OCTOBER is considered the month of the Holy Rosary, but despite the prominence of the devotion, only a few truly understand the purpose of the chain which supposedly binds Christian families together.

Cognizant of the need to emphasize the relevance of the Holy Rosary amid the changing times, the UST Museum of Art and Sciences merged aesthetics and faith in an exhibit sought to glorify and clarify the rosary, titled The Rosary: Into the Garden of Paradise, last October.

Aside from commemorating the month of the Holy Rosary, the exhibit coincided with the centennial celebration of the connonical coronation of the La Naval de Manila.

“The exhibit is a small step for Philippine Christianity to gain a better understanding of the rosary through art,” said Regalado Trota Jose, the curator of the exhibit.

With text panels about the rosary’s nature and history, the exhibit further magnified the strong Marian devotion of the Filipinos. The exhibit also focused on Christ’s life anthology, which is encapsulated in each mystery of the Holy Rosary.

“The rosary is usually associated to Marian prayer, but sometimes people forget that its real purpose is to lead them closer to Christ through Mary,” said Jose. “We used a large image of a wooden Ifugao crucifix at the opening panel of the exhibit to emphasize this Christological aspect of the rosary.”

Garden of mysteries

Minimalist yet highly informative, the exhibit consisted of Marian artifacts, text panels, and an artistic floral carpet, which provided the museum an atmosphere of a rosarium (Latin for rose garden). According to one of the text panels, the rosarium, which is also the literal meaning of the rosary, is an allusion to the garden of paradise.

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Unconventionally, the exhibit’s version of the rosarium was highlighted by a tarpaulin carpet, which featured drawings and photographs of local varieties of flowers such as gumamela, sampaguita, pascuas, granada, dahong maria, lagundi and other medicinal Philippine flowers splotched in a black backdrop. The vibrant colors of the floral illustrations were based on the book, Flora de Filipinas, by Augustine Fr. Manuel Blanco and published by the Dominicans’ UST Press in the 18th century, which gave the art installation a Philippine ambiance.

Modern and traditional paintings, sculptures, stained glasses, metal engravings, and wood carvings by Filipino artists from the UST Museum and other museums and churches, depicting the mysteries of the Holy Rosary were also displayed.

“We used Philippine artworks to promote our own artistic tradition and localize our Christian faith,” said Jose. “How could we relive and deepen our faith if we would use foreign artworks as symbolisms?”

Also seen in the exhibit were the image of Our Lady of the Rosary and the antique certificate of membership to the old Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, which is rarely displayed publicly.

Arranged to resemble the shape of the rosary indicated by its illustrated bead counters, each panel in the main exhibit had an artwork representing a mystery of the rosary, its corresponding biblical passage, and a colored background of light green, red, yellow, and white for the Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous, and Glorious mysteries, respectively, based on the medieval color scheme associated with the rosary.

Additional panels include the prayers of the rosary and the devotion’s brief history, which spans from its origin until it became entwined in the history of Filipinos with the arrival of the Spaniards in the Philippines.

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“The rosary was not conceived immediately. It has gone through a lot of changes through history, and even until now it is undergoing continuous evolution,” said Jose, a sacred heritage expert and Church historian who teaches at the UST Graduate School’s Cultural Heritage Studies program.

The visual display of the life of Christ signified by each bead counter perhaps enabled its visitors to reflect and appreciate the real essence of the rosary.

“We used minimal artwork for this exhibit to avoid overwhelming the visitors, so they could focus more on the information from the exhibit,” Jose said. “It should not merely be prayed in an automatic manner since each beads has a meaning.”


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