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 Pablo Huitzo:

Christ at the Pillar
Christ Child
Christ Fallen with the Cross
Christ in a Coffin
Immaculate Heart of Mary
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Our Lady of Sorrows (Soledad)
Sacred Heart of Jesus
St. Anthony of Padua
St. Hyacinth
St. Isidore the Laborer
St. John the Baptist
St. John the Evangelist

St. Mary Magdalene
St. Michael the Archangel
St. Paul
St. Peter of Verona
St. Peter the Apostle
Unidentified female saint
Unidentified saint
Virgin and Child

Other santos not photographed

St. John the Baptist

Saint John the Baptist:
The figure has a powerful, muscular body with realistically detailed neck and shoulders. The legs are well muscled and sturdy, the hands large. The right hand has a broken pinkie, and the wood and gesso can be seen at the break. There is no lamb, but the left arm is crooked as if to hold one.

The hair is unusual. It is cropped close to frame the face in front but hangs below the shoulders at the back. The carved black curls are tight and narrow. It falls in long, flat waves over the shoulders and down over the left collarbone. Probably often rubbed by petitioners, the left knee is shiny and has healthy pink flesh tone, in contrast to the darker tones of the leg.

Local Name: San Juan Bautista.

Basis for Identification: Floor-length cross in right hand, garment hangs off the shoulder, curly hair.

Other characteristics: Red garment rather than anything resembling camel skin, curly hair.

Site: Church of San Pablo Huitzo.

Location: Extreme left of the altar in the first bay in the north wall of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint, polyester garment.

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla, Coixtlahuaca, Mitla, Tamazulapan, Tamazulapan (as child), Teitipac, Teitipac (Beheading), Teitipac (San Juanito), Teotitlán, Zimatlán.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of St. John the Baptist in Mexico
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. John the Baptist
Wikipedia: John the Baptist
Christian Iconography: St. John the Baptist, Prophet and Martyr

Next: Also on the left of this altar, a statue of St. Mary Magdalene

Previous santo

Introduction to San Pablo Huitzo

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.