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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Chapels of Ixtla: La Pintada

La Pintada

Although small, this refurbished Ixtla chapel claims the most interesting of the painted interiors in the area. Despite its size, the capilla has a two stage bell tower and a cut stone doorway.
To date the most extensively restored, as its name indicates the painted interior at La Pintada is by far the most extensive and iconographically complex of the Ixtla capillas
   Thought to date from the late 1700s, the murals are rendered in a colorful and lively style, illustrating a variety of biblical scenes along with the sun and moon, musical angels, curtained altars and temples, with friezes of mystical animals. 


 

 
Beyond its attractive folkloric style and the vividly portrayed figures and objects, a complicated narrative unfolds with themes that appear related to traditional Otomí history, cosmogony and world view.
Episodes from the Passion of Christ are intermingled with battle scenes featuring Otomí and Chichimec warriors, the former in war apparel and the latter largely naked except for feathered headdresses. Spanish troops, helmeted and mounted, also appear.
Some warriors carry musical instruments, crosses and banners in addition to native weapons, emphasizing the ritual aspect of the confrontationa theme more fully developed in the monastery of Ixmiquilpan
Although many details remain obscure, scholars speculate that the murals link Christ's ordeal to the struggle between the two indigenous groups and, by extension, the Spanish colonizers.

text © 2014 Richard D. Perry.   images by Benjamin Arredondo and others.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Chapels of Ixtla: San Isidro


the chapel before clearing (1960s)
San Isidro
The once abandoned outlying Ixtla capilla of San Isidro is under restoration for its proposed new role as a community museum.  
the chapel front before restoration began (2010)
The chapel after exterior restoration and landscaping
Like El Templo del Barrio (Ojo Zarco), the chapel is a substantial domed building, although lacking a tower or belfry. The handsome stone doorway is plain save for reliefs of the sun and moon, windblown rosettes and a winged angel head.

The interior was lavishly decorated with colorful murals, now also under restoration. Among the highlights are folkloric portraits of the Four Evangelists holding their gospels on the pendentives beneath the painted octagonal dome.
The painted dome
St John the Evangelist
St Mark
the restored chapel and atrium cross.
Like the Templo (previous post) San Isidro boasts an old carved stone cross facing the chapel front and set on a pyramidal pedestal raised on a high, square base. 
   The cross is simply ornamented in Jalisco style, with a streamlined, cross-within-a-cross pattern and petal finials. A second, smaller carved stone cross rests inside the church. 
text © 2014 Richard D. Perry.  images by Niccolò Brooker, Diana Roberts and others.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Chapels of Ixtla: La Capilla de Ojo Zarco

El Señor de Ojo Zarco
San Miguel Ixtla is best known for its annual Easter pilgrimage and celebration in honor of El Señor de Ojo Zarco (Our Lord of the Blue Eyes) a venerable cristo de caña, or lightweight crucifix, now lodged in the parish church.
La Capilla de Ojo Zarco
Originally the home of the eponymous crucifix, this is the largest of the Ixtla chapels. Also referred to as El Templo del Barrio, it is built on a raised platform of possible prehispanic origin.

Approached by a flight of stone steps, the restored chapel boasts a rare, triple tiered tower and features an simple arched entry, decorated with foliar reliefs. 
Archangels with sweet faces and flowing robes guard the doorway on either jamb.
 
One unusual feature is the sculpted stone sill, a likely transplant, carved with angel heads and writhing relief foliage in early colonial style.
 
The spacious interior is covered with polychrome murals, although in very poor condition. These include the ample dome and drum with shell motifs and scrolled decoration.


A special feature of the chapel is its handsome carved cross, facing the church atop a massive, two tier octagonal base. The cross springs from a domed, ribbed pedestal in the form of a squash or barrel cactus, as we saw at Nonoalco.
   The cross-within-a-cross design frames numerous small Passion reliefs that include the face of Christ at the axis emitting rays of the Tres Potencias. 
   Five miniature Wounds are crowded on the upper shaft, while the Sun and Moon appear on the arms. Several other Passion objects appear, including the Thirty Pieces of Silver in columns along the lateral facets.

text © 2014 Richard D. Perry.  images by Niccolò Brooker, Diana Roberts and others.
video by Sergio Serrano

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Chapels of Ixtla: Introduction

Former Mexican president Felipe Calderón at the inauguration
 of a restored Otomí chapel near Tolimán, Qro.

The Chapels of Ixtla
From ancient times, even before the arrival of the Spaniards, the indigenous Otomí and Pamé peoples of central Mexico followed a tradition of building and maintaining so-called oratorios familiares or shrines dedicated to family or clan deities. 
   After the Spanish conquest and the evangelization of the area by Catholic priests and friars, many of these capillas became shrines to Christian saints. Although many were abandoned following the disruption of the conquest and evangelization, some of the larger structures have survived as barrio chapels in the Otomí communities of Hidalgo, Guanajuato and Querétaro, north of the Mexican capital.
   Dating from as early as the 17th century, although most are later, these capillas are typically small in scale and modestly ornamented, although several can boast carved doorways, domes or bell towers, with vaulted and often extensively painted interiors.
San Miguel Ixtla, parish church
The subject of this series of posts is a particular group of chapels in the environs of San Miguel Ixtla, a border community between the states of Guanajuato and Querétaro.  There are more than 30 chapels in the vicinity, the many of them family capillas, some abandoned and others still in use.  
   Since the late 1990s a major conservation project, Proyecto San Miguel Ixtla, conducted by INAH and other agencies along with community involvement, has been ongoing to document, conserve and even restore some of the more important chapels.
   In this series we focus on five of these: La Capilla de Ojo Zarco (aka El Templo del Barrio); San Isidro, the largest of the chapels, and the painted chapel of La Pintada. We also look at two smaller ones, those of La Capilla de Los Angeles and La Capilla Segunda de Najar.
   Some of the capillas retain carved stone crosses within their precincts, both of colonial origin and of more recent vintage.

text © 2014 Richard D. Perry
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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mexican Crosses: Corupo

We end our current series of posts on Michoacán crosses with a look at the main church of San Francisco Corupo, in the Sierra Tarasca of Michoacán.

San Francisco Corupo  

Located in the purépecha country of highland western Michoacán, the 16th century Templo de San Francisco here at Corupo has many attractions. (see also our page on the barrio chapel of San Sebastián Corupo)
   On its front, plain, broad jambs and arches in 16th century Franciscan style frame the entry and choir window, both of which are surmounted by a square alfiz
   Examples of indigenous stone work across the facade include reliefs of the sun and moon, the pre-hispanic head and tail of a snake above the main door, as well as the scallop shell motifs characteristic of the region.
© Nikoniano
The interior has been refurbished, sporting a new wood beamed ceiling with large, decorative medallions and interior galleries.
   Much of the original, sectional wooden floor remains, however, and a neo baroque altarpiece stands at the east end.
The Atrium Cross
A tall stone cross in the style of the Lake Cuitzeo crosses is mounted on a large, classically inspired base, set with corner colonettes and battered merlons. 
   The rectangular arms and shaft are edged by a raised border which effectively frames the Passion reliefs carved therein.
A worn Crown of curving, spiky Thorns occupies the axis, flanked on the arms and shaft by stylized Wounds pierced by carved spikes at an angle
The Wounds are formed like bunches of grapes, each with layered, petaled centers and button like drops of blood—making the traditional connection between grape juice and the blood of Christ.
On the shaft, an outsize Rooster struts atop a Column festooned by a Scourge and a Rope folded in a figure eight pattern. Below are reliefs of a Ewer, Ladder, and a crossed Reed and Spear—the latter straddling the date 1661.

text, graphics and photography (except where noted) © 2014 Richard D. Perry
For other carved stone crosses, see our earlier posts on those in Mexico City, the chapels of Metztitlan and elsewhere (search under Mexican Crosses)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mexican Crosses: Huaniqueo


Huaniqueo
Located south of Lake Patzcuaro, the 16th century church and adjacent hospital of Santa Marta were founded by Vasco de Quiroga, the first Bishop of Michoacán and at that time the encomendero of Huaniqueo.
The church was built by the Franciscans, although the present cut stone front, faced with an austere classical doorway and undulating baroque pediment, is of later colonial vintage. 
The Huaniqueo cross: reverse side (Niccolò Brooker)
The Atrium Cross
Mounted high on a pyramidal base with an elaborate sculpted pedestal, the impressive atrium cross is similar in form, detail and quality of carving to that at Huandacareo.
   On the reverse side shown above, starlike rosettes line the arms as at Huandacareo. Spear, Reed and Nail reliefs appear on the shaft along with a fanlike Scourge at the foot.
Unusual back-to-back foliated motifs on the neck of the cross have a marked pre-hispanic flavor.
The Huaniqueo cross: front.  (Niccolò Brooker)
The front of the cross facing the church is dominated by the face of Christ at the axis. Rendered in bold relief with spreading locks of hair, it features a Crown of Thorns across the brow and is capped by an eroded Tres Potencias * tiara.
Other Passion related objects, notably three large, pear shaped Wounds with stylized, zigzag drops of blood, crowd the arms and shaft in an orderly pattern within the raised borders. 
   As at Huandacareo, a Ladder descends the shaft flanked here by the Spear and Reed. Below, another detailed relief of the Column appears, draped with ropes and supporting a small Cockerel. 
More reliefs on the sides of the shaft include, also as at Huandacareo, heads in various poses, the principal example being a bearded Judas with a bag hanging from his neck accompanied by columns of the Thirty Pieces of Silver.
The ornamental, hut shaped pedestal upon which the cross rests, carved on all four sides, is another unusual aspect. 
   Star reliefs line the recessed lower tier while the sloping upper parts are emblazoned with the Franciscan Stigmata on one face, and the Skull and Bones on the front.
Again, we see exuberant, carved finials in the signature regional pattern capping the head and arms, their flared fleurs-de-lis enclosing multi-petaled rosettes in sharp relief.
* Three flames emanating from the head of Christ, symbolizing the three powers of the soul—traditionally memory, understanding and will.
Carved head of Christ with Tres Potencias (cross at Tolimán, Qro)   ©Diana Roberts
text © 2014 Richard D. Perry
images courtesy of Niccolò Brooker and Benjamín Arredondo