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Puerto Rico's Wooden Saints: Images of  
Saint Raymond Nonnatus
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Carlos Santiago


Benigno Soto

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Who was Saint Raymond Nonnatus?
Saint Raymond, born in the 13th century in Catalonia, Spain, is considered a patron and protector of pregnant women, women in labor, midwives and newborns. His surname Nonnatus was given to him due to the circumstances of his own birth--he was born by caesarean section, where his mother died in labor before he was born. Thus, he was "never born" (non natus) because he was extracted from the body from his two-day-dead mother, with the use of hunter's knife.
   Due to the account that he suffered the torture of having his lips sealed with a red-hot iron poker--to stop his preaching--he is associated with secrets and silences and thus is invoked by those who are falsely accused. The Puerto Rican town of  Juana Díaz always dedicates its patron saint festivals to Saint Raymond Nonnatus.

custodio ostentorio
How is Saint Raymond represented in the Puerto Rican tradition of wooden saints?
He usually appears in ecclesiastic vestments, including a red short cape adorned with gold piping around the neck and fringes around the borders. Underneath, he wears a rochet (a white garment worn by priests) with gold piping around the cuffs and lace underneath.
     On his hands, he is usually seen to carry a  custodio ostentorio (a sun-shaped artifact made of gold or other precious metal, into which the host is placed after it is consecrated for the adoration of the faithful) and a palm frond (a Christian symbol of victory over death, an attribute of Christian martyrs).

(text partially derived from notes by Doreen M. Colón)