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 Tlacolula:

Christ: Ecce Homo
Christ in a coffin
Christ in the pretorium (Pensive Christ)
Crucifix 1
Crucifix 2
Our Lady of Sorrows
Our Lady of the Assumption
Palm Sunday Christ
St. Anthony of Padua
St. John the Evangelist
St. Peter of Verona (Peter Martyr)
Trinity


Other Santos at Tlacolula

Christ in a Coffin

Sr. Jescas says this figure is used in Holy Week processions. It is very naturalistic and bloody. In ten places, the artist has represented wounds by actually breaking and bruising the skin (four in the back, and two each in the backs of the thighs, the shoulders, and the upper arms). Blood flows from these wounds and from the crown and drenches the palms, heels, and tops of the toes. The figure is naked except for a red silk loincloth. The paint seems relatively fresh.

Local Name: El Dios de la Muerte.

Location: North wall of the narthex of the church (see note).

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint. Eyes: glass, with lashes. Hair: sculpted .

Size: 50 inches (127 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Huitzo, Mitla, Tamazulapan, Teitipac, Teotitlán, Teposcolula, Tlacolula, Xoxocotlán (in Soledad group), Zaachila.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of suffering Christ in a coffin.


Christ Child

Wearing a diadem. A broken left pinkie reveals the wood. Idealized face.

Location: In a niche between the narthex and the first column of the south wall of the church (see note).

Media and construction: Wood, paint, fabric robes. Eyes: glass, some lashes.

Size: 17 inches (43 cm.)

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

External Link:
Wikimedia Commons: Baby Jesus


Saint John the Baptist

The statue is of a piece with the pedestal. The gilding of the cross is now much damaged, revealing the wood beneath. The halo is gilded. The animal skin is in carved wood but there is also a light cloak of cloth stiffened and painted with gold stylized flowers.

Local Name: San Juan Bautista.

Basis for Identification: Lamb on book, animal skin, halo, floor-length cross in the left hand.

Location: In a glass case on the altar in the first bay of the south wall of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Wood, cloth, gesso, paint. Eyes: glass, no lashes.

Size: 37 inches (94 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla, Coixtlahuaca, Huitzo, 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


Resurrected Christ

Noticeable sheen to the knees and shins. Carved nipples and fine detailing of the muscles and bones.

Basis for Identification: Loincloth with scutum, raised right hand, no wounds.

Location: On a shelf attached to the wall of the second bay in the south wall of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Wood and fabric.

Size: About 3 feet (90 cm.)

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 Mary in a Coffin

Apparently recent.

Location: On an altar in the second bay in the south wall of the nave (see note).

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Ejutla, Coixtlahuaca, Teposcolula.


Christ in the Purple Robe

Very bloody hands, toes, and face. Naturalistic treatment of such features as veins and fingernails. Part of the hair is a rusty red.

Basis for Identification: Standing in purple robes, wearing the crown of thorns.

Other characteristics: White dress under the purple robes.

Location: Along the south wall of the nave, just west of the Chapel (see note).

Media and construction: Eyes: glass. Hair: real.

Size: 6 feet inches (188 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Ejutla, Etla (in the Soldedad Group), Etla2, Mitla, Santa Ana del Valle, Tamazulapan, Teitipac1, Teitipac2, Teitipac3, Teotitlán, Teposcolula, Tilantongo, Tlacolula, Xoxocotlán.

External Links:
The episode of the purple robe is in John 19:1-5.
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Ecce Homo.


Our Lady of Sorrows (Soledad

Local Names: Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, La Virgen de la Soledad.

Location: Along the south wall of the nave (see note).

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla, Santa Ana del Valle, Coixtlahuaca, Cuilapan, Ejutla, Etla, Huitzo, Mitla, Teotitlán, Teposcolula1, Teposcolula2, Tilantongo, Xoxocotlán, Zimatlán.

External Link:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad


Crucifix

No blood. The figure has both a silver diadem and a crown of thorns of stylized weave.

Local Name: El Señor de la Misericordia.

Location: In a glass case on same altar as the Christ in the purple robe above.

Media and construction: Polished wood, white fabric loincloth. Hair: coarse wig.

Size: 26 inches (66 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, Tlacolula1, Tlacolula2Xoxocotlán1, 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 Joseph

The hands are well detailed, showing the skeletal structure but not the veins. The figure wears a simple robe of gessoed cloth. The Christ Child and the lily stalk are recent.

Local Name: San José.

Basis for Identification: A green lily stalk in the left hand, the Christ Child on the right hand.

Location: Right of the main altar, above what once was an altar.

Media and construction: Wood, cloth, gesso, paint. Eyes: glass, with lashes.

Size: 5 feet 5 inches (165 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla, Santa Ana del Valle, Cuilapan1, Cuilapan2, Mitla1, Mitla2, Ocotlán, Díaz Ordaz, Teitipac, Teotitlán, Zimatlán.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Saint Joseph in Mexico
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Joseph
Wikipedia: Saint Joseph
Christian Iconography: Saint Joseph, Father of Jesus


Previous santo

Introduction to Tlacolula

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.) In the case of the Chapel of the Lord of Tlacolula, which is at right angles to the south wall of the church, the altar is thus at the south end and the transept (the two wings that give the building the shape of a cross) comprises an east and west section. Actual orientations may differ.