Friday, June 14, 2019

Barroco Poblano: San Pablo de Las Tunas

We continue our series on the popular baroque churches of Puebla with a visit to the former Franciscan visita of San Pablo de Las Tunas, aka Felipe Angeles, set among cactus fields in the east central part of the state near Acatzingo.
The Church
Aside from its rustic name, the village of San Pablo (St. Paul of the Cactus Fruits) is mainly remarkable for the picturesque colonial church, situated on its western outskirts. Founded in the 1500s, the church was entirely refaced during the 1700s in a style strikingly similar to the renovated parish church of nearby Acatzingo, possibly by the same designer or artisans.
   The ornate "folk baroque" facade is divided into three tiers of carved, molded and colorfully painted stucco. Bold spiral columns, some capped with busts of angels, divide the lower two tiers, whose four large niches, now vacant, are festooned with drapes and putti.
The complex top tier is an elaborately scrolled gable whose sinuous profile is made even more conspicuous with the addition of several ornamental urns or pinnacles. The central niche, framed by flamboyant rocaille decoration, retains its bulto of San Pablo, and is flanked by exuberant folk estípite pilasters, once again entwined with carved foliage, from which emerge numerous winged cherubs and saints' heads. 
   Filled with other decorative motifs, including rosettes, scrolls, shells and assorted objects - their details freshly picked out in bright reds, blues and earth colors - the church front is beautifully maintained and a feast for the eye. Its symmetry is offset by the mismatched towers and an added belfry, although this merely adds to its offbeat charm.
The Main Retablo
This extraordinarily ornate gilded altarpiece provides yet another surprise in this rural community. Designed in full blown Mexican Churrigueresque style, it is far more sophisticated in its intricate, layered forms and masterful execution than the folk baroque facade, and indicates the work of an accomplished urban taller, or workshop, probably in Puebla or even Mexico City. 
The figure of the patron St. Paul appears in the upper niche, while another image is that of a sorrowful Jesus, known as El Señor de la Paciencia.
The baptismal fonts are also items of interest in the church. One venerable example, rimmed with fleurs-de-lis and the Franciscan knotted cord, stands beneath the choir. And the basin of a second font is ringed with an unusual crown of thorns relief—a motif more common on stone crosses—and set on a base carved with an archangel.
 text © 2019 by Richard D. Perry
color images by the author and Niccolò Brooker
Please review our earlier posts on the folk baroque churches of Puebla: San Jeronimo AljojucaSanta Inez XanenetlaTlancualpican;  Santa Ana JolalpanSanta Maria Jolalpan;  San Simón Quecholac; San Pablo de Las Tunas; 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Barroco Poblano: San Miguel Xoxtla

Although there was primitive chapel here, dedicated to the supposed local appearance of the Archangel Michael, as early as the mid-16th century, the present church, recently rehabilitated, dates from 1775, according to a plaque inside.
The atrium gateway, encrusted with sinuous carved stucco ornament, anticipates the treatment of the popular baroque church front, with reliefs of saints Peter and Paul in the spandrels above the archway.

The gateway also features a relief of the patron saint, St Michael, dressed in green, as well as a basalt cross atop the gable carved with Passion symbols. 

San Miguel reappears in the church facade gable, again clad in green, together with two other archangels—St. Raphael and the Guardian Angel—flanking the choir window below. 
Another sculpted basalt cross surmounts the facade. 
 Please review our earlier posts on the folk baroque churches of Puebla: San Jeronimo AljojucaSanta Inez XanenetlaTlancualpican;  Santa Ana JolalpanSanta Maria Jolalpan;  San Simón Quecholac; San Pablo de Las Tunas; Atzompa

text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker and from online sources

Friday, June 7, 2019

Barroco Poblano: San Agustin Atzompa revived

We return to our ongoing series on popular baroque churches in the state of Puebla, with a visit to colorful San Agustín Atzompa.
Perched on the lower slopes of the volcano Ixtaccihuatl on the Puebla side, The pueblo of San Agustín Atzompa was badly rattled by the earthquake of 9/2017. Repairs to the damaged church front have recently been completed, and its partially tiled facade newly repainted in vibrant pinks and blues.
The stuccoed center facade is framed in ornate rococo style with estípite pilasters incorporating angel heads, carved foliage and relief figures, flanked by colorful statues of archangels. The facade terminates in a scrolled mixtlinear baroque gable. A classic of the popular Pueblan baroque.
Please review our earlier posts on the folk baroque churches of Puebla: San Jeronimo Aljojuca;  Santa Inez XanenetlaTlancualpican;  Santa Ana JolalpanSanta Maria Jolalpan;  San Simón Quecholac;
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker 

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Another Drowned church: San Antonio Corrales

Situated close to the shores of Lake Vicente Aguirre in northern Hidalgo near Alfajayucan, the abandoned church, or chapel, of San Antonio is periodically inundated by the waters of this man made lake behind the Vicente Aguirre dam.
Much of the church remains intact. Its plain facade is capped by a triangular pediment and flanked by a still elegant triple tier bell tower.

A domed crossing rises above the nave, whose stained interior walls bear traces of former murals, although their subjects are now undecipherable.
Please visit our other posts on Mexican drowned churches:  Jalapa del MarquésSan Juan de Las PerasQuechula; Santo Tomás de los Platanos; San Antonio de Padilla; Taxhimay; Zangarro/Churumuco

text © 2019 Richard D. Perry. images by Niccolo Brooker and from online sources

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Guanajuato: two more drowned churches

In June we plan to look at more popular baroque churches in Puebla, but first we show a few more "drowned " churches that have come to our notice
La Purísima Zangarro
This imposing late 18th century church, off the road near Silao, sits in the lake behind Presa La Purísima—a favorite haunt of water fowl.

Zangarro, details of the church interior
Despite the weathered exterior, a variety of fine stone carving, replete with rosettes and shells, is still on view in the church interior, beneath remnant painted vaults.

Dolores Churumuco
Also in Guanajuato, this time near Irapuato, this late colonial church is still used for the occasional mass when the surrounding Presa Infiernillo lake dries up seasonally.
Today, all that remains of the flooded church is the elegant facade and the two-tiered tower, the latter the best preserved element, with its dome still intact.
Churumuco, the tower interior
our intrepid Niccolò Brooker at Churumuco
Please visit our other posts on Mexican drowned churches:  Jalapa del MarquésSan Juan de Las PerasQuechulaSanto Tomás de los Platanos; San Antonio de PadillaTaxhimay
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry. 
exterior images by the Niccolò Brooker who brought these two relics to our attention.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Folk Baroque in the City: Santiago Acahualtepec

Folkloric church fronts, incandescent with brightly colored stone and stucco ornament and statuary are more commonly associated with the Puebla area.*  So it is unusual to find a full blown example of this more joyful genre in the gritty environs of Mexico City.
Founded as a Franciscan visita of nearby Mexicalzingo, the early mission at the former lakeside community of Acahualtepec dates back to the 16th century. Legend holds that a processional image of Santiago, being transported by canoe, suddenly became too heavy to move and thus stayed here to give his name to the village and church. 
However the present, multihued facade of Santiago Acahualtepec, divided by ornamental estípite pilasters in provincial style, was only added in the later 1700s, and its details and certainly its coloration have changed over the years since.
Numerous statues of squat, blue robed, barefoot friars look out from niches across the church front, distinguished only by their hand gestures, possibly related to their once holding of the Arma Christi, attributes now largely missing. 
bell tower with corner niche and statue of St Francis
Although none are individually named or identified, it seem likely that St. Francis is the figure placed in the isolated corner niche on the right side of the facade.
upside down cherub and window archangel
Other relief figures of note include an upside down cherub on one side of the portal, and an archangel lodged beside a window at the base of the bell tower.
Heads of cherubs and other figures, including what may be Adam and Eve, pop up amid a whirl of carved and painted foliage.
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
color images by Niccolò Brooker, who drew this church to our attention. 
Gracias Niccolò 
Further details: Monterrosa, Mariano, “La capilla de Santiago Acahualtepec”, en Boletín del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Núm. 40, junio 1970, p. 11-14.
Please review our earlier posts on the folk baroque churches of Mexico: San Jeronimo AljojucaSanta Inez Xanenetla; TlancualpicanSanta Ana Jolalpan; Santa Maria JolalpanSan Simón Quecholac;

Friday, May 24, 2019

Treasures of Mexico City: San Lorenzo Totolinga

Although much remodeled over time, the chapel of San Lorenzo, located in the Naucalpan district north west of the City proper, is thought to have been a visita of the former Franciscan doctrina of San Gabriel Tacuba
The chapel retains its attractive early sculpted doorway, set in a typical square front in 16th century fashion. Divided jambs densely carved with foliated motifs enclose a Plateresque like pilaster and support a low basket handle archway also with carved relief ornament incorporating letters that appears to spell out a name or invocation.

   Narrow bands carved with foliage rise on either side of the doorway to support a rectangular alfiz, carved at either upper corner with paired relief bands.
Mounted outside the chapel of San Lorenzo, we see another example of early stoneworking: a tall stone cross carved with several unusual elements.  A wavy, much eroded Crown relief is contained within a square border at the axis. This motif is echoed by pairs of small square frames on the neck, shaft and tapered arms—some with Nails, and others with indistinct, button-like protrusions. No other Passion objects appear, aside from two drippy Wounds pierced by Nails on the lower shaft.
details © Eleanor Wake
The cross stands on a broad pedestal carved with a partially hidden Skull and Bones. One atypical adornment is the worn, formerly gold painted, stone relief of the Virgin of Guadalupe affixed to the foot of the cross.
More Treasures: San BernardoTepepanSan CosmeSan Felipe El NuevoSanta Isabel TolaAcolmanTlalmanalcoTlalnepantla
text and graphic © 2019 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of Eleanor Wake and Niccolo Brooker

Monday, May 20, 2019

Treasures of Mexico City: Santa Teresa la Antigua.

We continue our visits to Mexico State churches with a look at the former nun’s church of Santa Teresa la Antigua.
Completed in 1684 by the eminent Mexico City architect Cristóbal de Medina Vargas, Santa Teresa la Antigua is an outstanding example in the city of the late 17th century so-called Solomonic baroque style—distinguished by the prominent use of spiral columns in the lateral twin portals—a typical feature of colonial nunnery churches.
Paired columns flank both doorways, while singles frame the overhead nave windows. The portals are notable for their finely sculpted detail, including statues of the Christ child set between the broken gable pediments.

The church front is distinguished by its passages of intricately carved relief ornament. Another distinctive aspect of the church is that it leans slightly, a result of its foundations being built atop the sinking former lake bed underlying much of Mexico City.

Most of the attached convento has gone although an original tiled fountain survives in the former patio.

Santa Teresa la Antigua, the dome

Today the elegantly refurbished interior serves as a gallery for contemporary art, known as Ex Teresa Arte Actual.
More Treasures: San Bernardo; Tepepan; San Cosme; San Felipe El Nuevo; Santa Isabel Tola; Acolman; Tlalmanalco; Tlalnepantla

text © 2019 Richard D. Perry

color images courtesy of Niccolò Brooker and others