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

Trinity (Throne of Mercy)

Trinity (Throne of Mercy):
The figure has a stately geometry. A rounded diamond is formed by the head, the mantle curving around the hands, and the lap. The diamond thus frames the crucifix presented to the viewer by the Father. The face is highly sculpted, with deep hollows in the cheeks and a proud yet sorrowful expression. The skin has a high gloss.

The quality of the face, together with the diamond pattern, suggests the Father figure may be an old polychrome. There seems to be a gold sheen beneath the most recent layer of paint on the cloak, especially at the knees, but this layer also includes touches of what is unquestionably gold paint. The robe has been painted white, with gold flowers. The left leg suffered damage before the most recent repainting; a piece of the wood seems to have split away. The crucifix and dove are recent.

The dove is particularly crude and is unusual in that it faces the Father figure. The mappa mundi between the calves of the Father figure appears to be an original. It is now topped by a small cross that is painted gold. The Father figure is tied into a simple green armchair, which has a half-rosette at the head.

Basis for Identification: Crucifix on a mappa mundi orb surmounted by a dove and held up by the Father, seated and in a triple crown.

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

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

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint. Eyes: glass.

Size: About 3 feet (90 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Diaz Ordaz, Mitla, Tamazulapan, Teitipac, Teotitlán, Tlacolula Yanhuitlán 1
Yanhuitlán 2.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Throne of Mercy in Mexico.
Catholic Encyclopedia: The Blessed Trinity
Wikipedia: Trinity
Christian Iconography:
The Trinity

Next: In the narthex, just past this second chapel, a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel flanked by statues of Mary and Joseph

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.