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 Mitla:

Calvary group
Christ: Ecce Homo
Christ in a coffin

Christ resurrected
Immaculate Heart of Mary
Our Lady of Sorrows
Our Lady of Sorrows (Soledad)
Our Lady of the Assumption (1)
Our Lady of the Assumption (2)
Palm Sunday Christ
St. Anthony of Padua
St. John the Baptist
St. Joseph (1)
St. Joseph (2)
St. Paul (1)
St. Paul (2)
St. Peter
Unidentified saint

Other santos not photographed

St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist:
Fingertips missing from right hand. The cross is tied on. The left hand lacks the thumb and joints on the index, the middle finger, and the pinky. A coin has been tied on with a complicated knot. The statue is one with the andas, whose polychrome matches the mantle.

The figure is an uncomfortable ensemble. The arms and the torso are disproportionate to the head, and it may be that the statue has been reconstructed. The garments and the head are of good workmanship.

The polychromed animal skin is white. The red and gold mantle has a complicated design of arabesques, flowers and cross-bars, and is lined in a pattern of cheerful gold wildflowers on a dark background with 3 stripes of gold every 6 inches. The work is reminiscent of patterns seen at Mitla and at Santa Ana del Valle. The polychrome is in good condition, though the andas has cracked and peeled.

Local Name: San Juan Bautista.

Basis for Identification: Wearing animal skin and a mantle, right shoulder bare. Cross in the right hand, left hand extended.

Other characteristics: Beard and long, very curly hair.

Site: Church of San Pablo Huitzo.

Location: On a shelf in the north wall of the nave between the second rib and the apse, to the right of the Assumption (see note).

Media and construction: Polychrome on decorated andas. Hair: carved.

Size: About 3 feet (90 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla, Coixtlahuaca, HuitzoTamazulapan, 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: On the main altar, a statue of St. Joseph

Previous santo

Introduction to San Pablo Mitla

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.