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 Santa
Elena de la Cruz, Xoxocotlán
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
| Altar of Our Lady of Mount Carmel:
Site: Church of Santa Elena de la Cruz, Xoxocotlán.
Location: Past the second chapel in the north wall of the narthex (see note).
Our Lady of Mount Carmel (center)
The bib and scapulars are heavily embroidered, with seed pearls and silver thread.
Local Name: La Virgen del Carmen.
Basis for Identification: Christ Child, brown robe and bib with white veil, scapulars, crowns.
Media and construction: Wood,
gesso, paint, fabric garments, metal
crowns. Eyes (Virgin): glass, with
lashes. Hair (Virgin): wig.
Size: Life size.
Mary and Joseph as María y José Peregrinos de la Navidad
The names of the two santos ("Mary and Joseph as Christmas Pilgrims") were provided by a woman of the parish who also told us the bodies have full limbs and no carved clothing. The statues are used during the days of the posadas. Mary's skin is a brightish pink; Joseph's is darker and duller. The faces and hands are realistic. The wigs are very coarse and heavy but carefully combed.
Basis for Identification: Flat-topped straw hats; white garments.
Location: On flat wooden stands on
either side of the Carmen on the altar.
Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint, fabric garments. Eyes: glass. Hair: wigs. Open mouths with teeth.
Size: About 2 feet (60 cm.)
Comparable santos in Oaxaca: The St. Joseph at
Achiutla also has a straw hat. Elsewhere, the
saint is portrayed either bare-headed or with a crown.
Next: Going now into the nave, we find a statue of St. Therese of Lisieux along the north wall.
Introduction to Xoxocotlán
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.
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