San Vincente Ferrer
Feast day: April 5
Patron of the Archdiocese of Valencia, Spanish orphans, fishermen, builders, prisoners.
Invoked when in dire need of saving, protection, and guidance.
Essay by Alex Nipper
Saint Vincent Ferrer was one of most inspiring Dominican preachers and a prominent figure of the Church born and raised in Valencia, Spain during the mid-fourteenth century. His sermons were some of the foremost influential in bringing people closer to God through his detailed descriptions of sin, death, the afterlife in hell, eternity in heaven, and God’s Final Judgement. He is mostly known to teach his people from the Book of Revelations in advancing his teachings to non-believers so that all the lost Souls in his community could find peace in God. The Saint’s other duties included, for many years, being a key advisor to Don John I, the King of Portugal. Saint Vincent Ferrer died in 1419 at a young age and canonized soon after in 1455.
Although Saint Ferrer is was not a very popular devotion in Mexico, Ferrer does have many unique and distinctive features that stand out. Vincent is always seen with large black and white wings emanating from his back representing his significance in the teachings related to the Last Judgment in the Book of Revelations (Fig. 1). This acclaimed notoriety earned him the title of “Angel of Judgment.” He is also depicted wearing the black-and-white habit symbolizing his achievements in the Church, as well as his Dominican association. He holds a cross in his right hand and the Bible in his left. The crucifix signifies his commitment and dedication to God, while the Bible is open in the Book of Revelation, specifically Revelation 14:7; the verse reads, “Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment will come.”
This full-length portrait of the Saint Vincent Ferrer is a worthy depiction of describing the Saint’s level of intelligence and prosperity in the Church. His wings spread out and the rays of light beaming from behind the head and shoulders—a reference to his ability to enlighten those around him. His black and white wings and wardrobe are also significant to both life and death, or light and darkness, a subject he was committed to teaching to his community.
Figure 1. Saint Vincent Ferrier / San Vicente Ferrer
Anonymous, Mexico. Nineteenth Century.
Oil on tin. 13¾” x 19⅝”. NMSU Art Gallery Collection #1969.1.3.
Donor: Dr. Ezra K. Neidrich
Hall, James, Dictionary of Subjects & Symbols in Art. New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers. 1974.
Steele, Thomas J. Santos and Saints: The Religious Folk Art of Hispanic New Mexico. Santa Fe, NM: Ancient City Press. 1994.
Zarur, Elizabeth Netto Calil, and Lovell, Charles M. Art and Faith in Mexico: The Nineteenth-Century Retablo Tradition. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2001.