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

Virgin Mary

Santo name:
The garments were made by applying to the wood first gesso, then cloth and gesso, then the polychrome finish. The lower front of the robe has lost much of the polychrome, as if by being rubbed away, leaving the white beneath. This white is also seen in a path from the navel crossing the right breast to the right shoulder, and also along the most prominent fold along the right leg. It is as if both gold and paint have flaked away. On the white can be seen outlines of flowers done in brown dots. These seem to have been done on the gesso before any gold or paint had been applied, and to have served as the outlines for the flowers of the finished work.

The face has a lovely blush and a fine sheen. The hands have suffered much from dust and time. In the left palm is a hole which may have been used to anchor an object or a Christ child. (In the latter case, the child would have perched rather precariously.) There are wax drippings on and round the right knee.

Basis for Identification: Full crown on head, rosary around neck.

Other characteristics: No child.

Site: Church of San Juan Guelavia.

Location: Table along the south wall of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Polychrome. Eyes: glass. Hair: wig. Closed mouth.

Size: About 3 feet (90 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla, Etla1 (in the Soledad group) Etla2, Guelavia1Nochixtlán, Ocotlán, Teotitlán1, Teotitlán2, Tilantongo1, Tilantongo2, Yanhuitlán1, Yanhuitlán2, Zimatlán.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Virgin Mary in Mexico.

Next: Also along the south wall, a statue of St. Nicholas Factor

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.