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 Pedro y San Pablo Etla:

Christ at the pillar
Christ: Ecce Homo
Christ fallen under the cross
Christ in the pretorium
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
St. Anthony of Padua
St. Luke
St. Paul
St. Peter the Apostle
St. Peter of Verona (Peter Martyr)
Soledad group
Unidentified saint (1)
Unidentified saint (2)
Unidentified saint (3)
Virgin Mary

Other santos not photographed


This is an unusual crucifix for Oaxaca. It has an ethereal look. The eyes are fully closed and the face is peaceful. The hair frames the face in stylized curls. The body stretches gracefully down to the fan shape of the toes. The blood is more restrained than one would expect in a piece this old and is used most significantly at the feet to emphasize the fan shape. The carved
perizoma hangs from a thin string at the hips in pronounced and complex folds of what the viewer is to take as transparent linen. At the right hip one end of the perizoma is gathered into the string as if knotted. The crown of thorns is very narrow.

The hands are damaged. There are chips in the surface of the gesso in the arms and the right chest. There is a significant crack at the top of the right thigh. The figure has been chained to the bottom of the cross, presumably for security.

The crosspieces are green, dowel-shaped, carved and decorated with heavy gilt. The cross is set into a mountain sculptured in the fashion of Renaissance landscapes. The design is of heaped-up rocks, on some of which the artist has painted delicate leaves of grass and golden shadows. The crucifix is set so deeply into the mountain that the figure's feet rest on the rocks.

Local Name: El Señor de la Misericordia

Site: Church of San Pedro y San Pablo Etla.

Location: Third bay in the north wall of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint. Sculpted hair and perizoma.

Size: About 5½ feet in all (168 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla, Santa Ana del Valle1, Santa Ana del Valle2, Santa Ana del Valle3, CuilapanGuelavia, Mitla, Nochixtlán, Tamazulapan1, Tamazulapan2, Teitipac1, Teitipac2, Teitipac3, Teitipac Our Lady of the Rosary, Teotitlán1, Teotitlán2, Teposcolula1, Teposcolula2, Teposcolula3 (in Rosary case),  Teposcolula Convento1, Teposcolula Convento2, Tilantongo1, Tilantongo2, Tlacolula1, Tlacolula2, Xoxocotlán1, Xoxocotlán2, Xoxocotlán3, Xoxocotlán4, Yanhuitlán1, Yanhuitlán2, Yanhuitlán Convento1, Yanhuitlán Convento2, Yanhuitlán Convento3, Yanhuitlán Convento4, Yanhuitlán Convento5, Yanhuitlán Ayuxi Chapel, Zimatlán.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Crucifixes in Mexico
Catholic Encyclopedia: Archaeology of the Cross and Crucifix
Wikipedia: Crucifix
Christian Iconography: The Crucifixion

Next: On the main altar, a statue of Christ fallen under the Cross

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Introduction to San Pedro y San Pablo Etla

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.