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 Juan Guelavia:

Christ fallen with the Cross
Christ in the pretorium
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
St. Nicholas Factor
Unidentified saint
Virgin and Child
Virgin Mary (1)
Virgin Mary (2)

Other santos not photographed

St. Nicholas Factor

Saint Nicholas Factor:
The skull rests on the open left palm. Much dust has covered the statue, but one can still admire the life-like sheen to the skin. The detailing of the hands is rather perfunctory, as is the skull. The right hand is broken and hanging from the wrist by little more than a thread. Red wax has been drizzled onto the fracture at the wrist, as if to represent blood. The garments and cord are part of the carving.

The statue has been repainted, but high on the breast of the habit some of the most recent paint has chipped away, revealing a glint of gold beneath that seems certain to be polychrome. There is a similar chip at the left shoulder.

Local Name: San Nicolás

Basis for Identification: The tonsure, brown habit, and cord identify the figure as a Franciscan, the skull and halo as St. Nicholas Factor, a renowned contemplative. Teitipac and Zaachila also have statues of this saint, who was identified as "San Nicolás" by our informants there. For more information on this saint, see the discussion of his statue at Santo Domingo Díaz Ordaz.

Site: Church of San Juan Guelavia.

Location: On a table along the south wall of nave, right of the polychrome Virgin Mary (see note).

Media and construction: Polychrome? Eyes: glass, with lashes.

Size: About 2 feet (60 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Díaz Ordaz (no photograph), Guelavia, Teitipac, Yanhuitlán (in Dominic group), Zaachila1, Zaachila2.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Saint Nicholas Factor in Mexico
SQPN: Saint Nicholas Factor
TheRealPresence.Org: Blessed Nicholas Factor
Wikipedia: Nicolás Factor
Christian Iconography:
Saint Nicholas Factor

Next: A statue of an unidentified saint

Previous santo

Introduction to San Juan Guelavia

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.