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 Santa María de la Natividad Zaachila:

Christ in a coffin
Immaculate Heart of Mary
Nativity of Mary
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Resurrected Christ
St. Nicholas Factor 1
St. Nicholas Factor 2

Christ in a Coffin

Christ in a coffin:
Recumbent Christ in a coffin, under a white coverlet. The face is finely carved and well preserved. Blood flows abundantly from the forehead. The coverlet hides the figure from the neck down, but the bend of the knees suggests that the legs are carved in the position of the crucified Christ. This would indicate that the figure is used in crucifixion scenes during Holy Week.

Local Name: El Señor de la Muerte.

Basis for Identification: Embroidered on the coverlet are a small ladder and a crowing rooster standing on a broken pillar. On the coverlet a large carved crown of thorns and a small wooden ladder rest against the figure's right side. These are all items from the arma Christi. Behind the figure, at the left calf, is a placard of the type used at the top of the cross, with "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudeorum" in the three languages.

Site: Church of Santa María de la Natividad Zaachila.

Location: On the altar in the first bay of the north wall of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint, embroidered cotton coverlet. Eyes: glass, with lashes. Hair: wig, Individual teeth.

Size: About 5 feet (150 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Huitzo, Mitla, Tamazulapan, Teitipac, Teotitlán, Teposcolula, Tlacolula, Xoxocotlán (in Soledad group).

External Link:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of suffering Christ in a coffin.

Next: Above this altar, a statue of the resurrected Christ

Introduction to Santa María Zaachila

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.)  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.