Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 27, 2007
St. Augustine's mother honoured in Mexican church
St. Monica prayed for her son's conversion to Christianity
St. Augustine – August 28
By TED FITZGERALD
- WCR photo by Ted Fitzgerald
El Templo y Exconvento de San Agustin, originally constructed of Adobe in 1596 but damaged by earthquakes, was replaced in 1722.
Approaching the church, which is set two metres below street level on a small plaza, the most noteworthy feature is the baroque central portion of an otherwise featureless blank façade.
Focus of the church front, above the large entry doors, is a carving in relief of the patron. The bearded saint, wearing bishop's attire and flanked by two angels, holds a model church in one upraised hand and is surrounded by 10 tonsured Augustinian monks. Beneath his feet are the heads of "three heretics, defeated by the Gospels."
Augustine was a native of Roman North Africa, born in 354 of a pagan father but whose mother, St. Monica, spent her life praying for his conversion to Christianity. This finally occurred under the influence of St. Ambrose and the writings of St. Paul on a man who was already a prominent philosopher and orator. Augustine went on to write some of the most influential tomes of the early Church and was eventually named bishop of Hippo.
On the façade of his Oaxacan church, the central scene of Augustine is flanked by statues of the saint's friend St. Alipio and prominent 16th century Spanish Augustinian, San Tomas Obispo.
Lower down, on either side of the church doorway, are statues of 15th century San Juan Sahagun and San Nicolas Tolentino, Italian member of the order who preached successfully to the people daily for most of his life.
The third level of the façade displays the images of Augustinian saints Rita and Clara de la Cruz de Montefalco flanking a clear glass octagonal window.
The different orders of men that followed the role of Augustine and adopted his name ultimately merged under one "Order of Friars of Saint Augustine" (OSA) and are active today in Canada, as well as other areas.
The saint's patronage is also invoked in a woman's order, the "Augustines de la Misericorde de Jesus" (AMJ) that originated as the Hospitalieres in Dieppe, France, about 1055 and after 1639 established many hospitals and monasteries in Quebec where they continue to be active.
The interior of San Agustin is noted for its ornate, gilded altarpieces where Augustinian saints are again portrayed. Special homage is paid to the saint's mother, Monica, and to San Fulgenio, a disciple of Augustine.
Despite the large number of churches in downtown Oaxaca, many other places attract the attention of visitors - the plazas, museums, historic sites, landscaped parks, eating places of all kinds.
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