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

St. Nicholas Factor

Saint Nicholas Factor:
Most likely there was originally a skull in the left hand, which is held forward, the curved palm facing the saint's downcast eyes. The right hand is positioned in such a way that it also might have held something.

The polychrome is black and gold, and the lining of the cape is black. The figure has a narrow waist and a bell-shaped skirt, often found in representations of friars. The folds hang smoothly from the waist with no suggestion of the legs beneath. The cape repeats the bell shape. The hands are well detailed. The face has a natural glow and a delicate suggestion of a five-o'clock shadow.

Local Name: San Nicolás.

Basis for Identification: The statue was identified as San Nicolás by a parishioner, who added that the saint is the patron of the dead. Tonsure, black and gold habit with a short cape and a knotted cincture. Probably the left hand originally held a skull.

Site: Church of Santa María de la Natividad Zaachila.

Location: In the first bay in the south wall of the nave (see note).

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.

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

This is the last santo on the tour.

Previous santo

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.