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 Santiago Cuilapan:
Christ Carrying the Cross
Christ on Palm Sunday
Christ Resurrected

Immaculate Heart of Mary
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Our Lady of Sorrows 1
Our Lady of Sorrows 2
Our Lady of Sorrows (Soledad)
Our Lady of the Rosary
Sacred Heart of Jesus
St. James the Moorslayer
St. Joseph
St. Michael the Archangel
Unidentified Dominican
Unidentified Saint
Virgin and Child

Other santos not photographed


St. Joseph

Saint Joseph:
The slanted eyes and prominent cheekbones suggest the same provenance as the Resurrected Christ. The statue may originally have been St. John the Evangelist at the cross: note the youthfulness of the face, the sad expression, and the tilt of the head to the right. The face may be repainted but not the hands nor the child, which is on the left hand.

The child's eyes are painted and his hair carved; the position of the left arm suggests that the arms are movable or have been repaired; the right hand is raised in a blessing.

Local Name: San José

Basis for Identification: Lily in right hand, crowned Christ Child on left.

Other characteristics: Crown, green robe, orange cape, long curly hair.

Site: Basilica of Santiago Cuilapan.

Location: South wall of the nave, in a glass case (see note).

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint, metal crowns on both figures, fabric clothing, plastic lily. Hair: polyester wig. Eyes: glass with painted eyelids. Inset teeth, carved beard.

Size: About six feet (185 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla, Santa Ana del ValleCuilapan2, Mitla1, Mitla2, Ocotlán, Díaz Ordaz, Teitipac, Teotitlán, Zimatlán.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Saint Joseph in Mexico
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Joseph
Wikipedia: Saint Joseph
Christian Iconography: Saint Joseph, Father of Jesus

Next: Also along the south wall, a Soledad.

Previous santo

Introduction to Santiago Cuilapan

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.