Saturday, October 11, 2014

Santa Prisca de Taxco: The Transept Altarpieces

Santa Prisca: the Guadalupe retablo (detail) © Carolyn Brown
In this second post we look at the twin altarpieces (retablos) facing each other in the transepts of Santa Prisca beneath the dome. 
   While both are modeled on the balbasiano style of the main altarpiece, there are minor although significant differences. In both cases the estípites are far more prominent, with minimal intervening niche-pilasters. 
   In addition they carry a greater ornamental and narrative load, housing large scale sculptures and incorporating painted medallions, making the retablos easier to read. 
  The centers of each retablo are also a little wider and more emphasized, with a pronounced upward movement—a feature that is more fully developed in the other church altarpieces and elsewhere *  

The Guadalupe Altarpiece
A painting of the Mexican national patron, the Virgin of Guadalupe, occupies the place of honor at the center of this retablo. On either side, embedded in the flanking estípites, are painted medallions of the associated Apparitions of Mary to San Juan Diego. 
Below these are full length statues of relatively obscure bishops each with his episcopal cross and a mitre held by the putti below.    

The main figure of note is that of St. Isidore, a Doctor of the Church and early archbishop of Seville. A promoter of classical learning and Catholic orthodoxy, he stands at the apex of the retablo accompanied by four other saints and bishops including his brother St. Fulgentius of Cartagena. 
   The widespread origins of many of these prelates is intended to emphasize the universal strength of the Catholic Church and its teachings.

The Rosario Altarpiece
In the same manner as the Guadalupe retablo, a painting of The Virgin of the Rosary takes the center spot, flanked by medallions illustrating key scenes in the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary. 
The Four Doctors of the Latin Church stand below holding their pastoral crooks, and an oval bust of St Francis de Sales—famous for his anti Protestant writings and evangelism—is emblazoned in the center pavilion. 
   Again, the Counter Reformation theme of the universal power of the Church is sounded in this retablo.

As with the Guadalupe retablo opposite, a well known saint, this time Nicholas of Bari, is given prominence in the upper gable—as the patron saint of miners he is especially appropriate to this silver city.

Santa Prisca: church plan with retablos (Tascolandia)
text © 2014 Richard D. Perry.  all images from Taxcolandia except where noted.
Elisa Vargas Lugo de Bosch,  La iglesia de Santa Prisca de Taxco 

* This is a signature feature of the later development of the barroco estípite altarpiece, spearheaded by the designer/architect Felipe de Ureña (see the Ureña pages on our web site). 

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