden spoon while saying, ‘Senhora, Tomai Colher, dai me mulher’. Similarly, the spinsters say, ‘Senhora, tomai urido, dai me marido’, while offering urad dal. Couples who desire a girl child because there are only boys in the family offer a small bangle while saying, ‘Toma manilha, dá cá filha’.

Initially, St. Anne was mostly seen in narrative images of the story from the Golden Legend. However, in the Middle Ages, due to the rise in popular devotion to St. Anne many new sculptural depictions of St. Anne could be seen. One such depiction is called the Anna Selbdritt where St. Anne is shown as a mature adult with the Christ Child and Mary who is quite young. The subject of St. Anne’s teaching Mary to read also developed in the Middle Ages.

This 18th-19th century polychrome and gilt wood image of St. Anne and the Virgin is from the collection of the Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa. The lighter shade of the Virgin’s clothing and the way her hair is arranged tell us that this image does not date from the 18th century, as the chair might lead us to suppose, but from the 19th century. This depiction of the Virgin Mary’s education is the most widespread and led to the book becoming one of the more common emblems associated with the Mother of Our Lady, used even when this specific scene is not portrayed.

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

The Feast of St. John the Baptist, also known as the Nativity of St. John the Baptist is celebrated on June 24 every year. Unlike other Saints, the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist is one among the few to be celebrated as part of the liturgy. St. John the Baptist is known as the Patron Saint of tailors, shepherds and masons.

At the time of the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel informed Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was in the sixth month of her pregnancy. On the basis of this account, the Church celebrates the birth of St. John the Baptist by a feast of his nativity on June 24, assigned exactly six months before the nativity of Christ.

The story of St. John the Baptist begins when the Archangel Gabriel appears to an aged Zacharias in the Temple and tells to him that his wife Elizabeth though advanced in age would bear him a son. Since he did not believe what the Angel had said, he was struck with dumbness until the child’s birth.

St. John the Baptist has been described as one living in the wilderness, wearing clothes made of camel’s skin with a leather belt tied around the waist and eating locusts and wild honey. In his public ministry, he was known for attracting large crowds and for proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins. He would also baptize people. St. John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the river Jordan when he came to him. Later on, he was imprisoned and then beheaded by the orders of King Herod.

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist, also known as St. John’s Day, is one of the oldest feasts celebrated by Christians. It is celebrated as a public holiday in some countries with customs varying from location to location. Typical customs may include the gathering of the perennial herb St. John’s Wort, the collection of flowers for floral wreaths. In many places fires are lit on the eve of the nativity of St. John the Baptist, communal bonfires as well as small fires in the home that burn past midnight.

In Goa, the Feast of St. John the Baptist is traditionally celebrated every year on June 24. On the day of the feast, youngsters go from door to door collecting fruits, liquor and gifts. They then offer prayers and jump into the wells and ponds. The youngsters jumping in the well has an interesting account from the Holy Bible associated with it. When Elizabeth was pregnant with John she was visited by Mary, and it is written that when Mary greeted Elizabeth the child in Elizabeth’s womb leapt with joy. Newly married couples are also blessed on this occasion.

Besides solo images, St. John the Baptist’s portrait is also found in images of St Catherine of Alexandria and the Madonna and Child images. Whenever, Christ is also in the image, St. John is shown pointing to Him. Portraits show St. John the Baptist clad in Camel’s skin as described in the Scriptures. An important attribute that distinguishes St. John the Baptist is the Lamb (referring to his words about Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God”), often lying or standing on a book. Another common attribute is a Cross, sometimes with a banner attached to it. The story of his death is also a popular subject in art.

This illustration of Mary visiting Elizabeth, is taken from one of the two volumes of the Bible from the collection of the Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa. Both the volumes of the Bible are leather bound with brass clasps while the text is printed on paper. They belong to the 18th century and were donated by Canon Caetano da Cruz Fernandes from Benaulim, Goa. The text in both the Volumes is in Latin while the illustrations of Biblical scenes are described in six different languages (Greek, English, German, Latin, French and Dutch).

St. Anthony

“The sea obeys and fetters break
And lifeless limbs thou dost restore
While treasures lost are found again
When young or old thine aid implore.”

- Julian of Spires, O.F.M.

The 13th of June is celebrated every year the world over as the feast of the Catholic Church’s most beloved and popular Saint, St. Anthony of Padua. He was one among the great preachers and theologians of his day. There are many legends associated with  St. Anthony. He is known as the Patron Saint of lost and stolen articles.

St. Anthony, was born Fernando Martins de Bulhões in a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195. At a very young age he joined the Augustinian Order in Lisbon. When he was in Coimbra (Portugal), he was inspired to join the Franciscan Order by the example of a group of five Franciscan Friars who were martyred in Morocco. After joining the Franciscans he went to Morocco to preach. However, he took ill in Morocco. When he was returning to Portugal, the ship that he was travelling in was caught in a storm and he landed in Italy. Since then, he mostly lived his life in Italy and spent his time praying, reading the Scriptures, preaching and doing menial tasks. He died in Padua, Italy on 13th June 1231 after receiving his last sacraments.

St. Anthony was a great preacher. A lot of people were moved by his preaching and also by his way of life. However, despite his efforts not everyone listened. Legend has it that one day as no one was listening to him preach, he went to the river and started preaching to the fish. This got everyone’s attention and a lot of people gathered around him to witness the event. This episode from the life of St. Anthony has also been depicted in art.

St. Anthony has been pictured by artists and sculptors in different ways. The main attributes of St. Anthony are the lily, book (closed or open) and Infant Jesus. As far as the depiction of St. Anthony is concerned, the earliest images show him standing with a closed book in his hand, with the Franciscan  tonsure and wearing the brown Franciscan habit with a hood and the long cord belt with its three knots symbolizing chastity, poverty and obedience to the rule hanging down at the front or side. From the 16th century onwards, Infant Jesus became a part of the iconography of St. Anthony. Initially, the Infant Jesus was placed upon the book that St. Anthony held in his hand and in later images He was shown resting on the arm of St. Anthony. St. Anthony has also been painted preaching to fish, holding a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament in front of a mule or preaching in the public square.

The depiction of St. Anthony carrying the Infant Jesus is based on the account of Count Tiso, an Italian Nobleman, who had converted after hearing the preaching of St. Anthony. In 1231, when St. Anthony’s health was deteriorating, Count Tiso and the Friars invited him to reside at the hermitage in Camposampiero. While at the hermitage, the Friars noticed St. Anthony admire a huge Walnut tree in the garden. When Count Tiso was told about this, he had a small tree house built in the Walnut tree for St. Anthony. One night as Count Tiso was passing by the room of St. Anthony, he saw a bright light coming from the room. At first he thought that it was a fire and rushed into the room. But when he entered the room, he saw St. Anthony in ecstasy embracing Baby Jesus. As per the request of the Saint, Count Tiso did not tell anyone about this incident until after the death of St. Anthony.

‘St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around. Something is lost and needs to be found.’ This is a popular prayer said to St. Anthony seeking his intercession to find a lost object.

The Holy Trinity

The Sunday following Pentecost is celebrated by the Church as the Trinity Sunday, in honour of the Holy Trinity. In the Roman Catholic Church, it is officially known as the ‘Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity’.

During the first thousand years of Christianity, there was no special feast of the Holy Trinity. The feast of the Holy Trinity was 1st introduced in the 9th century. This feast was inserted in the Calendar of the Church in the 14th century.

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity is the most profound and central mystery of the Christian faith. The Holy Trinity is the Christian doctrine that God, although one, has from all time existed in three divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As far as the depiction in art is concerned, the Holy Trinity has been depicted in various forms. In the Middle Ages, three new ways of depicting the Holy Trinity emerged in the West. They are: (i) The Three Identical Men, (ii) The Throne of Mercy, and, (iii) The Son Sitting at the Right Hand of the Father. Besides these three, various abstract symbols have also been used to depict the Holy Trinity.

This high-relief depiction of the Holy Trinity on marble is from the collection of the Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa and belongs to the early 17th century. The Holy Trinity is depicted amid dense clouds, with the symbols of the Passion and angels with Mannerist features, in a style less rigorous than that used in Portuguese religious painting from the 14th and 15th centuries, which reached India during the following century.

Three figures are shown – the Father, an old man; the already crucified Son; and the Dove of the Holy Spirit. The Father, wearing a closed crown rather than being enthroned while adopting the maternal pose of a Pietá, the positioning and richness of the drapery and several other details of this marble-relief give it an Italian look. An orb – symbol of sovereignty – has been included in this work of art and supports the Son’s feet. The short loincloth with a knot in the front indicates that this is an European piece, given that the finely worked details usually found in images from India Christianized by Portuguese missionaries are absent. The third person in the Holy Trinity, the Dove, looks more like an eagle with outspread wings perching on the shoulder of God the Father. The Holy Trinity is shown surrounded by angels, some of them are holding the various attributes associated with the Passion of Christ in their hands.

Good Friday

The Friday before Easter Sunday is called Good Friday. On this day, Christians commemorate the passion, crucifixion and the death of Jesus Christ at Calvary. It is observed during the Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum.

There are a lot of theories as to why the day that commemorates the death of Jesus Christ is called the ‘Good’ Friday. The most reliable interpretation is that of the antiquated meaning of the word ‘good’ which is ‘holy’.

The Catholic Church regards Good Friday as a day of fasting and abstinence. The Celebration of the Passion of Jesus Christ takes place in the afternoon, ideally at three o’clock. Unless a special exemption is granted by the Vatican or the local Bishop, there is no celebration of Mass between the evening of Maundy Thursday and the Easter Vigil. Similarly, crosses, candlesticks and altar cloths are removed from the altar which remains completely bare during these days. The colour of the vestments used on this day is red. Besides the prescribed liturgical service, the Stations of the Cross are prayed in the Church or outside. The bells are not rung on Good Friday and Holy Saturday until the Easter Vigil.

There are various things, images, symbols associated with Good Friday. However, the most important symbol is a Cross as it represents the death of Jesus Christ.

From the 17th century onwards, the Crucifixes became an essential presence on Christian Altars. In India, they were much more important than the candlesticks, candelabra or floral decorations. Altar crucifixes vary greatly in the treatment of their components, which may be wooden, often gilt or covered in silver. All the elements come together for a single purpose-to support the image of the crucified Son of God. When not joined with the tabernacles (that also featured on altars), they rested on triangular, square or polygonal bases. From this base rose the Cross, generally Latin, composed of two elements, a long vertical shaft and a shorter crosspiece – the arms. Both the ends of the arms and the upper part of the shaft would have borne decoration indicative of the respective period and style, though always dependant on the way the figure of Christ was represented.

This 18th century altar crucifix from the collection of the Museum of Christian Art is fashioned from painted wood and is embellished by gilt carving and mother-of-pearl. The painted figure of Christ upon this crucifix is made of ivory and is topped by a tablet bearing the customary initials INRI (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews). Its loincloth does not have much decoration and is held up on the right, with its ends falling almost to the knees.

Maundy Thursday

The name Maundy is derived from the Latin word mandatum, which means ‘commandment’ and refers to the command Jesus gave to His disciples at the Last Supper – to love one another as He loved them. Maundy Thursday also known as Passion Thursday, Paschal Thursday is the first day of the Paschal Triduum and occurs during the Holy Week.

Triduum is a Latin word, formed from the Latin prefix tri meaning ‘three’ and the Latin word dies ‘day’. A triduum was originally any prayer recited over the course of three days. It is a three-day period of prayer, usually in preparation for an important feast or in celebration of that feast.

The ‘Paschal Triduum’, the three most solemn days of the liturgical year in the Roman Catholic Church, begins on Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) and ends with the Easter Vigil.  It commemorates the Paschal Mystery, i.e. the passion, death, burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Although the Liturgical season of Lent ends with the beginning of the Paschal Triduum, the fasting, abstinence and prayers that marked  Lent continues until the noon of Holy Saturday, when preparations for the Easter Vigil begin.

Maundy Thursday services are typically more solemn occasions marked by the shadow of Jesus’ betrayal. While different denominations among the Christians observe Maundy Thursday in their own distinct ways, two important biblical events are the primary focus of Maundy Thursday.

The first event is the commemoration of Jesus Christ’s institution of the Holy Eucharist during the Last Supper as described in the Holy Bible. The second event is the commemoration of the practice of ceremonial washing of the feet to imitate Jesus, who washed his disciples’ feet before the Last Supper as a sign of humility and love. Besides these, Maundy Thursday also commemorates the events that took place on the night before the crucifixion of Jesus.

This illustration of the Last Supper is taken from one of the two volumes of the Bible  from the collection of the Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa. Both the volumes of the Bible are leather bound with brass clasps while the text is printed on paper. They belong to the 18th century and were donated by Canon Caetano da Cruz Fernandes from Benaulim, Goa.

The text in both the Volumes is in Latin while the illustrations of Biblical scenes are described in six different languages (Greek, English, German, Latin, French and Dutch).

Palm Sunday

The week preceding  Easter Sunday is known as the ‘Holy Week’. It is the last week of Lent and focuses on the commemoration of the important events associated with the last days of Jesus’ life. The Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday (also known as Passion Sunday) and ends on Holy Saturday.

The celebration of Palm Sunday originated in the Church of Jerusalem in around the late 4th century CE. By the 5thcentury, the Palm Sunday celebration had spread as far as Constantinople. It was adopted by the Western Church in the 8th century, and the celebration received the name ‘Palm Sunday’.

Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. According to the Gospels, Jesus arrived into the city riding on a donkey, while the crowds spread their cloaks and palm branches on the street with shouts of “Hosanna” to honour Him as their long-awaited Messiah and King.

Back in those days, as per local custom, the Kings and nobles arriving in processions were to ride on the back of a donkey. The donkey was a symbol of peace and those who rode on them proclaimed peaceful intentions. The laying down of palm branches indicated that aKing or dignitary was arriving in victory or triumph.

Palm Sunday traditions are quite similar to what they have been since the 10th century. Many churches distribute palm branches to the congregation on Palm Sunday. The ceremony begins with the blessing of the palms, a procession carrying the palms follow, and then Mass is celebrated. The colour of the vestments for the day is red.

The palm branch is traditionally a symbol of joy and victory. The blessed palms that remain after being distributed to the congregation are burnt and the ashes are used in the Ash Wednesday services the following Lent.

Figures of Christ represented in scenes from the Passion are an essential part of Christian iconography and often show elements of folk tradition. This is often accentuated by depictions of the prison or the presentation before the jeering mob that called Him the King of the Jews.

Painted on wood, but in relief, this representation of Ecce Homo, from the collection of the Museum of Christian Art belongs to the c.17th century. The figure of Christ with His loose cloak, bound, but not yet crowned King of the Jews, is shown full-length standing on a round pedestal. The figure, which is almost a sculpture, is backed by a painted field of undulating foliage interspersed with simple quatrefoils.

“The Friday of Sorrows”

The Friday before Palm Sunday in the fifth week of Lent, is a solemn remembrance of the Our Lady of Sorrows. This day also known as the ‘Friday of Sorrows’, takes place exactly one week before Good Friday and focuses on the sorrow and pain that the Passion of Jesus Christ caused to his mother.

Our Lady of Sorrows, Our lady of Dolours, Mother of Sorrows, Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, Our Lady of Piety or Our Lady of the Seven Dolours are the names that Mary is referred to in relation to the sorrows in her life. The 7 sorrows of Our Lady are: (1.) the prophecy of Simeon in the Temple, (2.) the flight into Egypt with the Infant, (3.) the loss of Jesus in Jerusalem when he was a boy of 12, (4.) Mary’s encounter with her divine son on the Via Dolorosa, (5.) the Crucifixion of Jesus, (6.) the taking down of the body of Jesus from the Cross, and, (7.) Burial of Jesus.

The antiquity of the devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows can be traced back to the Servite Order founded in 1233 CE, who took up the sorrows of Mary, standing under the Cross, as the principle devotion of their Order. The formal feast of Our Lady of Sorrows originated in 1423 CE, and was designated for the Friday after the 3rd Sunday after Easter. After 1600 CE, it was set for the Friday before Palm Sunday. By a Decree of 22 April 1727 CE, Pope Benedict XIII extended it to the entire Latin Church. In 1913 CE, Pope Pius X moved the feast to September 15. The Feast is still observed on the 15th of September as well as on the Friday before Palm Sunday.

The seven sorrows of Mary is a popular Roman Catholic devotion. Two representations of the sorrowful Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Sorrows) are easily confused. The first representation is the one in which the heart of Our Lady is shown pierced by seven swords arranged to form a sort of halo. The second representation shows the heart of Our Lady pierced by just one sword, in relation to the prophecy of Simeon in the Temple of Jerusalem, who foresaw the sorrow that would befall the Mother of the Messaiah. The one that represents the Virgin pierced by seven swords is meant to recall devotion to the seven sorrows of Our Lady.

In common religious Catholic imagery, the Our Lady of Sorrows is portrayed in a mournful state, with seven long knives or daggers piercing her heart, often bleeding.

This 18th century image of Our Lady of Sorrows from the collection of the Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa, is painted on wood in the style of the late 17th century and seeks to dramatically highlight the figure of the Virgin, who is swathed in drapery. The crescent moon, which is usually found in the depiction of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, lies at her feet. The composition emanates a certain naïve Baroque quality in the way in which it depicts her standing with the seven swords piercing her breast – the seven sorrows.

The image is framed with hanging ribbons and flowers in loud colours. Such motifs had appeared more discreetly in 16th century Flemish religious paintings and later, in the mid-17th century, in the works of the Portuguese painter Josefa de Obidos, who adopted floral decoration from the already quite imposing still-lifes produced in Spain. When such motifs found their way to the Orient, the floral frame began to be enriched with long, wide, intensely coloured striped ribbons, giving the composition better emphasis. This practice became common in many of the exotic pieces which were inspired by Portuguese models.

St. Joseph

The 19th of March is celebrated every year by the Roman Catholic Church as the feast of St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He is the foster father of Jesus Christ. St. Joseph was engaged to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the time of the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus by Archangel Gabriel.

There is very little information available to us about the life and the death of St. Joseph. As far as the Holy Bible is concerned, the Gospels of St. Mark and St. John do not mention St. Joseph. All that is reliably known of St. Joseph is contained in the first two chapters of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. However, even in these two Gospels, there is nothing much said about St. Joseph after the finding of child Jesus in the Temple.

Devotion to St. Joseph can be traced back to the 4th century, when a feast was celebrated in his honour by the Eastern Coptics. St. Joseph was chosen by St. Teresa of Avila as the Patron of her reform of the Carmelite Order. In 1689, her nuns were granted the privilege of celebrating a feast in honour of St. Joseph. On December 8, 1870, as per the petition of over 300 Prelates gathered at the First Vatican Council, Pope Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph as the ‘Patron Saint of the Universal Church’. In 1955, the title, ‘Patron of Workmen’ was added to St. Joseph.

St. Joseph is depicted in various forms. The most common attributes of St. Joseph are a purple robe, brown mantle, staff, lily, child Jesus, and carpentry square. Most of the literary sources for the depiction of St. Joseph in art, are from the Gospel of St. Matthew and the apocryphal writing ‘Protevangelium of James’.

An interesting explanation is found in a passage of the Protevangelium of James for the lily, used as an attribute of St. Joseph. It states that an angel told the priests to call all the widowers to come to the Temple with their rods and that, there would be a sign to show which of the widowers would be chosen to be betrothed to Mary. St. Joseph was chosen when a dove flew out of his rod. In the Golden Legend, a flower grows out of the rod before the dove alights upon it. In later images, the rod develops into a lily stalk, used as the Saint’s attribute. The lily which is a symbol of chastity refers to the Catholic belief that Mary was a virgin throughout her life.

The saint is also pictured in many images related to the birth of Jesus. In the early 16th century, there were also images of the Holy Family, featuring St. Joseph, Mary and child Jesus. The 16th century also saw a change in the portraiture of St. Joseph. Previously, the most common approach had been to show him as an old man – balding, greying, often leaning on a cane. This kind of portrayal started to change and St. Joseph was shown with the typical features of a young man, like a full head of dark hair.

This early 20th century image of St. Joseph is from the collection of the Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa. The image is made of ivory while the base on which it stands, is made of wood. It shows St. Joseph standing, holding a staff and carrying baby Jesus in his arms.