Monday, February 5, 2018

The Tlaxcala altarpieces: The Third Order chapel

We continue our series of posts on Tlaxcalan altarpieces with a visit to the church of the Assumption, now Tlaxcala cathedral, which with its adjacent convento originally served as the hub for the Franciscan evangelization of this important early colonial province. 
Church of the Assumption: the Third Order Chapel
The Third Order Chapel, adjacent to the church on its south side, is a showpiece. This imposing chapel replaced the original Capilla de Los Indios in the mid-1600s. Shaped like a Latin cross with its two transepts, the chapel is a major repository of historic early colonial artworks and artifacts.

Notable among these treasures is the main altarpiece, an elegant gilded work fashioned in “Solomonic” baroque style. Set amid an array of complementary side altars, its principal feature is the bold use of vine clad pairs of spiral columns to frame its three levels of sculpture niches, all richly carved and interposed with a tapestry of golden filigree ornament.
These niches showcase life size figure sculptures representing prominent historic members, or Tertiaries—some royal—of the Franciscan Third Order. Although unidentified and uncrowned it is likely that they portray, on the lower tier, the two Isabels—of Hungary and Portugal.
A rapt St. Francis looks heavenward in the middle niche flanked by richly robed royal Tertiaries, probably San Luis Rey and San Fernando Rey. A voluminously bearded God the Father gestures benevolently from the apex of the retablo. 
© Pedro Morales
One of the special treasures of the chapel is the bust of St. Francis occupying the grand center niche. Thought to be an import from the Philippines, his kneeling figure is exquisitely sculpted, painted and costumed in rich estofado style, and prominently displays the Stigmata in the form of large, semi precious stone inlays.
    Francis holds up three globes signifying the Three Franciscan Orders: the Friars Minor, the nuns of St. Clare and the Third Order itself.
See our post on Atlixco for another regional Third Order altarpiece.
text © 2018 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy © of Jim Cook except where noted.    All rights reserved.
see our posts on other Tlaxcalan retablos: Tepeyanco; ZacatelcoSan José de TlaxcalaSanta Cruz de Tlaxcala; Apetatitlan;

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