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

Other santos not photographed

Tour of the Church
Tour of the Ayuxi Chapel

St. Dominic Group

St. Dominic Group

Site: Museum of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán.

Location: In a niche at floor level in the south wall (see note).

Center: Saint Dominic
All fingers and thumbs are broken off. The garments are badly torn. Beneath them, the statue is unfinished.

Local Name: Santo Domingo.

Basis for Identification: Tonsure, hole in forehead where a star would have been.

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint, fabric garments.

Size: 5 feet 9 inches (175 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Teotitlán (St. Peter?), Teposcolula (Our Lady of the Rosary case), Yanhuitlán (Church) 1, Yanhuitlan (Church) 2.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of St. Dominic in Mexico
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Dominic
Wikipedia: Saint Dominic
Christian Iconography:
Saint Dominic

Left: Saint Michael
The badly deteriorated statue on the left in the same niche was identified by Sr. Ventura as "Barabbas," the prisoner whom Pilate freed in preference to Christ. This would be consistent with the identification of the santo on the right as St. Dismas (see below). However, the military garb seems to impose an identification as St. Michael. Perhaps the original statue could have been pressed into service as Barabbas for Holy Week observances.

A cherub decorates the left sleeve. The stiffened cloth can be seen where the polychrome has deteriorated.

Basis for Identification: Military boots and tunic, right hand raised as to hold a sword.

Other characteristics: No head.

Media and construction: Polychrome, stiffened cloth.

Size: About 3 feet (90 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla1, Achiutla2, Achiutla3, Achiutla4, Cuilapan, Huitzo, Ocotlán, Tamazulapan, Teotitlán, Teposcolula1, Teposcolula2, Teposcolula3, Yanhuitlán, Yanhuitlán Crucifix Group.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of St. Michael in Mexico
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Michael the Archangel
Wikipedia: Michael (archangel)
Christian Iconography: Saint Michael the Archangel

Saint Dismas:
The santo on the right, with the face broken off, was identified by Sr. Ventura as San Dimas. Possibly the intention was to group a "good" and "bad" figure from the Passion story. The carved hair is shoulder-length. Only patches of the gold remain; the weave of the stiffened cloth shows through. The hands are missing.

Media and construction: Polychrome, stiffened cloth. Hair: carved.

Size: 33 inches (84 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: We found none.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Dismas
Wikipedia: Dismas

Next: Other santos not photographed

Previous santo

Introduction to the Museum at Yanhuitlán

Santos Home Page

Note: On this site, references to the cardinal directions in a church 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.) In Yanhuitlán, this schema extends the four directions to the Museum. That is, "east"   means parallel to the east side of the church, "south" to the south side, etc. 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.