Friday, September 19, 2014

Missions of Michoacán: Ajuno

Asunción Ajuno, church front
Santa Maria de la Asunción Ajuno
The modest parish church at Ajuno, between Uruapan and Patzcuaro, is picturesquely situated. With its multi-tiered tower and colonial stone cross in front, it faces the old hospital chapel, now disused but still standing on a rise above an expansive greensward.
Ajuno, the hospital chapel
In front of the church stands a plain, octagonal stone cross with one broken arm. The supporting pedestal bears inscriptions with the date 1631 and a relief of a prancing deer (Ajuno means Place of the Deer in the native purépecha language)

Inside the church a long, curving, wooden artesonado ceiling with fan or shell like ends runs the length of the otherwise unadorned single nave. Although it may have borne earlier painted images, much of the present ceiling was repainted in a neoclassical style some time in the 1790s.
   It was later whitewashed, and now few of the narrative scenes remain, most conspicuously the unusual figures of the three theological Virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, at the east end above the main altar.  
   Reds, blues and greens stand out in these portrayals, skillfully rendered in a correct neoclassical manner by a clearly non indigenous hand.   

Faith, blindfolded and partly obscured by the sunburst above the main altar, bears her traditional cross and a chalice with an emerging Host; Hope holds the anchor on a cloud at left and Charity, with a child on her lap, sits on the right. 
Ornamental floral motifs border the panels between the ribs along the nave, and colorfully repainted gloria patterns are emblazoned at each apex.
text © 2014 Richard D. Perry   Photography courtesy of Niccolò Brooker

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