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

Unidentified Saint (Possibly St. Joseph)

Unidentified Saint:
This may have been a Saint Joseph. The left hand is palm up as though to hold a Christ child, and the thumb and forefinger of the extended right hand form a circle as if to support a lily stalk or a pilgrim's staff. Also, green is a common color in St. Joseph santos in Mexico. The costume is simple, with the robe slightly open and with a sculpted collar of white. The green robe is repainted in a design of three-and-five-petalled flowers. It and the yellow mantle are well sculpted wood, not stiffened cloth, and in many places the repainting has flaked away to reveal the original red and gold polychrome. Some wood shows through.

The base is an integral part of the sculpture and is shaped like two simple triangles of wood set at a 90-degree angle to match the position of the feet. The face resembles that of the Resurrected Christ on the same wall, especially the slant of the eyes and the set of the cheekbones.

The neck is executed with remarkable realism, showing the musculature and Adam's apple. The hair frames the head then flows in smooth waves over the shoulders and back, in the manner of an Asunción.

Site: Basilica of Santiago Cuilapan.

Location: Right of the glass case on the wooden altar along the north wall of nave (see note).

Media and construction: Repainted polychrome over gesso and wood. Hair: sculpted. Eyes: glass. Mouth, open as though to speak, reveals sculpted tongue and teeth.

Size: About 3 feet (90 cm.)

Next: In the second bay of the north wall, a Palm Sunday Christ

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.