Tuesday, February 7, 2012


St. Francis of Assisi Relicario
Collecting religious objects has always been a popular activity  and a  fascinating pastime among some of our more spiritually– inclined collectors.  Keeping these objects gives them a sense of  inner peace and spiritual kinship with  their Creator.

Unlike vintage “estampitas”, “relicarios” have a more  distinguished  origin and history.  These devotional items are said to emerge from the Medieval European custom of treasuring relics and mementos of saints. Many of these objects of  devotion were kept in religious  lockets  and caskets fashioned and decorated with enameled  silver and other precious metals and jewelries . Indeed, in some instances, these objects were treasured by their owners  not only as souvenirs of their religious pilgrimages but also  because   of their  belief that  these could  help and protect them in times of   need and danger.
Later on, native artisans of these foreign countries added their own brand of  artistry to create a simpler but  likewise  exquisite versions  of the original. But, as expected, the designation became largely symbolical, since even  during the late colonial days, relicarios were no longer expected to contain actual relics of saints and other religious personalities.  However, lay persons of distinction continued to wear tiny bejeweled but relic-less relicarios to display their supposed piety and influence.
St. Francis of Assisi Estampita
Locally, a simpler but likewise artistic versions of  relicarios have been  designed by  Pinoy  artisans.   Hand-made relicarios of varying shapes and sizes were fashioned from simple frames of wood,  brass,  tin,  thick cardboards, etc.,  some with  added loop  at the top to provide suspension from a cord.  Various  religious  imagery  contained in  relicarios  were often  made of  silk  embroideries,  hand-painted and colored lithographs,   embellished  art works and rarely, of ivory.  Mostly hand-made, the finished product bespeaks the special skill, artistry and imagination of its creator.
Some native nuns with artistic inclinations are likewise  credited with having crafted some of the more intricately-designed  relicarios , some of which  are believed to be in the possession of the particular Orders to which they belong.
Vintage “estampitas”, on the other hand, are not really  that rare.  In fact, many can  still be found in the provinces with most of them  being  in the hands of old but wealthy families  known in the community for their religious  fervor and piety.
For most Filipino faithfuls, “estampitas” hold special attraction not only because they appeal to the laymen’s religiosity and piety, but also because they are relatively cheap and readily available. For these reasons, they are commonly utilized as mementos  or souvenirs and keepsakes on special family occasions like weddings, first communions and confirmations, birth and death anniversaries, Christmas reunions, etc.
The early “estampitas” were of foreign  origin, while some were minted by the printing press of the religious orders. The  more recent  ones were printed locally.
Most of these tiny  religious cards are eye-catching, multi-colored and intricately designed.  Vintage copies are quaint and sumptuous creations richly-decorated with latticed embroidery or delicate paper lace which frames  the principal figure or figures to be depicted – Jesus Christ, saints, angels, Virgin Mary, the Nativity, Sto Nino, etc. No one who appreciates beauty and desires a certain degree of affinity with the heavenly beings can resist the child-like charm of these vest-pocket devotional prints.
We can truly say, therefore, that either  or both of these devotional articles – the relicarios and vintage  estampitas – can fill the need of collectors who hopes  to own a collection that combines aesthetic beauty with the  uplifting touch of spirituality. By Jorge Delos Santos

The Holy Family

The Nativity

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Temptation of Jesus Christ

Nino Jesus the Good Shepherd

Sto. Nino Jesus

San Francesco

Infant Jesus

Coronation of Virgin Mary in Heaven

Ascension of Virgin Mary to Heaven

Our Lady of the Light

First Communion Estampita

Annunciation of Angel Gabriel to Virgin Mary
St. Francis of Assisi Relicario

Virgin Mary

Virgin Mary

Infant Jesus

Sto. Nino

St. Joseph Relicario

Virgin Mary Relicario

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