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 Santo Domingo Ocotlán:

Calvary Group: Crucifix and St. John
Calvary Group: Our Lady of Sorrows
Calvary Group: St. Mary Magdalene
Calvary Group: God the Father
Palm Sunday Christ
Saint in fire
St. Joseph
St. Michael
St. Sebastian
Two Dominican saints
Unidentified Franciscan saint
Virgin Mary

Other santos not photographed

St. Sebastian

Saint Sebastian:
The position of the arms is characteristic of representations of Saint Sebastian, and the two branches of the stylized tree are placed, as is usual, so as to support the arms. There is a good deal of stylization and anatomical naïveté in the representation of the ribs and feet, though the overall effect is realistic. The skin has a high gloss and natural flesh tones. The figure is clean shaven except for a mustache. A single curl hangs down over the forehead.

Local Name: San Sebastián.

Basis for Identification: Loincloth, scutum and sash (all red), arrows in body, tied to the tree, the right hand raised high and the left hand down and away from the body.

Site: Church of Santo Domingo Ocotlán.

Location: Altar in the north wall of the apse, left of the glass case of Our Lady of the Rosary (see note).

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint, fabric loincloth and scutum, tin or silver arrows. Eyes: glass, no lashes. Hair: sculpted hair.

Size: About 5 feet (150 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla, Ocotlán, Teotitlán, Tilantongo, Xoxocotlán, Yanhuitlán.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Saint Sebastian in Mexico
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Sebastian
Wikipedia: Saint Sebastian
Christian Iconography: Saint Sebastian, Martyr

Next: Two statues of Dominican saints on the main altar

Previous santo

Introduction to Santo Domingo Ocotlán

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. Actual orientations may differ. (The nave is the long central section; the apse is the name for the area for the main altar when it is covered by a half-dome.)

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.