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
|Other Santos at Tlacolula
Christ in a Coffin
Sr. Jescas says this figure is used in Holy Week processions. It is very naturalistic and bloody. In ten places, the artist has represented wounds by actually breaking and bruising the skin (four in the back, and two each in the backs of the thighs, the shoulders, and the upper arms). Blood flows from these wounds and from the crown and drenches the palms, heels, and tops of the toes. The figure is naked except for a red silk loincloth. The paint seems relatively fresh.
Local Name: El Dios de la Muerte.
Location: North wall of the narthex of the church (see note).
Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint. Eyes: glass, with lashes. Hair: sculpted .
Size: 50 inches (127 cm.)
Wearing a diadem. A broken left pinkie reveals the wood. Idealized face.
Location: In a niche between the narthex and the first column of the south wall of the church (see note).
Media and construction: Wood, paint, fabric robes. Eyes: glass, some lashes.
Size: 17 inches (43 cm.)
Saint John the Baptist
The statue is of a piece with the pedestal. The gilding of the cross is now much damaged, revealing the wood beneath. The halo is gilded. The animal skin is in carved wood but there is also a light cloak of cloth stiffened and painted with gold stylized flowers.
Local Name: San Juan Bautista.
Basis for Identification: Lamb on book, animal skin, halo, floor-length cross in the left hand.
Location: In a glass case on the altar in the first bay of the south wall of the nave (see note).
Media and construction: Wood, cloth, gesso, paint. Eyes: glass, no lashes.
Size: 37 inches (94 cm.)
Noticeable sheen to the knees and shins. Carved nipples and fine detailing of the muscles and bones.
Basis for Identification: Loincloth with scutum, raised right hand, no wounds.
Location: On a shelf attached to the wall of the second bay in the south wall of the nave (see note).
Media and construction: Wood
Size: About 3 feet (90 cm.)
Virgin Mary in a Coffin
Location: On an altar in the second bay in the south wall of the nave (see note).
Christ in the Purple Robe
Very bloody hands, toes, and face. Naturalistic treatment of such features as veins and fingernails. Part of the hair is a rusty red.
Basis for Identification: Standing
in purple robes, wearing the crown of thorns.
Other characteristics: White dress
under the purple robes.
Location: Along the south wall of the nave, just west of the Chapel (see note).
Media and construction: Eyes: glass. Hair: real.
Size: 6 feet inches (188 cm.)
Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Ejutla, Etla (in the Soldedad Group), Etla2, Mitla, Santa Ana del Valle, Tamazulapan, Teitipac1, Teitipac2, Teitipac3, Teotitlán, Teposcolula, Tilantongo, Tlacolula, Xoxocotlán.
Our Lady of Sorrows (Soledad
Local Names: Nuestra Señora
de la Soledad, La Virgen de la Soledad.
Location: Along the south wall of the nave (see note).
No blood. The figure has both a silver diadem and a crown of thorns of stylized weave.
Local Name: El Señor de la
Location: In a glass case on same altar as the Christ in the purple robe above.
Media and construction: Polished wood, white fabric loincloth. Hair: coarse wig.
Size: 26 inches (66 cm.)
Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla, Santa Ana del Valle1, Santa Ana del Valle2, Santa Ana del Valle3, Cuilapan, Etla, Guelavia, Mitla, Nochixtlán, Tamazulapan1, Tamazulapan2, Teitipac1, Teitipac2, Teitipac3, Teitipac Our Lady of the Rosary, Teotitlán1, Teotitlán2, Teposcolula1, Teposcolula2, Teposcolula3 (in Rosary case), Teposcolula Convento1, Teposcolula Convento2, Tilantongo1, Tilantongo2, Tlacolula1, Tlacolula2, Xoxocotlán1, Xoxocotlán2, Xoxocotlán3, Xoxocotlán4, Yanhuitlán1, Yanhuitlán2, Yanhuitlán Convento1, Yanhuitlán Convento2, Yanhuitlán Convento3, Yanhuitlán Convento4, Yanhuitlán Convento5, Yanhuitlán Ayuxi Chapel, Zimatlán.
The hands are well detailed, showing the skeletal structure but not the veins. The figure wears a simple robe of gessoed cloth. The Christ Child and the lily stalk are recent.
Local Name: San José.
Basis for Identification: A green lily stalk in the left hand, the Christ Child on the right hand.
Location: Right of the main altar, above what once was an altar.
Media and construction: Wood, cloth, gesso, paint. Eyes: glass, with lashes.
Size: 5 feet 5 inches (165 cm.)
Introduction to Tlacolula
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
of the nave on the
north and south. (The
nave is the long central section.)
case of the Chapel of the Lord of Tlacolula, which is
at right angles to the south wall of the church, the
altar is thus at the south end and the transept (the
two wings that give the building the shape of a cross)
comprises an east and west section. Actual
orientations may differ.