Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Water, Water: the pilas of eastern Michoacán

Pilas in the eastern part of the state are relatively fewer and lack the rich, decorative variety of those in western Michoacán.  
Those that survive, however, are quite distinctive and include examples of fountains used as baptismal fonts.
Ciudad Hidalgo: font/fountain
Ciudad Hidalgo (formerly San José Tajimaroa)

The unusual font here was once the center of a public fountain. Projecting angel and lion reliefs alternate around the broad, shallow basin, originally serving as spouts into a lower pool.   
Apart from the word leon (lion) the remaining letters around the rim seem to spell out the alphabet rather than any dedicatory inscription—a unique example of an early educational tool?

Tiripetio, fountain lower basin
Spouting lions also ornament this lower basin of a disused 16th century fountain at Tiripetio, near Morelia.  The smaller upper basin also survives, carved with grotesque mask spouts.
Like that of San Agustín in Morelia the fountain was no doubt originally installed in the monastery cloister—a section of the priory largely destroyed but scheduled for reconstruction.

Tiripetio, fountain  upper basin
San Matías el Grande, pila of San José 
San Matias El Grande

Known principally for its unique churchyard crosses, the church at San Matias also boasts two carved stone fonts.
Dating from the 1700s, although 16th century in style, the cup like basins are decorated with sparse floral reliefs and dedicated by cursive inscriptions to San José and the Holy Sacrament (not shown)
A unique feature of the fonts is that they are signed by the stone mason Juan Diego Flores, who also carved the crosses.

In other examples, angel heads decorate this worn baptismal font at Tlacotepec, a barrio of Tlalpujahua near the border with Mexico State.

A carved column or base of an earlier font supports this fanciful, basket like pila of more recent vintage at Tuxpan.

text © 2013 Richard Perry.   images by the author, Diana Roberts, Niccolo Brooker and others

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