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
Crucifix group in a glass case

Crucifix group in a glass case

Site: Church of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán.

Location: West end of the north wall of the nave.


The Statue has the dark gold sheen of the very old works. The musculature and blood are realistic without being excessively detailed. The head leans to the right and the knees are slightly bent. The hair is carved and painted. There is no indication of a significant polychrome loincloth under the velvet one. The loincloth is embroidered in silver thread and decorated with silver ornaments. On the large scutum which sticks directly out from the right hip, there is a beaten silver image of the Agnus Dei. The cross is highly carved in a pattern of vines and flowers in gold on green posts.

Local Name: El Señor de la Misericordia.

Basis for Identification: Lesions, flowing blood, the crown of thorns rendered as if a kingly crown.

Other characteristics: No INRI plaque.

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint, velvet loincloth and scutum, metal crown. Gilt and carved cross pieces with a stylized flower at the joint. Hair: wig.

Size: Life size.

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

Saint Raphael and Saint Michael, Archangels

These figures have been repainted with great care. They are a pair, each head slightly inclined to a central point. The angel on our right has the right arm extended in which it holds a bouquet. The left hand, held away from the body at waist height, holds a staff. The angel on the left of the crucifix holds the flowers in the left hand. The right hand is held away and down. A silver fish has been tied to the wrist.

The garments are silver blue and cream. Each wears a long tunic slit to allow the knees and boots to show, as well as a short tunic with swirling skirts and the full-bottomed sleeves fashionable in the 18th century, decorated in small flowers. Each also has a silver breastplate with a scalloped edge and decorated in swirls and marked by the Dominican symbol of intertwined M's at the neck. Each angel's carved curls are capped by a bowl-shaped silver helmet decorated with red and white real feathers.

Being so similar, the two santos might be mistaken for a pair of St. Michaels, with the usual military garb. But the fish and identifies the one on the left as Raphael. Indeed, it is even possible that the one on the right is another Raphael, because the latter was sometimes shown with a staff.

Basis for Identification: Tunic, breastplate, military boots, plumed helmet, fish (St. Raphael), staff (St. Michael).

Media and construction: Polychrome.

Size: About 3 feet (90 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca (St. Michael): Achiutla1, Achiutla2, Achiutla3, Achiutla4, Cuilapan, Huitzo, Ocotlán, Tamazulapan, Teotitlán, Teposcolula1, Teposcolula2, Teposcolula3, Yanhuitlán.

Comparable santos in Oaxaca (St. Raphael): We did not see any.

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

Christ Child (at the foot of the crucifix):

The child is shown walking and carrying the globe in the left hand. Two tiny incense burners that look like cabochon curls have been tied to the wrists. The dress is pink silk edged in crochet work and embroidery. It has been repainted.

Basis for Identification: Child dressed in a long tunic, holding a globe.

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint, fabric garments. Eyes: glass. Hair: carved.

Size: About 14 inches (36 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla (with Sacred Heart), Coixtlahuaca1, Coixtlahuaca2, Huitzo (boy, not infant), Teotitlán, Yanhuitlán2.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Baby Jesus

Next: Farther along the north wall, a statue of a Franciscan saint

Previous santo

Introduction to the church at Yanhuitlán

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