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 Museum in the former convento at Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán:

Crucifix 1
Crucifix 2

Crucifix 3
Crucifix 4
Crucifix 5

St. Dominic
St. Dismas
St. Michael

Tour of the Church
Tour of the Ayuxi Chapel

Other Santos in the Museum at Yanhuitlán

La Muertecita

Skeleton on a cart with wheels.

Señor Ventura told us that La Muertecita is the "Queen of all" and "Queen of Heaven." She represents the power of death and at the same time the Resurrection. She is carried through the streets every year on her feast day, but he did not specify the day. On that day, the archangels (described below) are also carried. Since the archangels are known as "Los Siete Principes" (cf. the Convento de los Siete Principes in Oaxaca City) who serve Mary, the "Muertecita's" rank as queen  may come through association.

Crucifix 6

The hands and the big toes of both feet are missing.

Local Name: El Señor de la Misericordia.

Basis for Identification: Crucifix, face looking upward.

Media and construction: Wood and cloth, gesso, paint, carved loincloth beneath fabric loincloth. Hair: sculpted.

Size: About 7½ feet (230 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

Unidentified Saint 1

Wearing a gilt crown that looks as if it might have been a support. Crudely repainted. The right arm is missing.

Media and construction: Polychrome, stiffened cloth. Eyes: glass.

Size: 48 inches (122 cm.)

Unidentified Saint 2

The statue has greatly deteriorated. The left foot and the thumb and fingers of the left hand are missing. Wood shows right through at the fingers and at the breast.

Media and construction: Polychrome, stiffened cloth. Eyes: holes for glass eyes.

Size: 36 inches (91 cm.)

Crucifix 7

Crucifix with a veronica where the cross-pieces meet. Several features of this crucifix testify to its intended use for processions and the attendant narratives. It is made of cane. The veronica and a break in the wood for the lance hole seem particularly suitable for narrative purposes. The figure is unusually bloody.

Media and construction: Cane, gesso, paint, fabric loincloth. Eyes: painted. Hair: sculpted.

Size: About 8 feet (245 cm.)

Comparable santos, External links: see Crucifix 6, above.

Archangel with Three Cherubs

Repainted green and red. The archangel stands on a cloud in which are three cherubs in low relief. The face of the angel on the right has completely deteriorated. The figures are placed on a new andas.

Size: 57 inches (145 cm.)

Archangel 2

The boots and gown have a floral pattern. Some of the clothing is stiffened cloth, some is part of the wood. There are three wing-supports, two large and one small. Old wing holes have been plugged. The cheeks are ruddy. The cape around the hips is red with gold flowers. The statue stands on an andas (not the original).

Basis for Identification: Military boots, supports for wings; tunic with blue and red flowers and green leaves.

Media and construction: Polychrome. Eyes: glass, with painted lashes. Sculpted teeth.

Size: 57 inches (145 cm.)

Archangel 3

The right knee is cracked. Another crack runs down the left side of the tunic. The left arm has been stuck back on. The figure is bald and stands on a "wind" pedestal. The tunic is red with blue flowers. The skirt is green with red and blue flowers and gold petals. The boots are decorated in a pattern of diamond shapes.

Basis for Identification: Military boots and tunic, wing supports.

Other characteristics: Green robe with red flowers and gold petals.

Media and construction: Polychrome, stiffened cloth. Eyes: glass. Sculpted teeth.

Size: 62 inches (157 cm.) including pedestal.

Archangel 5

Mostly gold clothing. Hole in the elbow. The bottom of the skirt has been chipped off in front and repainted in brown. The tassels in the back are broken off. The pinkie and ring finger of the left hand are missing. There are cracks in the arms, fingers, and neck, and a crack runs down the lower portion of the tunic on the left side.

Basis for Identification: Blue military boots repainted over gold. Gold tunic.

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint, stiffened cloth. Eyes: painted eyes, formerly had eyelashes. Sculpted teeth.

Size: 56.5 inches (143.5 cm.)

Archangel 6

The right and left portions of the robe, as well as the collar and some of the area around the sleeves, have been partially repainted. The weave of the stiffened cloth can easily be seen through the now deteriorated polychrome, which has a red background with blue flowers and gold petals. The underside of the robe is not painted. The front of the skirt is broken off almost entirely. A crack shows at the right elbow. The figure stands on its original andas.

Basis for Identification: Red and blue military boots.

Media and construction: Polychrome, stiffened cloth. Eyes: glass, with lashes. Closed mouth.

Size: 62 inches (157 cm.)

Archangel 7

The statue is bald and has lost part of the right ring finger, the tip of the right middle finger, and the pinkie and ring finger of the left hand. The right thumb has been repaired. The paint is badly chipped and peeling. The left cheek is chipped. The boots are polychrome. The garments have red flowers and green petals on a gold background.

Basis for Identification: Gold military boots.

Media and construction: Polychrome, stiffened cloth. Eyes: glass, with lashes. Closed mouth.

Size: 62 inches (157 cm.)

Previous santo

Introduction to the museum