Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mother Jeronima de la Asuncion

VELAZQUEZ, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y
(b. 1599, Sevilla, d. 1660, Madrid)
Abbess Jerónima de la Fuente 1620
Oil on canvas, 162 x 107,5 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Mother Jeronima de la Asuncion or Jeronima de la Fuente (May 9, 1555 - October 22, 1630) was the foundress of the first Catholic monastery in Manila and the Far East.

De la Asuncion's journey began in April 1620 from Toledo, Spain, with the initial group of six Poor Clare nuns. De la Asuncion was already 66 years old. The group set foot in the Philippines through the port of Bolinao on July 24, 1621. They reached Intramuros, the centre of Manila at the time, on August 5, 1621. Their trip from Toledo to Intramuros lasted one year, three months and nine days.

De la Asuncion's monastery became known as the Monastery of Santa Clara in Spanish Intramuros, Philippines. The Philippine monastery would be the first of its kind to be established both in Manila and in the Far East

For De la Asuncion's efforts as the first founding missionary woman in the Philippines, the Vatican had issued an apostolic decree for her beatification in 1734.

De la Asuncion's monastery in Intramuros was also immortalized in the novel, Noli Me Tangere, written by Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines

The portrait was composed during De la Asuncion's stop-over in Seville, Spain, in 1620.

The painting is meant to convey the then sixty-six year old nun's "devoutness and strength of character through her stern expression and rugged countenance; her direct, outward gaze at the beholder; and her expressive accoutrements".

De la Asuncion was then wearing a dark, sober habit while holding a tome and a crucifix.

The elderly nun's gaze is keen and slightly melancholic, as if prepared for any sacrifice.

There are inscriptions on the painting.

The text across the top of the canvas read "It is good to await the salvation of God in silence", while the ribbon that flows from De la Asuncion's mouth stated "I shall be satisfied as long as He is glorified".

Mother Jerónima de la Asunción was called to the spiritual life at a young age, after reading a biography of Saint Clare. In 1569, she met Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), the renowned reformer of the Carmelite Order, who was establishing a Carmelite monastery in Toledo at the time. In 1570, she entered the Franciscan convent of Santa Isabel at the age of 15 and stayed until 1620.