Whatchamacallit 17: Saint Pascal Babylon / San Pascua Bailón

Saint Pascal Babylon / San Pascua Bailón

When my Father died in 2011, my Mother felt that it was important that I had a few things of his to call my own – Things that he held near and dear to his heart.

This is one of those things, a painting of San Pascula, the patron saint of cooking.

San Pascula (Saint Pascal) was my Father’s favorite patron saint – not that my father was religious (far from it), but he loved the idea of San Pascula and sought out paintings and carvings in his honor.

On the back of this painting is a helpful description of the saint:

Saint Pascal Babylon / San Pascua Bailón Feast day – May 17 (1540-1592) He lived near Aragon in the 1540s. This shepherd became a Franciscan lay brother and worked in the dining room as a doorkeeper. He was known for his long trances of devotion before the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist. Patron of sheep and shepherds; his patronage of cooking may be a twentieth century addition. -Ruby Aragon, December 14, 1999

It further notes that it is carved by Tom Chagolla, out of sugar pine. Other notes indicate gesso, natural pigments, water color, acrylic gold, and pinon sap varnish.

By the time I left for college, the family dining room had become a mecca for food art – with at least 150 different pieces of art representing food in its diversity. It was a crowning achievement to bring home a representation of a food item that was not already in the collection. Repetition did occur, but novelty was prized.

San Pascua was the exception: I personally have two representations of him, I would guess we probably had five or six in total, including some very fine wood carvings.

My Mother would re-tell the story of how my father acquired one of the works: they were vacationing in Taos, New Mexico, where my father dressed the way he always dressed: badly, looking as if he were poverty stricken. He wandered around the square, saw a San Pascua for sale and casually asked, “how much?” The artist said something like $200 or $300 – my mother was convinced he was trying to be nice, trying to name a number that was big, but not too big. Instantly, my father, without hesitation, pulled out his wallet and gave him $300 in cash.

This is not that particular representation – I do not know the history of this particular San Pascua; it is paired with a similar painting of Saint Fiacre, the Irish saint of gardening. I can appreciate San Pascua, but I lack a green thumb.

During the Covid-19 crisis, I am going to try and make a point of writing a blog post about an object in my home.

We’ll see how long this lasts.

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