Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Atlixco: The Third Order Chapel of St. Francis. 2. The Altarpieces

In our previous post we described the eclectic architectural detailing of this church. Here we look at the altarpieces and their associated paintings and sculptures.
The Main Altarpiece
The richness of the chapel front is only exceeded by the more sophisticated, screen-like altarpiece inside.  This gilded "Retablo de Los Reyes" dates from the mid 1700s and is framed by slender spiral columns banded with carved floral decoration and headed by sharply projecting slab capitals. 
   In keeping with the dedication of the church to the Franciscan Third Order, three tiers of statuary, housed in variously shaped niches, showcase a host of prominent Franciscan saints, primarily Tertiaries*, including those of royal blood like San Fernando Rey and San Luis Rey, from whom the retablo takes its name. 
   Although the altarpiece only contains sculptures, four large paintings, illustrating key scenes from the life of St. Francis by the prolific 18th century Pueblan artist Lorenzo Zendejas, are mounted on the walls to either side. 

    1. Baptism of St Francis   2. Death of St Francis
3. Birth of St Francis; Francis before the bishop   
4. Stigmatization of St Francis
Pictures of the Zendejas paintings by Tacho Juárez Herrera (click images to enlarge)

The single tier side retablo, dedicated to the Virgin of Carmen, is crafted in a later baroque style, framed by complex estípite pilasters heavily encrusted with gilded rococo ornament.  
image by Niccolò Brooker
Florid paintings of lesser known archangels including Reginel and Esriel, reputedly by Cristóbal de Villalpando, hang in the transepts, possibly part of another dismantled altarpiece.
*Statues of saints in the altarpiece:
Lower Tier: Elizabeth of Hungary; San Fernando Rey; Isabel of Portugal; San Luis Rey
Middle Tier: St Clare; Blessed Delphine; St Urban of Langres;  St John Nepomuc
Top Tier:  St Bernardino of Siena; St Dominic of Soriano?

text © 2016 by Richard D. Perry
See some of our earlier posts featuring important Mexican altarpieces:


  1. My partner, Bill and I, are devotees of the Yucatan. We're abt to embark on another adventure in Jan--3 months, our longest. We'll go to Chiapas as well, for the first time.

    I ordered your second edition of Maya Missions after an interlibrary loan of the same and received the first edition (from Amazon). Not to be daunted, I transferred page by page every addition you made in the new edition to our first edition.

    We're so excited abt what you learned and shared. Your passion shows, your respect for the people shines.

    Thank you for your gifts.

    Nancy & Bill

    1. Thank you. If you contact me (rperry at I will send you a copy of the second edition of Maya Missions plus our Chiapas guide. R