Wooden urns or locally called” urnas” is loosely translated into “religious shrines,” “wooden niches”, ” wooden altars” that were intricately carved wooden housing for santos, or religious icons.
late 19th century urnas owned by a private collector in Quezon City
Religious Art Form
This is a form of religious art which was introduced by the Mexican-Spaniards towards the late 16th century and usually made from wood. The design varies from one province to another. Those coming from Bohol, Leyte,Central Visayas, Ilocos, Pampanga and Bulacan are some of the highly sought after by collectors.
different kinds of religious containers for sale ( photo courtesy of Mr. Edgardo Gamo)
With opening of the country’s trade and direct rule by Spain towards the beginning of the 19th century, There were a lot of European styles and influence coming from Macao, Goa and Cochin in making of local wooden containers.
simple wooden urna ( photo courtesy of Mr. Edgardo E. Gamo Jr.)
Most of those frequently encountered were the mass produce ones from the late 1930’s to mid-1990’s. These became common features in most Catholic homes all over the country and these are mostly sold in commercial religious stores or custom made in some wooden furniture stores.
wooden urnas ( about 4 feet tall and made during the middle part of the 20th century)
Premium religious containers were usually made from hardwood tree species like narra,yakal, molave, tanguile, batikuling, ipil or kamagong.
seated Christ the King inside the wooden urna
Some would use the common acacia, mahogany, palo china tree species. These are far cheaper by at least 20% to 50% from those premium hardwood species. Prices would also vary with additional carvings, inlaying process, gold leaf ornamentation, installation of glass, paintings, cost of labor and transportation. These tend to further increase the prices of these containers.
processional wooden urna
The ordinary box-type wooden altars that were simply varnished or painted and tend to use plywood at the back. Front side were carved with decorative details such as Jesus Christ’s, Blessed Virgin Mary or “AVM” monogram. Having gothic, neo-gothic design motifs, crosses, art nouveau or art deco ornamentation depending on the era or designs popular among customers were used.
( photo courtesy of Mr. Edgardo E. Gamo Jr. )
Many of these mass manufactured wooden urnas still survived today, although it is getting hard to come by as wood is getting scare. The art of making them also entails a lot of time and labor. According to a wooden furniture maker based in Roosevelt Avenue in Quezon City, They would only get a handful of commission work for these types of wooden containers. Most are from devoted Catholics or parishes with expensive life-size religious statues.
A simple 20 inch tall wooden container could cost as much as Php 5,500 roughly US$105, using ordinary wood.
34 x 13 x 13 height inches tall with 19 x 12 inches glass ( photo courtesy of Mr. Edgardo E. Gamo Jr. ) This was made from narra and plywood and was sold in May 24, 2018
Some would opt using acrylic glass or glass display for their religious icons.
simple wooden urna affixed in an old house in Sampaloc, Manila
foo dogs, tea ya kong and religious items were placed inside this wooden urna
The wooden urna above is the center piece at a religious store located in Blumentritt, Santa Cruz, Manila. It is not for sale and was made at least 30 years ago.
According to the staff, the shop stop selling this type of commercial wooden urna for at least a decade.
These are just few of the different types of wooden urnas, People would regard then as part of our religious heritage.