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

Santiago Tejuapam

We do not have pictures from Santiago Tejuapam.

Crucifix

The glass is dusty, making the crucifix hard to see.

Local Name: El Señor de la Misericordia.

Site: Church of Santiago Tejuapam.

Location: In a glass case in the upper center of the main altar (see note).

Size: About 3½ feet (105 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla, Santa Ana del Valle1, Santa Ana del Valle2, Santa Ana del Valle3, Cuilapan, Etla, Guelavia, Mitla, Nochixtlán, Tamazulapan1, Tamazulapan2, Teitipac1, Teitipac2, Teitipac3, Teitipac Our Lady of the Rosary, Teotitlán1, Teotitlán2, Teposcolula1, Teposcolula2, Teposcolula3 (in Rosary case),  Teposcolula Convento1, Teposcolula Convento2, Tilantongo1, Tilantongo2, Tlacolula, Xoxocotlán1, Xoxocotlán2, Xoxocotlán3, Xoxocotlán4, Yanhuitlán1, Yanhuitlán2, Yanhuitlán Convento1, Yanhuitlán Convento2, Yanhuitlán Convento3, Yanhuitlán Convento4, Yanhuitlán Convento5, Yanhuitlán Ayuxi Chapel, Zimatlán.

External Links:

Wikimedia Commons: Crucifixes in Mexico
Catholic Encyclopedia: Archaeology of the Cross and Crucifix
Wikipedia: Crucifix
Christian Iconography: The Crucifixion


Saint Peter the Apostle

Old but crude. The garments seem quite new. The keys are in the figure's right hand, and a staff is in the left. The left ring finger is missing.

Local Name: San Pedro.

Basis for Identification: Keys, triple cross.

Site: Church of Santiago Tejuapam.

Location: Organ area off the choir loft.

Media and construction: Painted wood, fabric garments. Eyes: painted.

Size: About feet (165 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Coixtlahuaca, Etla, Huitzo, Mitla, Díaz Ordaz, Tamazulapan, Teitipac1, Teitipac2, Teotitlán1, Teotitlán2, Teposcolula1, Teposcolula2Yanhuitlán.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of St. Peter in Mexico
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles
Wikipedia: Saint Peter
Christian Iconography: Saint Peter the Apostle


Unidentified Male Saint

The figure holds an infant in both hands. The garments are thickly sculpted, indicating they are wood rather than stiffened cloth. The face and hands have a repainted, rubbery look.

Site: Church of Santiago Tejuapam.

Location: In a glass case in a retablo on a stone base along the north wall of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Polychrome. Eyes: painted, with lashes.

Size: About 5 feet (150 cm.)


Saint Isidore the Laborer

The bulls are separate from the statue and could be of separate provenance. The backs of the hands are naturalistically detailed, but in other respects this does not seem to be an old statue.

Local Name: San Isidro Labrador.

Basis for Identification: Oxen.

Other characteristics: Guayabera, green trousers.

Site: Church of Santiago Tejuapam.

Location: On a rudimentary wooden shelf on the north wall of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Glass eyes, fabric garments.

Size: About feet (105 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Coixtlahuaca, Huitzo, Tamazulapan, Teitipac, Teposcolula.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Saint Isidore the Laborer in Mexico
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Isidore the Labourer
Wikipedia: Isidore the Laborer
Christian Iconography: Saint Isidore the Laborer


Christ Fallen with the Cross

The figure has fallen under the cross. Realistic blood flows from the crown of thorns and the scuffs on the knuckles.

Basis for Identification: Cruciform halo, stylized crown of thorns.

Site: Church of Santiago Tejuapam.

Location: In a glass case in a retablo on a stone stand in the north wall of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint; glass eyes, no lashes, wig;

Size: About 3½ feet (105 cm.) from the ground to the highest reach of the knuckles.

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Coixtlahuaca, Etla, Guelavia, Huitzo, Teposcolula, Zimatlán.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Jesus Fallen Beneath the Cross
Catholic Encyclopedia: Way of the Cross
Wikipedia: Stations of the Cross


Christ Child

The statue has an eighteenth-century look.

Site: Church of Santiago Tejuapam.

Location: Left of the fallen Christ (see above).

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint.

Size: About 2 feet (60 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla (with Sacred Heart), Coixtlahuaca1, Coixtlahuaca2, Huitzo (boy, not infant), Teotitlán, Yanhuitlán1 (in case with crucifix), Yanhuitlán2.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Baby Jesus


Resurrected Christ

Basis for Identification: Vexillum, brief loincloth.

Other characteristics: The navel shows.

Site: Church of Santiago Tejuapam.

Location: Right of the fallen Christ (see above).

Media and construction: Polychrome loincloth. Eyes: glass, with painted lashes. Hair: wig.

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla, Santa Ana del Valle, Cuilapan, Mitla, Teitipac, Teotitlán, TeposcolulaYanhuitlán, Zaachila.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Resurrection of Christ in Mexico
Catholic Encyclopedia: Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Wikipedia: Resurrection of Jesus
Christian Iconography: The Resurrection


Virgin and Child

The pattern on the cape matches the carved "drapery" behind the statue, which depends from a cupola. The cape has been repainted, but the left sleeve seems to be polychrome beneath the dust and the touch-ups. The look on the face is not like those of the earlier santos.

Site: Church of Santiago Tejuapam.

Location: Lower section of the retablo at the east end of the north wall of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Apparently polychrome. Eyes: glass. Hair: sculpted.

Size: About feet (105 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Coixtlahuaca, Coixtlahuaca2, Cuilapan, Guelavia, Huitzo, Díaz Ordaz1, Díaz Ordaz2, Zimatlán.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Virgin Mary in Mexico
Christian Iconography: The Virgin and Child


Santo Stripped to the Waist

The figure is stripped as if for flogging. It has a five o'clock shadow. The garments flowing from the waist are polychrome. As with the Virgin and Child below, their pattern matches the carved drapery depending from a cupola above. The skin has a fine, lifelike sheen.

Site: Church of Santiago Tejuapam.

Location: Upper section of the retablo at the east end of the north wall of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Polychrome. The eyes may be glass.

Size: About 3½ feet (105 cm.)

Compare santos of Saint Nicholas Factor: Díaz Ordaz (no photograph), Guelavia, Teitipac, Yanhuitlán (in Dominic group), Zaachila1, Zaachila2.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Saint Nicholas Factor in Mexico
SQPN: Saint Nicholas Factor
TheRealPresence.Org: Blessed Nicholas Factor
Wikipedia: Nicolás Factor
Christian Iconography:
Saint Nicholas Factor


Saint James

The right hand holds the crook, from the top of which hangs the vial. The figure holds the book, closed, in the crook of the left arm. The skin may have been repainted. It has a rubbery look, although the sheen is not bad.

Local Name: Santiago.

Basis for Identification: Our notes say "Shepherd's crook with vial, book." Presumably the crook and vial are actually a pilgrim's staff and gourd, common attributes of this saint.

Site: Church of Santiago Tejuapam.

Location: Lower center of the main altar.

Media and construction: Polychrome. The eyes may be glass.

Size: About 5 feet (150 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca (St. James as Pilgrim): Tilantongo.
Comparable santos in Oaxaca (St. James the Moorslayer):
Cuilapan, Tilantongo1, Tilantongo2.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Saint James the Greater in Mexico
Christian Iconography: St. James the Greater, Apostle


Unidentified Female Saint

The figure wears a veil and wimple. The right hand holds out a small cross toward the viewer.

Site: Church of Santiago Tejuapam.

Location: Left of the Santiago statue (see above) in the main altar.

Media and construction: Polychrome.

Size: About 4½ feet (135 cm.)


Saint Catherine of Alexandria?

The right hand holds a pole. As part of the sculpture, a severed head is at the figure's right foot, face up.

Basis for Identification: European representations of Catherine of Alexandria sometimes set the severed head of Maximian at her feet. However, we did not see the most common attribute of St. Catherine, the broken wheel.

Site: Church of Santiago Tejuapam.

Location: Right of the Santiago statue on the main altar.

Media and construction: Polychrome.

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: None that we saw.


Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The face has a charming lifelike blush, but the hands have a rubbery look.

Local Name: La Virgen del Carmen

Basis for Identification: Child, brown habit, bib, lace veil, scapulars.

Other characteristics: goes here

Site: Church of Santiago Tejuapam.

Location: In a glass case in a retablo on a stone base at the east end of the south wall of nave (see note).

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint, fabric garments. Eyes: glass, with lashes. Hair: wig on virgin, sculpted hair on child.

Size: About 5½ feet (165 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Coixtlahuaca main altar, Cuilapan, Ejutla, Etla, Guelavia, Huitzo, Teitipac, Teposcolula, Tlaxiaco, Xoxocotlán, Zaachila, Zimatlán.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Nuestra Señora del Carmen in Mexico
Wikipedia: Our Lady of Mount Carmel,
Virgen del Carmen (in Spanish).
Christian Iconography: Our Lady of Mount Carmel


Saint Michael?

Local Name: San Miguel?

Basis for Identification: Greaves.

Other characteristics: The figure wears a shirt, vest, and cape – as well as a Phrygian cap with a cross stuck onto its front.

Site: Church of Santiago Tejuapam.

Location: Above the statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (see above).

Media and construction: Fabric garments.

Size: About 3 feet (90 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: For the cap, compare the "San Benito" in Teitipac. For St. Michael compare Achiutla1, Achiutla2, Achiutla3, Achiutla4, Cuilapan, Huitzo, Ocotlán, Tamazulapan, Teotitlán, Teposcolula1, Teposcolula2, Teposcolula3, Yanhuitlán.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of St. Michael in Mexico
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Michael the Archangel
Wikipedia: Michael (archangel)
Christian Iconography: Saint Michael the Archangel


Next Church

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.