Sculpted by José Rizal during his exile in Dapitan, El Ermitaño is an 1893 terra cotta figurine given as a gift to Fr. Pablo Pastells. It shows Rizal’s own interpretation of St. Paul the Hermit or Paul of Thebes, known in Catholic history as the first Christian hermit.
El Ermitaño contains inscriptions in reference to the long and controversial correspondence between Rizal and his Jesuit mentor, Fr. Pastells. The exchange of letters, which took place between September 1892 and June 1893, reveals the Jesuit priest’s attempt to win Rizal back to the Catholic church.
Rizal, having been ex-communicated by the Spanish friars for the alleged social unrest sparked by his two novels Noli me tangere and El filibusterismo, refused to reconcile to the Catholic church despite Pastells’ sensible use of theology.
The epistolary exchanges between Rizal and Fr. Pastells were published by Retana and Teodoro M. Kalaw in the 1900s and the 1930s, respectively. The most comprehensive work, however, was by Raul J. Bonoan S.J. in “The Rizal-Pastells Correspondence” (1994), based on the complete texts found in the Arxiu Historic S.I. de Catalunya, the Jesuit archives in Sant Cugat del Valles, Barcelona.
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