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 the church of Santa Elena de la Cruz, Xoxocotlán

Christ: Ecce Homo
Crucifix 1
Crucifix 2
Crucifix 3
Crucifix 4
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Our Lady of  Sorrows
Our Lady of Sorrows (Soledad)
Our Lady of the Rosary 1 and 2
St. Mary Magdalene: see Our Lady of Sorrows
St. Helena
St. John: see Our Lady of Sorrows
St. Sebastian: see Our Lady of the Rosary
St. Therese of Lisieux
Unidentified saint

Other santos not photographed

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Altar of Our Lady of Mount Carmel:

Site: Church of Santa Elena de la Cruz, Xoxocotlán.

Location: Past the second chapel in the north wall of the narthex (see note).

Our Lady of Mount Carmel (center)

The bib and scapulars are heavily embroidered, with seed pearls and silver thread.

Local Name: La Virgen del Carmen.

Basis for Identification: Christ Child, brown robe and bib with white veil, scapulars, crowns.

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint, fabric garments, metal crowns. Eyes (Virgin): glass, with lashes. Hair (Virgin): wig.

Size: Life size.

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Coixtlahuaca main altar, Cuilapan, Ejutla, Etla, Guelavia, Huitzo, Teitipac, Teposcolula, TlaxiacoZaachila, 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

Mary and Joseph as María y José Peregrinos de la Navidad

The names of the two santos ("Mary and Joseph as Christmas Pilgrims") were provided by a woman of the parish who also told us the bodies have full limbs and no carved clothing. The statues are used during the days of the posadas. Mary's skin is a brightish pink; Joseph's is darker and duller. The faces and hands are realistic. The wigs are very coarse and heavy but carefully combed.

Basis for Identification: Flat-topped straw hats; white garments.

Location: On flat wooden stands on either side of the Carmen on the altar.

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint, fabric garments. Eyes: glass. Hair: wigs. Open mouths with teeth.

Size: About 2 feet (60 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: The St. Joseph at Achiutla also has a straw hat. Elsewhere, the saint is portrayed either bare-headed or with a crown.

Next: Going now into the nave, we find a statue of St. Therese of Lisieux along the north wall.

Previous santo

Introduction to Xoxocotlán

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 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.