Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mexican Eagles 4: The Eagles of Santa Monica

The 18th century Augustinian nun's church of Santa Mónica is in my view the most beautiful and, in many ways, the most influential building in Guadalajara. Its exquisitely carved twin facades are widely considered to be the precursors to, and the models for, the many wonderful Jaliscan folk baroque church fronts. 

In this post, however,  I focus on several distinctive reliefs of the Hapsburg Imperial eagle that grace the nave exterior.   All are robustly carved in a popular style firmly in the Mexican tequitqui tradition

The most interesting of the group is the two-headed eagle on the north portal, flanked by archaic, fluttering angels who clutch spiraling foliage. The church on the eagle's breast mirrors that customarily held up by St Augustine—one of the many Augustinian emblems emblazoned on the church front. 

Both eagles are pecking at what appear to be bunches of grapes on their wings. There is also a budding flower between them that I thought was a crown before.  Also, the flanking angels are holding spirals of foliage. So the eagles may be seen as part of a vine?
Alternatively, the grapes might be viewed as wounds—a reference to the parallel
 sacrificial myth of pelicans drawing their own blood to feed their young? 

The long headed eagle between the two doorways is also vigorously rendered. Here the Cristic monogram IHS is displayed on the shield like breast.

A third imperial eagle appears on the wall beyond the north portal.  An eroded relief of the Augustinian pierced heart  is carved on its rounded breast.

The fluttering angels reappear on the south portal, flanking the Augustinian insignia of a tasselled miter and, again, the pierced heart of the Order.

Text: ©2012 Richard D. Perry   
Photography: Richard Perry; Niccolo Brooker; Diana Roberts; Enrique López-Tamayo Biosca

For more on the colonial churches of Guadalajara consult our guidebook:

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