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 Santo Domingo Díaz Ordaz:

Our Lady of Sorrows
Palm Sunday Christ
St. Joseph
St. Peter of Verona (Peter Martyr)
St. Peter the Apostle
Virgin and Child (1)
Virgin and Child (2)

Other santos not photographed

Virgin and Child

Virgin and Child: 
No gesso shows at the point at which the Virgin's right pinkie has broken off, suggesting that the hands are of solid carved wood. The polychrome of the skirt has deteriorated badly, revealing the cloth beneath in mosaic-like patches. There is no provision for showing the feet.

The statue is crude but pleasant in its effect. The bell-shaped lower body is of gessoed cloth stretched over a 6-sided frame of light wood or split cane. The only other example of such a shape that we have seen is the frame statue of the Candelaria in Santa Ana del Valle. The gesso has been painted in a feathery pattern of flowers and leaves on a pink background. The separate torso seems to be frame and cloth and rises from a narrow waist to hold up a carved and gessoed head. Because of the carved hands, it is assumed that the arms have been made separately and joined to the light-weight torso.

The whole is dramatically framed in a great swath of polychromed cloth that serves as a mantle to shelter the mother and child. The form is reminiscent of paintings of the Madonna in which winds blow out her veil. The mantle is in better condition than the dress and is painted in a bold pattern of red and dark blue flowers on gold.

The child, also of gessoed wood, is dressed in white robe and white velvet cape.

Site: Church of Santo Domingo Díaz Ordaz.

Location: Southeast corner of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Polychrome garments over frame. Face and hands: painted wood. Eyes: painted.

Size: About 2 feet (60 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Coixtlahuaca, Coixtlahuaca2, Cuilapan, Guelavia, Huitzo, Díaz Ordaz1Zimatlán.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Virgin Mary in Mexico
Christian Iconography: The Virgin and Child

Next: Also along the south wall, just in from the narthex, is a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Previous santo

Introduction to Santo Domingo Díaz Ordaz

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.