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 Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán:

Christ carrying the Cross
Christ Child
Christ Child (with Crucifix 1)
Christ seated in the pretorium ("Pensive Christ")
Crucifix 1
Crucifix 2
Main altar
Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Sorrows
Palm Sunday Christ
St. Dominic 1
St. Dominic 2
St. Michael
St. Michael (with Crucifix 1)
St. Peter
St. Raphael (with Crucifix 1)
St. Sebastian
Soledad (?)
Trinity 1
Trinity 2
Unidentified Dominican nun

Unidentified Franciscan
Unidentified saint 1
Unidentified saint 2 (Christopher?)
Unidentified saint 3
Virgin Mary 1
Virgin Mary 2

Other santos not photographed

Tour of the Museum
Tour of the Ayuxi Chapel
The Retablo of the Main Altar

This is surely one of the most spectacular retablos in Oaxaca. Regrettably, we did not take good photographs. The central figure is the statue of Saint Dominic.

The lower-leftmost statue is 4 3/4' high, in a fabric Dominican habit but without a star in the forehead. Wood, gesso, paint.

The lower-rightmost statue is 4 3/4' high, in a fabric Dominican habit and tonsure, but no star in forehead--very much like the one on the far left. The eyes appear to be glass.

The fourth santo is the crucifix above the Santo Domingo.

The other santos on the main retablo are arranged into four tiers. In each tier are four santos in niches, with paintings between the niches. The santos must be wood because they look too good to be plaster. Yet their skin lacks any sheen, just as one would expect with plaster. The eyes are painted, the garments beautifully carved from the wood. All are very well done, using a good deal of gold, but the gold seems to be painted on rather than polychrome. All are about 5' high. Only two are tonsured (those in the 3rd tier from the top, directly to the left and right of the crucifix). Four wear bishops' miters (all occupying the second tier from the top).

Next: The statue of St. Dominic on the main altar

Previous santo

Introduction to the church at Yanhuitlán

Santos Home Page

The photos shown here are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. You are free to share or remix them on two conditions: first, that you attribute them 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 these photos, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.