|Saint Nicholas Factor
In some villages in Oaxaca, Mexico, we have encountered images of a saint known to local people as "San Nicolás." He wears a Franciscan habit and tonsure, and his attribute is a skull. Clearly, this is not St. Nicholas of Myra, who lived nine centuries before the Franciscans were organized.
There are two Franciscan saints named Nicholas.
One, St. Nicholas Tavelic was martyred in the Holy Land in 1391 after he and his companions preached at the Mosque of Omar. He was canonized in 1970, and his feast day is December 5.
The other, St. Nicholas Factor, was a noted preacher in 16th-century Spain. He was canonized in 1786, and his feast day is December 23. He was something of a mystic who scourged himself before giving sermons and was said to have reached such heights of ecstasy that companions had to dunk him in water to cool him down.
The second of these saints seems more likely to be the one represented by the Oaxaca santos. A skull is often used as an attribute of contemplatives such as St. Mary Magdalene and St. Jerome, and Nicholas Factor would be closer in time and place to the Spanish Franciscans who missioned in Mexico in the colonial period.
Santos of San Nicolás may be seen in San Juan Guelavia, San Juan Teitipac, and Santa María Zaachila.