San Raymond Nonnatus

San Ramón Nonato

Feast day: August 31

Patron of mid-wives, pregnant women, unborn children, and women in labor.

Invoked in Mexico for silence and protection against curses.

Essay by Carolyn Christensen

All the retablos were produced during the nineteenth century, following an intricate style reminiscent of the Baroque period. The retablo’s background in Figure 2 contains trees with drooping branches against a green field and water. There are no crowns on the martyr’s palm, as seen on Figure 1. Included is a larger halo around the monstrance. The major differences in the third retablo (fig.3) is the presence of a book on top of a chest-like object beside him and the drapery in the background.

Raymond Nonnatus was born between 1200 and 1204 in the village of Portello, part of the Diocese of Urgel, Crown of Aragon, in present-day northeastern Spain. The name Nonnatus was given to him because his mother died during labor. He joins the Mercedarian Order in Barcelona to secure the release of prisoners in Moorish prisons in the Iberian Peninsula. One of the most notable achievements by this saint was the liberation of captive slaves in Algiers; he did this by willingly becoming a captive. During his captivity, Nonnatus pontificated excessively, which resulted in the Moors placing a padlock on his lips, among other tortures. Saint Nonnatus was canonized in 1657 by Pope Alexander VII.

In this artistic representation (fig. 1), Saint Nonnatus stands against a vivid blue landscape in the Mercedarian habit holding a martyr’s palm branch with three crowns in his left hand and a Roman Catholic monstrance in his right hand. A glowing halo surrounds his head. Nonnatus meets our gaze, as if he is presenting us with his piety and mystical powers. Here, the monstrance is historically significant because it is an allegory of his final communion. There are two halos, a golden one behind his head and a black outline, over his head representative of religious leadership. The padlock is a symbol of veneration for the end of gossip and false testimony. Because of this, the lips retain sensible damage.

Figure 1. Saint Raymond Nonnatus. / San Ramón Nonato

Anonymous, Mexico. Nineteenth Century.

Oil on tin. 10 x 7”. NMSU Art Gallery Collection #1969.6.5.

Donor: Dr. and Mrs. Andrew Babey.

Figure 2. Saint Raymond Nonnatus / Santo Ramón Nonato

Anonymous, Mexico. Nineteenth Century.

Oil on tin. 14 x 10”. NMSU Art Gallery Collection #1967.1.101.

Donor: Dr. Ezra K. Neidich.

Figure 3. Saint Raymond Nonnatus / San Ramón Nonato

Anonymous, Mexico. Nineteenth Century.

Oil on tin. NMSU Art Gallery #1968.6.63.

References

 Hall, James. Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1974.

Hallam, Elizabeth. Saints: Who They Are and How They Help You. New York, NY: Simon &

Schuster, 1994.

Hoever, Hugo H. Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year: In Accord with the Norms and

Principles of the New Roman Calendar. New York, NY: Catholic Book Pub., 1955.