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 Santo
carrying the Cross
Tour of the Ayuxi Chapel
Crucifix group in a glass
group in a glass case
Site: Church of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán.
Location: West end of the north wall of the nave.
The Statue has the dark gold sheen of the very old works. The musculature and blood are realistic without being excessively detailed. The head leans to the right and the knees are slightly bent. The hair is carved and painted. There is no indication of a significant polychrome loincloth under the velvet one. The loincloth is embroidered in silver thread and decorated with silver ornaments. On the large scutum which sticks directly out from the right hip, there is a beaten silver image of the Agnus Dei. The cross is highly carved in a pattern of vines and flowers in gold on green posts.
Local Name: El Señor de la
Basis for Identification: Lesions,
flowing blood, the crown of thorns rendered as if a
Other characteristics: No INRI
Media and construction: Wood,
gesso, paint, velvet loincloth and
scutum, metal crown.
Gilt and carved cross pieces with a stylized flower at
the joint. Hair: wig.
Size: Life size.
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.
Saint Raphael and Saint Michael, Archangels
These figures have been repainted with great care. They are a pair, each head slightly inclined to a central point. The angel on our right has the right arm extended in which it holds a bouquet. The left hand, held away from the body at waist height, holds a staff. The angel on the left of the crucifix holds the flowers in the left hand. The right hand is held away and down. A silver fish has been tied to the wrist.
The garments are silver blue and cream. Each wears a
long tunic slit to allow the knees and boots to show, as
well as a short tunic with swirling skirts and the
full-bottomed sleeves fashionable in the 18th century,
decorated in small flowers. Each also has a silver
breastplate with a scalloped edge and decorated in
swirls and marked by the Dominican symbol of intertwined
M's at the neck. Each angel's carved curls are capped by
a bowl-shaped silver helmet decorated with red and white
Being so similar, the two santos might be mistaken for
a pair of St. Michaels, with the usual military garb.
But the fish and identifies the one on the left as
Raphael. Indeed, it is even possible that the one on the
right is another Raphael, because the latter was
sometimes shown with a staff.
Basis for Identification: Tunic, breastplate, military boots, plumed helmet, fish (St. Raphael), staff (St. Michael).
Media and construction: Polychrome.
Size: About 3 feet (90 cm.)
Comparable santos in Oaxaca (St.
Raphael): We did not see any.
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of St. Michael in Mexico, Archangel Raphael
Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Michael the Archangel, St. Raphael
Wikipedia: Michael (archangel), Raphael (archangel)
Christian Iconography: Saint Michael the Archangel
Christ Child (at the foot of the crucifix):
The child is shown walking and carrying the globe in the left hand. Two tiny incense burners that look like cabochon curls have been tied to the wrists. The dress is pink silk edged in crochet work and embroidery. It has been repainted.
Basis for Identification: Child dressed in a long tunic, holding a globe.
Media and construction: Wood,
gesso, paint, fabric garments. Eyes: glass. Hair:
Size: About 14 inches (36 cm.)
Next: Farther along the north wall, a statue of a Franciscan saint
Introduction to the church at Yanhuitlán