Friday, April 26, 2013

Water, Water: the Pilas of Oaxaca

As a follow up to our post on the city of Oaxaca, we look at a selection of colonial baptismal and holy water fonts found in regional churches across Oaxaca.

Tiltepec, painted pila
One of our favorite fonts in Oaxaca is this carved and painted example, with shell motifs, relief foliage and Mixtec style serpentine legs from Tiltepec in the Mixteca Alta region.  It is a close copy, or perhaps the model for the very similar pila at the great priory of nearby Yanhuitlan * of which Tiltepec was an early tributary.
Yanhuitlan, baptismal font (Charlotte Ekland)
Zegache, holy water pila
One of the more dramatic examples is this composite "angel" font at Santa Ana Zegache, one of a pair of holy water basins near the entrance incorporating serpentine foliated pedestals.
The true baptismal font in the body of the church is older, boldly carved with foliage and winged angel heads.
Zegache, baptismal font
Ornate angel heads and intricate stylized foliage also decorate this monolithic baptismal font from Cuilapan, another important Dominican priory just outside the city of Oaxaca.

Finally, we show a group of more modestly carved examples from lesser known regional churches.

Papal├│, holy water font with rosettes and angel head
San Miguel del Valle, baptismal font with Dominican insignia
Achiutla, holy water basin with shell and sun? motifs
text and images  © Richard D. Perry

* look for our forthcoming posts on Yanhuitlan

Our guide to colonial Oaxaca

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