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 Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca:

Assumption + St. Peter
Christ at the Pillar

Christ Child (1)

Christ Child (2)
Christ Fallen with the Cross
Main altar
Our Lady of Sorrows
Our Lady of Sorrows (Soledad)
Our Lady of the Rosary
St. Anthony of Padua
St. Isidore the Laborer
St. Martin de Porres + 2 angels
St. Peter of Verona (Peter Martyr)
Unidentified Dominican saint
Unidentified, possibly St. Lucy
Unidentified saint (1)
Unidentified saint (2)
Unidentified saint (3)
Virgin Mary (1)
Virgin Mary (2)
Virgin Mary (3 - in a coffin)

Santos not photographed
Unidentified Female Saint (St. Lucy?)

Unidentified Saint:
The figure's garments are partly carved from the wood, partly formed of stiffened cloth.

Basis for Identification: The red slash in the neck is clearly an intended part of the composition, with the blood forming an inverted triangle at the midpoint, where the Adam's apple would be. St. Lucy was beheaded. Most images of her show the neck intact, but a portrait by Fra Lippo Lippi shows a sword plunged into her throat, and Tiepolo's painting of her last communion shows a healing but still nasty gash in the throat. The church or tower in the saint's left hand could refer to St. Barbara, who was decapitated and whose most common attribute is a tower with three windows, but we have found no images of that saint showing a slit at the throat. St. Cecilia also suffered a blow to the neck that led to her death, and Maderno's statue of her incorrupt body in her church in Trastevere shows a gash at the back of the neck; but we have found no other image that does so, nor is it usual to show her with a tower.

Other characteristics: Criss-crossing necklace, blue veil back from the forehead.

Site: Church of San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca.

Location: Left end of the lowest tier in the retablo in the second bay in the north wall of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Polychrome, stiffened cloth, metal necklace. Eyes: glass.

Size: About 4 feet (120 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: No other statues identifiable as Lucy, Barbara, or Cecilia.

External Links:
Christian Iconography: St. Lucy, St. Barbara, St. Cecilia.

Next: Also in this bay in the north wall, an unidentified Dominican saint.

Previous santo

Introduction to San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca

Santos Home Page

Note: On this site, references to the cardinal directions always assume that the main altar is at the east end of the church, 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.

The photo shown here is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. You are free to share or remix it on two conditions: first, that you attribute it to the photographers, Claire and Richard Stracke, without implying any approval of your work on their part; second, that if you alter, transform, or build upon this photo, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.