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
Unidentified Saint (most likely St. Christopher)

Unidentified saint (probably St. Christopher):
The santo has dark shoulder-length hair tied at the forehead by a thin bandana. The clothes are beautifully sculpted from the wood in extravagant, wind-blown waves and decorated in restrained patterns of flowers and leaves. Some of the paint is lost, revealing the grain beneath. The legs, naked to mid-thigh, are most lifelike. The face has an unimpressive flat blush.

Basis for Identification:   We suggest identifying the statue as St. Christopher on the basis of the clothing, the turn of the head, and the position of the right hand. The latter is curved as if it once held a staff; the gaze to the left could be explained by a now-absent statue of the Christ Child on the shoulders. Both the staff and the child on the shoulders are features of traditional representations of St. Christopher. Moreover, he is usually represented in a short tunic and a flowing red cape (sometimes blue when the tunic is done in red). Trousers are unusual in traditional statues of this saint, but one in Austria has trousers that are rolled up as here. However, the saint is not usually shown to be as youthful as this figure in Oaxaca; indeed, he is sometimes shown with a gray beard.

Site: Church of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán.

Location: On the left end of the 3rd retablo along the north wall of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Polychrome. Eyes: glass.

Size: About 4 feet (120 cm.)

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Saint Christopher
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Christopher
Wikipedia: Saint Christopher
Christian Iconography: Saint Christopher, Martyr

Next: On the same retablo, a statue of Christ carrying the Cross

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.