Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mexican Crosses: Corupo

We end our current series of posts on Michoacán crosses with a look at the main church of San Francisco Corupo, in the Sierra Tarasca of Michoacán.

San Francisco Corupo  

Located in the purépecha country of highland western Michoacán, the 16th century Templo de San Francisco here at Corupo has many attractions. (see also our page on the barrio chapel of San Sebastián Corupo)
   On its front, plain, broad jambs and arches in 16th century Franciscan style frame the entry and choir window, both of which are surmounted by a square alfiz
   Examples of indigenous stone work across the facade include reliefs of the sun and moon, the pre-hispanic head and tail of a snake above the main door, as well as the scallop shell motifs characteristic of the region.
The Atrium Cross
A tall stone cross in the style of the Lake Cuitzeo crosses is mounted on a large, classically inspired base, set with corner colonettes and battered merlons. 
   The rectangular arms and shaft are edged by a raised border which effectively frames the Passion reliefs carved therein.
A worn Crown of curving, spiky Thorns occupies the axis, flanked on the arms and shaft by stylized Wounds pierced by carved spikes at an angle
The Wounds are formed like bunches of grapes, each with layered, petaled centers and button like drops of blood—making the traditional connection between grape juice and the blood of Christ.
On the shaft, an outsize Rooster struts atop a Column festooned by a Scourge and a Rope folded in a figure eight pattern. Below are reliefs of a Ewer, Ladder, and a crossed Reed and Spear—the latter straddling the date 1661.
© Nikoniano
The interior has been refurbished, sporting a new wood beamed ceiling with large, decorative medallions and interior galleries.  
   Much of the original, sectional wooden floor remains, however, and a neo baroque altarpiece stands at the east end.
text, graphics and photography (except where noted) © 2014 Richard D. Perry
For other carved stone crosses, see our earlier posts on those in Mexico City, the chapels of Metztitlan and elsewhere (search under Mexican Crosses)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mexican Crosses: Huaniqueo

Located south of Lake Patzcuaro, the 16th century church and adjacent hospital of Santa Marta were founded by Vasco de Quiroga, the first Bishop of Michoacán and at that time the encomendero of Huaniqueo.
The church was built by the Franciscans, although the present cut stone front, faced with an austere classical doorway and undulating baroque pediment, is of later colonial vintage. 
The Huaniqueo cross: reverse side (Niccolò Brooker)
The Atrium Cross
Mounted high on a pyramidal base with an elaborate sculpted pedestal, the impressive atrium cross is similar in form, detail and quality of carving to that at Huandacareo.
   On the reverse side shown above, starlike rosettes line the arms as at Huandacareo. Spear, Reed and Nail reliefs appear on the shaft along with a fanlike Scourge at the foot.
Unusual back-to-back foliated motifs on the neck of the cross have a marked pre-hispanic flavor.
The Huaniqueo cross: front.  (Niccolò Brooker)
The front of the cross facing the church is dominated by the face of Christ at the axis. Rendered in bold relief with spreading locks of hair, it features a Crown of Thorns across the brow and is capped by an eroded Tres Potencias * tiara.
Other Passion related objects, notably three large, pear shaped Wounds with stylized, zigzag drops of blood, crowd the arms and shaft in an orderly pattern within the raised borders. 
   As at Huandacareo, a Ladder descends the shaft flanked here by the Spear and Reed. Below, another detailed relief of the Column appears, draped with ropes and supporting a small Cockerel. 
More reliefs on the sides of the shaft include, also as at Huandacareo, heads in various poses, the principal example being a bearded Judas with a bag hanging from his neck accompanied by columns of the Thirty Pieces of Silver.
The ornamental, hut shaped pedestal upon which the cross rests, carved on all four sides, is another unusual aspect. 
   Star reliefs line the recessed lower tier while the sloping upper parts are emblazoned with the Franciscan Stigmata on one face, and the Skull and Bones on the front.
Again, we see exuberant, carved finials in the signature regional pattern capping the head and arms, their flared fleurs-de-lis enclosing multi-petaled rosettes in sharp relief.
* Three flames emanating from the head of Christ, symbolizing the three powers of the soul—traditionally memory, understanding and will.
Carved head of Christ with Tres Potencias (cross at Tolimán, Qro)   ©Diana Roberts
text © 2014 Richard D. Perry
images courtesy of Niccolò Brooker and Benjamín Arredondo 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mexican Crosses: Huango (Villa Morelos)

Villa Morelos (Huango)
Located west of Huandacareo, the Augustinian mission of San Nicolás de Tolentino was founded in 1550 by Fray Juan de Acosta, its construction underwritten by the aristocratic Spanish encomendero Juan de Villaseñor y Orozco, whose portrait appears in the convento. 
    Although the early mission was subject to frequent attack by Chichimec raiders, in which some friars were killed, it remained the hub for Augustinian missionary activity in the frontier area.
The present mission complex at Huango includes two adjacent churches*The larger of the two is oriented from east to west. Its façade is Gothic in style and faces the current atrium, which is shared with a smaller church. 
The smaller church is located to one side, faced with a Neoclassical façade of mellow cut stone with Baroque touches and passages of intricate stone carving.  

Adjoining the two churches is the single story convento and its airy cloister—the oldest part of the complex, roofed with 16th century Gothic vaulting and studded with early colonial reliefs including the sun and moon. 

The Atrium Cross
The atrium cross is mounted on a pomegranate shaped pedestal beside the south wall of the atrium, facing an enclosed natural spring or ojo de agua. 
Aside from its unusual form, the rounded pedestal is crudely incised with three Wounds—symbols that rarely appear anywhere else but on the cross itself.
Square in section with slightly beveled corners, the cross displays several small scale Instruments of the Passion on its frontal face, all frugally carved in low relief by gouging away the immediately surrounding stone. These include a stylized Crown of Thorns at the crossing above a slender Column with ropes.
At the foot of the shaft, below a Rooster set atop a second tiny Column, an oval plaque at the foot of the cross bears a meandering, almost undecipherable inscription that includes dates in the 1700s.
   Stylized fleur-de-lis finials, cut away to incorporate pie shaped reliefs with diamond shaped insets, terminate each arm and cap the head of the cross
text © 2014 Richard D. Perry.  images by the author.
based in part on research by Robert H. Jackson

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mexican Crosses: Huandacareo

From Capacho we move west along the north shore of Lake Cuitzeo to Huandacareo.
The imposing neo baroque temple of El Señor del Amparo is the principal church in this resort town near the lake.  Its eponymous crucifix, famous for its healing powers, attracts pilgrims from a wide area including the disabled and infirm from nearby hospitals.

The Atrium Cross
Even in this area of intensely sculpted crosses, this one is exceptional for the range and confidence of its relief carving, spreading across all four sides.  
   The iconography in particular, which has no obvious connection to the shrine or any health related theme, comprises an extraordinary panoply of Passion related objects.
Atrium cross: front
Mounted on a replicated foliated base, the front of the cross is notable for its unusual and expressive figure of Christ as the Man of Sorrows, set at the axis and carved in the round with crossed arms.  
The complex head, with flowing hair on either side, is tilted, encircled by a minimal crown of thorns on the brow, and capped by a now broken halo. A rope is tied around the neck and hands.
   A ladder and two ewers flank the figure, and three elongated, comma shaped, bleeding Wounds project from the arms and shaft.
   The scrolled plaque at the head is inscribed with a misspelt INRI acronym.
No fewer than six heads appear on the cross, all shown in profile.
On the front a bust of Judas is depicted with a purse around his neck and rows of silver coins below.
Atrium cross: reverse side (Jaime Lara)
Two other heads are seen on the side, one wearing a helmet and the other with his tongue out, probably indicating Roman soldiers. A relief hand grasping a hank of hair is shown between them.
   Another head, also uttering an imprecation, appears on the reverse side, which is finely carved with a detailed image of the Column and Cockerel.  The arms and crossing are plain except for star shaped rosettes.
More complex rosettes with veined petals cap the robust fleurs-de-lis finials sprouting on the arms and head of the cross.
text © 2014 Richard D. Perry.  
images by the author, Jaime Lara and Jose Antonio Flores Juanto

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mexican Crosses: Capacho

Capacho church front  (image © Niccolo Brooker)
Girded by a large walled atrium, the sober 17th century church of El Señor de La Expiración stands at the top of this small hillside village, located between Cuitzeo and Huandacareo on the north shore of Lake Cuitzeo.

Capacho is home to no less than three carved stone crosses:

 Capacho, the atrium cross: front
The Atrium Cross
The largest and most impressive is this tall, square cross, mounted on a sculpted, hollow pedestal facing the church.
   Although apparently reconstructed and partially recarved, the cross incorporates several distinctive regional features, notably its prominent, blocky "sunflower" finials at the head and capping both arms. 
  Unlike at Cuitzeo, the cross is sculpted with numerous reliefs, mostly of objects related to Christ's Passion. On the front, a hirsute but worn face of Christ occupies the crossing. Hammer and Pincers appear on either side of the Face along the arms, together with outlying, seemingly bleeding Hands. 
   The shaft, although seemingly later, is badly cracked, held together by metal bands. It is carved on all four sides, with a simplified Chalice, an elongated Wound and a Rooster atop a jug like Column on the front. 
   A second, mustachioed face, probably intended as a skull, appears at the foot.  
Capacho, the atrium cross: reverse
On the reverse side, the Sun and Moon flank a wreath like Crown of Thorns at the crossing that encloses three Spikes. 
   Other Passion symbols down the shaft include a Hand, Corn Plant, Dice and unusually, a scorpion like figure with a human head and a bag tied around the neck from which tumbles a cascade of coins—a unique representation of Judas.  
But perhaps the most unusual part of the cross is the hollow pedestal upon which it rests. On its front, a statue of the Virgin of Sorrows is placed before a scalloped opening, perhaps indicating a sepulcher or shrine for offerings. 
The back side of the pedestal is carved like a plinth, with scrolls and a long, dated inscription (1660?) An incised plaque bears a rare portrayal of the Trifacial Trinity with three interlocking, bearded heads.

Cross Two (image © Niccolo Brooker)
Cross 2
A second cross, very similar in style and imagery to the main cross, either a replica or possibly the original, rests in a corner of the atrium.
Cross 3.
Set against the atrium wall by the entrance gate is a third cross, also with worn block finials. Although otherwise plain, it bears an eroded Heart relief, as at Cuitzeo, and the remnants of a tilted head with crossed arms at its axis, reminiscent, as we shall see, of the cross at Huandacareo.

text and images ©2014 Richard D. Perry, except where noted

look for our forthcoming guide to Mexican Stone Crosses

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Mexican Crosses: Cuitzeo

In an earlier series we looked at a variety of carved stone crosses in churchyards across Mexico (search under Mexican Crosses.)
   Today we follow up with several posts on a distinctive group of densely sculpted colonial crosses in the town and village churches around Lake Cuitzeo in northern Michoacán.
   They include those at Capacho, Huandacareo, Villa Morelos (Huango), Huaniqueo and in the town of Cuitzeo itself, with which we start the series:


The dominant colonial monument at Cuitzeo is the great Augustinian priory of Santa María Magdalena overlooking the shallow lake.
   Currently, the original atrium cross is found inside the convento courtyard, pending relocation after the recent restoration of the monastic complex. A replica is on display on the atrium gateway.
image courtesy of Felipe Falcón
The cross is square in section with a beveled shaft, and bears the large block finials typical of this region—in this case carved in the form of a capital with a row of tiny crosses at the head, and as notched blocks like ice cube trays capping either arm.
  Although less densely carved than other area crosses, its handful of bold reliefs include a wreath style Crown of Thorns at the crossing and three streaming, stylized Wounds of Christ on the arms and shaft. 
  The other feature of note is the carefully modeled and unusual Augustinian heart on the upper shaft, ringed by another crown of thorns and sprouting feathery wings.  An angled INRI plaque projects from the neck of the cross.

text and graphics © 2014 Richard D. Perry.  all rights reserved
look for our forthcoming guide to Mexican Stone Crosses