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


The temples, nose, cheekbones, and beard are angular. The shoulder blade is very pronounced and forms a V that frames the face and is continued by the outstretched arms. The ribs are similarly adapted into a geometric form, one which arcs around the narrow elliptical abdomen. The set of the legs repeats the triangular patterns, and the left shin has a sharp edge.

The torso is lighter in color than the face and legs. The detailing of the arm tendons is realistic. There is a lesion at the right breast. The wig is very long and full. The crown is of stiffened rope in the basketweave pattern, painted green and with exceptionally large thorns. The cross is of flat boards painted green, surmounted by a scroll-shaped "INRI" plaque.

Local Name: El Señor de la Misericordia.

Basis for Identification: Wounds and blood, crown of thorns, loincloth, INRI plaque.

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

Location: North wall of the first chapel in the north wall of the narthex (see note).

Media and construction: Hollow material (hollow sound when knocked), gesso, paint, fabric loincloth over loincloth of stiffened fabric, rope crown. Eyes: glass, no lashes. Hair: wig.

Size: About 6 feet (180 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, Tlacolula2Xoxocotlán2, 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

Next: In this same chapel, another crucifix

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.