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 Santa Ana del Valle:

Christ: Ecce Homo
Crucifix (1)
Crucifix (2)
Crucifix (3)
Holy Family
Our Lady of Sorrows
Our Lady of Sorrows (Soledad)
Palm Sunday Christ
St. Anne (1)
St. Anne (2)
St. Anne (3)
St. Joseph
St. Peter of Verona (Peter Martyr)

Other santos not photographed
Crucifixion Group

Click for the full-size format of this photo

Crucifixion Group:
This altar gathers together a number of different works, clearly dating to different eras and executed with quite different kinds and levels of skill, into a striking whole. In the next two pages we shall examine the small crucifix and the resurrected Christ on the left and the Palm Sunday Christ on the right.

The theology that supplies the artistic unity for this composition rests on Hebrews 12:1-2, "And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: Looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God." The Santa Ana Crucifixion Group captures this byplay between shame and joy by placing the large and bloody crucifix against the background of a hanging that portrays the Trinity in glory surrounded by angels. (In the photo we see only the feet of the Father on the right and the Son on the left, his feet bearing the marks of the nails used to crucify him. Note how the juxtaposition makes the Son's right foot seem to rest lightly on the crossbar of the crucifix.) Further linking it to the crucifix, the bottom of the hanging also portrays Joseph and Mary. The two stand left and right of their son's bloody knees, like the Mary and John of Calvary images. But this is not the sorrowing Mary of Calvary but the glorified mother, together again with her earthly spouse.

Standing on the altar are further manifestations of God's glory and the "shame" that Jesus "despised." In back, we see the Resurrection on the left, a portrait of Jesus' face framed by a glorious sunburst, and on the right his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In front, and in alternation with those three smaller "glories," are two small crucifixes, an ancient one on the left and a modern one on the right.

The sharp variations in style among these seven objects and the hanging give even further depth to the composition as a whole, uniting it across time and space and Heaven and earth.

Site: Church of Santa Ana del Valle.

Location: Altar at the east end of the south wall of the nave (see note).

Next: The large crucifix

Previous santo

Introduction to Santa Ana del Valle

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, and the full-size format linked to it, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. You are free to share or remix either one of them 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 the photo, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.