Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Oxtoticpac Two

In this second post on San Nicolas Oxtoticipac, we look at some of the art works inside the church and its adjacent convento.  We start with the convento:

The Convento
The modest 16th century convento was the first permanent structure at Oxtoticpac.  Handsome arcades, now partly encroached upon, with ringed bases and capitals, front the convento, which faces the atrium on the south side of the church.
   On the upper level, recessed behind the wider center arch is the former open chapel, used by the friars for open air services before the church was built.
The monastery doorway opens from the lower arcade, leading to the diminutive cloister with its low colonnades. In the center of the patio stands a venerable stone basin carved with rosettes and rimmed by the Franciscan cord.
   Side rooms contain early murals that show San Nicolás de Bari (San Nicolás Obispo) in the company of archangels with other Franciscan saints and martyrs.
In the murals St Nicholas is shown bareheaded, but wears the Y shaped robe and pallium embroidered with crosses—a mark of his standing as a bishop in the Eastern Orthodox Church.  He holds his traditional golden balls and is accompanied by three children in a tub—whom he reputedly raised from the dead.
courtesy of Marina Heyman
Another, later mural at the top of the narrow stairwell depicts St. Christopher, the bringer of Christ to the New World, who is frequently shown in Mexican Franciscan monasteries. 
   Other murals include a folkloric floral Calvary crucifix.
Baptismal fonts
The lower arcade houses the old baptistry with its original stone font, dated 1570 and carved with monograms of Christ. A partial inscription appears around rim and the font was once painted red and blue.
A second ancient, monolithic stone basin sits precariously atop a pyramidal base emblazoned with a primitive relief of a figure with a plumed headress.
The Church interior
Turning to the church, the nave holds much of its original fabric including the sanctuary arch, decorated like the church doorway with rosettes and cord reliefs.
   It also retains its old wooden floors, which may overlay pre-hispanic structures and tombs as well as the extensive network of subterranean caves or volcanic tubes, as the place name suggests.
Other colonial furnishings include a handsome wooden pulpit and several fine gilded retablos.
The Retablos
Completed in the late 1600s, the gilded main altarpiece of San Nicolás was designed in Renaissance style with the addition of Baroque spiral columns. A profusion of ornament includes carved eagles and angels in addition to floral and "grotesque" motifs. 
   The upper niche showcases a statue of the saint in his bishop's robes and regalia. The Virgin of Guadalupe also appears in the lower niche, flanked by four large canvases depicting her Apparitions on the hill of Tepeyac.
   A second ornamental altarpiece, of intricate anástilo design from the 18th century, also survives in the nave.
text © 2013 Richard D. Perry. photography courtesy of Niccolo Brooker and Marina Heyman

1 comment:

  1. Just catching up. What a wonderful old baptismal font!