Thursday, September 14, 2023

Yucatan. Santa Inez Dzitas

Dzitas was an important crossroads town in colonial times, located on the old Merida—Valladolid highway, as well as major stop on the former railroad line.
The old church of Santa Inez started life as a 16th century indian chapel It stands in a large, raised walled atrium, its broad stone apse housing the sacristy and friar’s room as well as supporting an impressive belfry which still stands. 

The later main church suffered during the Caste War but has been fully refurbished in recent times.
The wide rectangular front is capped by a triple belfry and corner merlons. A modern sequence of alfiz like moldings frame the arched doorway, small choir window and a recently fashioned heraldic relief of an eagle holding a serpent.

The nave is spanned by a classic Yucatecan log ceiling resting on a series of substantial stone arches, An old stone font rests in the baptistry. The rebuilt casa cural lies to the north east.

text ©2023 Richard D Perry
photography by the author and from online sources

Monday, August 28, 2023

Mexico City. San Lorenzo Xochimanca

San Lorenzo Xochimanca is best known for its well-preserved chapel of San Lorenzo Mártir, whose former atrium is now to a popular neighborhood park.

The Temple of San Lorenzo Mártir, originally a visita of Santo Domingo Mixcoac, dates from the 16th century.

 The chapel was rebuilt in the 17th century by the Franciscans, and is constructed of brick and volcanic stone. The bell tower is noted for its colorful brickwork, from a local brickworks.

The facade retains the form of its original doorway, surmounted by a plain alfiz and ornamented with unusual rosettes with windblown centers.

A venerable stone cross stands before the church door, fashioned in the regional pattern with a prominent crown of thorns at the crossing; its foreshortened arms lack the fleur-de-lis finials as at Mixcoac and other area crosses. A row of rosettes like those on the facade adorns the base of the chamfered cross.

The interior is unexceptional save for the sculpted sanctuary arch, densely carved with grapevines and ornate reliefs of the Stigmata.

A statue of the patron saint St Lawrence stands in the nave holding his grill—the instrument of his martyrdom.

text © 2023 Richard D. Perry

color images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker 

and from online sources.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Guerrero. San Antonio Tehuilotepec

We follow up on our earlier posts* on churches in Guerrero, with a visit to San Antonio Tehuilotepec, “mountain of crystal.”
This unassuming country church, located in an old hillside mining town just east of the silver city of Taxco, is set in an elevated atrium braced by high stone walls. It is dedicated to Franciscan notable St. Anthony of Padua, whose rustic stone statue rests in the upper facade.

Behind the plain facade are found two colonial artifacts of note; first the handsome gilded main altarpiece, fashioned in “solomonic” baroque style with ornate spiral columns, Although a statue of the patron saint occupies the lower niche, it is surrounded by an original? and apparently complete? cycle of fine, large paintings of scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, with the Annunciation in the main center panel.

A second altarpiece here, dedicated to St Joseph, is designed in a later manner, distinguished by elegant freestanding estípite columns. Again a central statue, this time of St Joseph, is framed by a sequence of quality paintings documenting scenes from the life of the saint and the young Jesus.

These opulent retablos are believed to have been commissioned by the 18th century mining mogul José de la Borda, who owned the local silver mines and also founded/funded the notable church of Santa Prisca in nearby Taxco.

* Ixcateopan; Pilcaya

text © 2023 Richard D Perry
photography by Niccolo Brooker and from online sources

Monday, July 10, 2023

Mexico. The crosses of Aculco: Santa Ana Matlavat.

 In an earlier series we looked at several carved stone crosses in area churches of Aculco 

In this post we feature a cross at the former 16th century century visita chapel of Santa Ana Matlavat, located a few kilometers north of Aculco.

The cross in question stands atop the gable of the church. Formed from reddish sandstone? the cross is carved with numerous Passion reliefs, including a crown of thorns around the neck and dripping Wounds on the shaft and both arms. A chalice with emerging host, and a worn column with cockerel perched atop? also adorn the shaft, while an ornamental INRI plaque caps the cross.

Because of the location of the cross it is not clear if the reverse side is also carved.

The other item of interest is the row of ten raised dots along the base of the cross. Although their meaning is also unclear, it may be that they may signify the number ten — a reference to the Aztec word for ten (matlactli) possibly part of the original place name or even the 16th century date of the chapel itself.

A second cross tilts precariously atop a stepped pedestal without the atrium opposite the church doorway.

text and images © 2023 Richard D. Perry

based on data from Javier Lara Bayon

Monday, June 26, 2023

Chiapas. Two equestrian statues

The focus in our second post on Chiapas is on two related equestrian statues of colonial origin in the city of San Cristóbal.

The first is a virile of Santiago Matamoros now located in the city museum of Los Altos, adjacent to the church of Santo Domingo.

The saint is seated on a horse whose front hooves are elevated—possibly originally part of a larger tableau. The helmeted figure of Santiago is in his usual militant pose with sword upraised. 

His costume as well as the saddle and saddle cloth are painted and richly finished in estofado style.

There is no definite date for the statue but the pose and the horse especially is fashioned in a folkloric style, which suggests the 17th or early 18th century.

The second figure, known as El Señor del Sótano, is sometimes mistaken for Santiago. He also brandishes a sword, but in fact represents St Martin, shown in the act of dividing his cloak with a naked beggar. The pose is more sophisticated than that of the Santiago statue: in the gestures of the saint, his headwear, the folds of his costume and even the turned head of the horse. 

 The decorative finish is also simpler, although the costuming is more realistic and brightly colored in reds and blues. Again no date is indicated although the ensemble suggest the later 18th century.

San Martín is located in a side chapel of the church of La Caridad, the former resting place of the Santiago figure.

text and graphic © 1993 & 2023 Richard D. Perry

photography courtesy of Niccolo Brooker

consult our illustrated travel guide to colonial Chiapas

Friday, June 9, 2023

Chiapas. San Cristobal: La Merced

We have not posted frequently on Chiapas on this blog. But we have two new posts on this remote southern state.

The first looks at the church of La Merced in the city of San Cristóbal and the second on a pair of colonial statues also in this city.

Mercedarian friars came to Chiapas with the conquistadors and ministered principally to the Spanish residents of colonial Ciudad Real (San Cristóbal de Las Casas as it then was) rather than to the indigenous Maya of the barrios. 
Although little visited today, the old monastery of La Merced, located just outside El Recinto (the old city center), west of the main plaza, was the first to be established in the city. 
Faced by a long, elevated forecourt, the imposing church was almost entirely rebuilt early in the 20th century, from its colonnaded "wedding-cake" front to its brittle neoclassical interior. 
The only surviving colonial remnant is the 18th century sacristy, whose archway and massive supporting pillar are decorated in colorful folkloric style. 
Sprouting from the fanciful rampant lion reliefs at its base, rising tendrils of painted foliage entwine the pillar. 
On the underside of the arches, bands of classically-inspired grotesque ornament, incorporating sirens and stylized masks with fan-like feather headdresses, curve upwards to meet bas-reliefs of the sun and moon. 
sun;                               moon detail

An inscription, dated 1757, is incorporated in the floral frieze above the arch, and in the spandrels, the Hapsburg imperial eagle almost disappears in a profusion of foliage and flowers.
Imperial two headed eagle

text © 1993/2023 Richard D. Perry
photography courtesy of Nick Brooker
and online sources

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Aguascalientes. La Casa Teran

 In this blog we have featured several colonial buildings/art works in the city of Aguascalientes, with connections to the Ureña family of architects and retablistas. *

Casa Teran facade
In this post we look at another such building, La Casa Teran.

Now a cultural center, this former mansion is one of the most important 18th century buildings in the city; It was built by the sub-delegate (colonial official)  Felipe Pérez de Terán in 1795, under the direction of the master builder Gregorio Reyes and the stonemason Rodrigo Rodríguez, both associated with the celebrated baroque architect Felipe de Ureña who maintained a major workshop in the city.

While it may have been based on a Ureña plan,  it seems more likely given the late date and transitional style, that his son, architect Francisco Bruno Ureña, was involved in its design.


patio columns

Although it retains some baroque features, much of the detailing owes more to the neoclassical movement then becoming dominant in architecture and design. The overall effect is one of sober classical elegance, harking back in some ways to the severe Mannerist style of the early 17th century.

Devastated by a gas explosion some years ago, the building has recently been fully restored and its cultural activities resumed.

text © 2023 Richard D. Perry

images from online sources

* Jesus Maria retablo; Santuario de Guadalupe; Encino