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 El Tule's Church of Holy Mary of the Assumption:

Our Lady of the Assumption
St. Hedwig
Unidentified female saint
Unidentified male saint

Other santos not photographed

St. Hedwig of Poland

Saint Hedwig of Poland:
The statue is of a beautiful young queen looking up in adoration. She has a round face with full cheeks and a pointed chin. Her thick brown curls frame her upper face, but are pulled back off her ears and shoulders. She stands resting slightly on her left hip; her right hand is held up and her left hand is extended forward. The figure may originally have held something in the right hand; St. Hedwig is often represented holding a model of the Cistercian convent endowed by her husband.

Over a red under-garment, the statue has a green and black full-sleeved robe and a hip-length tunic decorated in sworls of large gold flowers and leaves. The crenelated hem of the tunic is edged in gold and marked by the distinctive scratches of polychrome work. She wears a heavy polychromed-gold necklace, apparently a symbol of her status.

A red mantle is caught at the belt over her right hip and goes behind the body to be draped over her left shoulder. It has been repainted. Some paint is nevertheless peeling from the edge of the mantle as it drapes over the left arm; carved wood is visible there. The statue is of a piece with its simple round base. The crown has been tied on under the chin.

A reference to this saint was found in the Oaxaca Museum of Lithography, which owns the copper plate for an aguafuerte engraving sold widely during the second half of the 19th century. The figure was identified as Santa Eduvige Princesa de Polonia, Especial Abogada de Pobres Adeudados ynsolventes y desvalidos y todos Necesidades ("Saint Hedwig Princess of Poland, Special advocate of the poor, the debt-ridden, the insolvent, the helpless and all those in need"). In Oaxaca at that time, more engravings of Saint Hedwig were sold than of any other saint. The aguafuerte in the museum has little ressmblance to the statue in Santa María del Tule.

Local Name: Santa Eduviges Reyna de Polonia

Basis for Identification: Identified by a rough script on the small platform on which the statue stands.

Other characteristics: Separate, full golden crown. Tunic with crenelated hem. Eyes cast heavenward. Red cape.

Site: Church of the Assumption, El Tule.

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: We found none.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Hedwig of Andechs
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Hedwig
Wikipedia: Hedwig of Silesia

Next: To the left of the St. Hedwig altar, a statue of an unidentified saint

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Introduction to El Tule

Santos Home Page

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.