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. James the Moorslayer

Saint James the Moorslayer:
Santiago is the patron saint of the parish. The informant said the horse and statue are carried in a procession on January 25. The saint's face has a greenish sheen. The hands are in good condition. The sword is tied onto the right hand. The cape is velvet and the tunic and pants are polyester brocade. Woven into the brocade of the pants are the words Pater, Filius, Spiritus Sanctus and the symbols of the Trinity. This same fabric appears in purple and in red in the chasubles of the two statues of San Pedro Apostol at Teotitlán.

The horse is white and has a cocked head and alert expression; it is painted wood with braided rope harness, leather saddle, metal stirrups, and real hair for forelock and tail; it is newer than the saint.

The horse stands on an andas that appears to be of a different maker than the statue. There is a folk feeling to the painted flower and leaf design of blue on a red back-ground. The andas is trimmed in yellow and has four green turned legs.

The position of the hands, shape of the beard, gentle expression of the face, and the downcast eyes suggest the statue was originally a Palm Sunday Christ, though the mount is definitely not an ass. Moreover, it is too small for the horse and the feet do not fit in the stirrups. The helmet is too small for the head.

Local Name: Santiago Matamoros

Basis for Identification: Knight in armor on horseback with sword.

Other characteristics: Red cape, yellow shirt, blue breeches, black boots.

Site: Basilica of Santiago Cuilapan.

Location: Right of the main altar.

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint, textile clothing. Boots added. Eyes seem too dull to be glass. 4' excluding horse.

Size: About four feet (120 cm.) excluding the horse.

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Tilantongo1, Tilantongo2, Tilantongo3

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Santiago Matamoros in Mexico
Wikipedia: Saint James the Moor-slayer
Christian Iconography: St. James the Greater, Apostle

Next: Along the south wall of the nave, a statue of a Dominican martyr.

Previous santo

Introduction to Santiago Cuilapan

Santos Home Page

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.