Saturday, May 10, 2014

Oaxaca. Santiago Tejupan: the church

Another of the churches we visited during the Historic Organ Festival was that of the early Dominican mission of Santiago Tejupan in the Mixteca region of northern Oaxaca.

Land of Turquoise
Formerly the ancient Mixtec kingdom of Texupa, Tejupan was a wealthy, populous community at the time of the Spanish conquest.
It was transformed into a significant Dominican mission town, renowned for the skill of its tlacuilos, or native artists, who in 1579 drew up a beautiful picture map, or lienzo, of the colonial settlement, together with rivers, roads and mountains as well as the mission—one of the finest early examples of this genre in Mexico.

Today the monastery of Santiago faces north, away from the arcaded town plaza, overlooking its vast, empty atrium and the picturesque cemetery beyond. Remodeled with a huge bell tower and a baroque dome, the church nevertheless retains much of its original Dominican character.

The elegant classically inspired facade is dominated by the multifaceted west doorway, which is elaborately coffered in Dominican style following the model of nearby Tlaxiaco (more on Tlaxiaco later)
The geometrical, layered panels extend along the base of the facade.
Slender floating fluted pilasters—another Dominican architectural feature—enclose the now vacant shell niches on either side.  A fluted alfiz caps the divided choir window and a steep triangular pediment surmounts the lofty facade.

The adjacent monastery entry or portería, overgrown but intact, features a handsome double archway discreetly emblazoned with the Dominican cross.

Outside, a stroll through the ornamental atrium gateway leads to the graveyard beyond—a fantasy landscape of broken colonial headstones and modern tombs crafted of whitewashed concrete and wrought ironwork.
text ©2007, 2014 Richard D. Perry. Photography courtesy of Niccolò Brooker


  1. The map from the Relacion Geografica of Tejupa depicts what clearly was an open chapel, built before the current church. THere are also ruins in Tejupan of another unfinished church located on the grounds of the local IMSS instalation.

  2. Are you sure? I think the top of the map is east, which would bring the map in line with what we see here.