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
St. Dominic Grouping

St. Dominic Grouping

Site: Church of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán.

Location: The first retablo past the portal in the south wall of the nave.

Above: Saint Dominic

The statue is in excellent condition. The face is square with high cheekbones and the thin, arched eyebrows so often seen in the Oaxaca saints. The body is rigid and there is no delineation of the limbs. The habit is black and white polychrome in a restrained pattern of carefully balanced flowers. The two books in the left hand are tied together with a white ribbon. The martyr's palm is a real one, almost as big as the santo.

Local Name: Santo Domingo

Basis for Identification: Tonsure, full beard, star in forehead, habit, books and palm.

Other characteristics: A large palm branch, usually an indication of martyrdom but St. Dominic was not a martyr. When the saint is shown with a book in the right hand he often holds a staff in the other, so perhaps the palm branch has been substituted for an original staff.

Media and construction: Polychrome.

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

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

Left Front: Unidentified Friar

The head is of good quality and is in good repair. The Saint has no hands. The frame body is covered in a gold brocade robe and a white undergarment.

Basis for Identification: Tonsure

Location: On an undecorated stone altar in front of the statue of St. Dominic.

Media and construction: Carved and gessoed head on frame.

Size: About 5 feet (150 cm.)

Right Front: St. Nicholas Factor

The saint was identified as "San Nicolas" in San Pedro Diaz-Ordaz. The black and gold polychrome robe is draped around the hips of the saint. He holds a rope in the left hand and is whipping himself. The right hand is held up in front of him at the left shoulder. The fingers are shaped so that they might also have held a whip. Plaster is chipped from the left shoulder. Parts of the statue have been repainted.

Local Name: San Nicolás.

Basis for Identification: Tonsured, kneeling flagellant.

Media and construction: Polychrome.

Size: About 3 feet (90 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Díaz Ordaz (no photograph), Guelavia, Teitipac, Yanhuitlán (in Dominic group), Zaachila1, Zaachila2.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Saint Nicholas Factor in Mexico
SQPN: Saint Nicholas Factor
TheRealPresence.Org: Blessed Nicholas Factor
Wikipedia: Nicolás Factor
Christian Iconography:
Saint Nicholas Factor

Saint in Fire

Our field notes record a fourth santo at this altar, a tonsured figure with the arms folded before the chest, in an octagonal vessel of fire.

Next: Other santos not photographed

Previous santo

Introduction to the church at Yanhuitlán

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.