From time to time we take a look at rural churches across Mexico with colonial antecedents, that are overlooked by most students of viceregal art and architecture, but that often possess features of special artistic or historic interest. We like to call them Hidden Gems.
San Felipe Sultepec
This modest church, noted for its distinctive soaring tower, rests in a bucolic setting near Calpulalpam in the extreme northwestern corner of Tlaxcala, close to Mexico State.
The broad, arched entry is densely carved with stylized foliage. Above it, a classically framed niche encloses an unusual carved relief portraying two full length figures.
According to the Latin inscription* that surrounds the niche, the figure on the right is Philip the Apostle, the patron saint of the church, holding a Latin cross and loaf of bread. On the left is St. James Minor, shown here with a club or staff—one instrument of his martyrdom.
Traditionally they shared the same feast day in May, which may account for their pairing here.
* The inscription quotes from a traditional collect or prayer in the Latin rite honoring specific saints, especially appropriate for their feast days:
"DEUS QUI NOS ANNUA APOSTOLORUM TUORUM PHILIPPI ET IACOBI SOLEMNITATE…
"O GOD WHO MAKES US JOYFUL IN THE YEARLY FEAST OF YOUR APOSTLES PHILIP AND JAMES…
Check out our other Hidden Gems: Xichu de Indios; San Pablo Malacatepec; Ocoxochitepec; Mixquiahuala;
text © 2016 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of our friend Niccolò Brooker, who brought this church to our attention.