Santos in Oaxaca's Ancient Churches

A study of santos in 16th-century and other churches in Oaxaca, Mexico


By Claire and Richard Stracke
Funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation

In San Miguel Achiutla:

Christ at the Pillar
Christ carrying the Cross
Our Lady of Sorrows (Soledad)
Our Lady of the Rosary

Resurrected Christ

Sacred Heart of Jesus + Christ Child
St. John the Baptist
St. Joseph
St. Michael (1)
St. Michael (2)

St. Michael (3)
St. Michael (4)
St. Peter of Verona (Peter Martyr)
St. Rose of Lima
St. Sebastian
Unidentified Dominican saint
Unidentified saint

Virgin Mary Altar
Virgin Mary in White
San Miguel Achiutla

At San Miguel Achiutla we spoke with Sr. Bartolo Raimundo Bautista.

Achiutla is a very remote mountain village, accessible by road only when the weather is good. Although the church is at the summit of a mountain, where the village originally stood, the government forced the people to move to the base of the mountain late in the nineteenth century in order to accommodate archeological work, according to Sr. Bautista. However, the people continue to make the journey to the top of the mountain for worship services and for continuing maintenance on this large and complex edifice.

Upon entering the church of San Miguel Achiutla the visitor is surprised first of all by the unusually deep, rich blue of the walls and ceiling. This may be seen in the background of some of our photographs.

Our tour will proceed from the baptistery into the nave, where we will look first at the santos on and over the pulpit and then at four altars along the north wall of the nave. Further santos will be described in the apse and along the south wall. So let's begin in the baptistery with St. John the Baptist.

Note: On this site, references to the cardinal directions always assume that the main altar is at the east end of the church (the apse), the narthex or entry area at the west end, and the two walls of the nave on the north and south. (The nave is the long central section.) Actual orientations may differ.

Photo: René Lopez, Corresponsales Indigenas