Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Chapels of Ixtla: La Capilla de Los Angeles

La Capilla de Los Angeles before restoration
Like many of the Ixtla chapels, the Capilla de Los Angeles fell into disuse and disrepair after the Mexican Revolution, and until recent times it was neglected and virtually abandoned.
   With the Proyecto San Miguel Ixtla however, the chapel has been partially rehabilitated and awaits full restoration.
In keeping with most area chapels, the Capilla de Los Angeles is modest in scale and design, although like the others, considerable attention was devoted to an imposing stone entry.
Despite its current battered condition, the portal is quite stylishly carved, with coffered jambs, an inscribed and foliated archway, and a pedimented alfiz sheltering a remnant stone crucifix.

The interior, although as yet unrestored, is like the others painted with a curtained altar and colorful angels holding crosses and Instruments of the Passion. Hoped for restoration may reveal more murals beneath the grime. 
archangel with cross on the nave wall
This brings to a close our series on the chapels of Ixtla, in Guanajuato.  In future posts we hope to look at related groups of Otomí chapels in neighboring Querétaro and Hidalgo.

text © 2014 Richard D. Perry.  images by Niccolò Brooker and others

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Chapels of Ixtla: La Capilla Segunda de Najar

La Capilla Segunda de Najar
This modest former capilla familiar follows the pattern of the other Ixtla area chapels.  Although lacking towers or an imposing dome the chapel boasts a handsome, rounded doorway framed by ornamental jambs carved with a grutesco design of stylized vines and bunches of grapes. 
door jamb with grutesco carving
The doorsill is also carved in the style of Ojo Zarco, featuring prancing lions and vines with spiky foliage. 
door sill with prancing lions
Like the other capillas too, the chapel interior is painted with floral ornament in a style related to the doorjambs, as well as with figures of animals and archangels. The murals are currently in poor condition and await restoration.
Capilla Segunda de Najar, venados
text © 2014 Richard D. Perry.  images courtesy of Niccolò Brooker and Diana Roberts.
video by Sergio Serrano

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Chapels of Ixtla: La Pintada

La Pintada

Although small, this refurbished Ixtla chapel claims the most interesting of the painted interiors in the area. Despite its size, the capilla has a two stage bell tower and a cut stone doorway.
To date the most extensively restored, as its name indicates the painted interior at La Pintada is by far the most extensive and iconographically complex of the Ixtla capillas
   Thought to date from the late 1700s, the murals are rendered in a colorful and lively style, illustrating a variety of biblical scenes along with the sun and moon, musical angels, curtained altars and temples, with friezes of mystical animals. 


Beyond its attractive folkloric style and the vividly portrayed figures and objects, a complicated narrative unfolds with themes that appear related to traditional Otomí history, cosmogony and world view.
Episodes from the Passion of Christ are intermingled with battle scenes featuring Otomí and Chichimec warriors, the former in war apparel and the latter largely naked except for feathered headdresses. Spanish troops, helmeted and mounted, also appear.
Some warriors carry musical instruments, crosses and banners in addition to native weapons, emphasizing the ritual aspect of the confrontationa theme more fully developed in the monastery of Ixmiquilpan
Although many details remain obscure, scholars speculate that the murals link Christ's ordeal to the struggle between the two indigenous groups and, by extension, the Spanish colonizers.

text © 2014 Richard D. Perry.   images by Benjamin Arredondo and others.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Chapels of Ixtla: San Isidro

the chapel before clearing (1960s)
San Isidro
The once abandoned outlying Ixtla capilla of San Isidro is under restoration for its proposed new role as a community museum.  
the chapel front before restoration began (2010)
The chapel after exterior restoration and landscaping
Like El Templo del Barrio (Ojo Zarco), the chapel is a substantial domed building, although lacking a tower or belfry. The handsome stone doorway is plain save for reliefs of the sun and moon, windblown rosettes and a winged angel head.

The interior was lavishly decorated with colorful murals, now also under restoration. Among the highlights are folkloric portraits of the Four Evangelists holding their gospels on the pendentives beneath the painted octagonal dome.
The painted dome
St John the Evangelist
St Mark
the restored chapel and atrium cross.
Like the Templo (previous post) San Isidro boasts an old carved stone cross facing the chapel front and set on a pyramidal pedestal raised on a high, square base. 
   The cross is simply ornamented in Jalisco style, with a streamlined, cross-within-a-cross pattern and petal finials. A second, smaller carved stone cross rests inside the church. 
text © 2014 Richard D. Perry.  images by Niccolò Brooker, Diana Roberts and others.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Chapels of Ixtla: La Capilla de Ojo Zarco

El Señor de Ojo Zarco
San Miguel Ixtla is best known for its annual Easter pilgrimage and celebration in honor of El Señor de Ojo Zarco (Our Lord of the Blue Eyes) a venerable cristo de caña, or lightweight crucifix, now lodged in the parish church.
La Capilla de Ojo Zarco
Originally the home of the eponymous crucifix, this is the largest of the Ixtla chapels. Also referred to as El Templo del Barrio, it is built on a raised platform of possible prehispanic origin.

Approached by a flight of stone steps, the restored chapel boasts a rare, triple tiered tower and features an simple arched entry, decorated with foliar reliefs. 
Archangels with sweet faces and flowing robes guard the doorway on either jamb.
One unusual feature is the sculpted stone sill, a likely transplant, carved with angel heads and writhing relief foliage in early colonial style.
The spacious interior is covered with polychrome murals, although in very poor condition. These include the ample dome and drum with shell motifs and scrolled decoration.

A special feature of the chapel is its handsome carved cross, facing the church atop a massive, two tier octagonal base. The cross springs from a domed, ribbed pedestal in the form of a squash or barrel cactus, as we saw at Nonoalco.
   The cross-within-a-cross design frames numerous small Passion reliefs that include the face of Christ at the axis emitting rays of the Tres Potencias. 
   Five miniature Wounds are crowded on the upper shaft, while the Sun and Moon appear on the arms. Several other Passion objects appear, including the Thirty Pieces of Silver in columns along the lateral facets.

text © 2014 Richard D. Perry.  images by Niccolò Brooker, Diana Roberts and others.
video by Sergio Serrano

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Chapels of Ixtla: Introduction

Former Mexican president Felipe Calderón at the inauguration
 of a restored Otomí chapel near Tolimán, Qro.

The Chapels of Ixtla
From ancient times, even before the arrival of the Spaniards, the indigenous Otomí and Pamé peoples of central Mexico followed a tradition of building and maintaining so-called oratorios familiares or shrines dedicated to family or clan deities. 
   After the Spanish conquest and the evangelization of the area by Catholic priests and friars, many of these capillas became shrines to Christian saints. Although many were abandoned following the disruption of the conquest and evangelization, some of the larger structures have survived as barrio chapels in the Otomí communities of Hidalgo, Guanajuato and Querétaro, north of the Mexican capital.
   Dating from as early as the 17th century, although most are later, these capillas are typically small in scale and modestly ornamented, although several can boast carved doorways, domes or bell towers, with vaulted and often extensively painted interiors.
San Miguel Ixtla, parish church
The subject of this series of posts is a particular group of chapels in the environs of San Miguel Ixtla, a border community between the states of Guanajuato and Querétaro.  There are more than 30 chapels in the vicinity, the many of them family capillas, some abandoned and others still in use.  
   Since the late 1990s a major conservation project, Proyecto San Miguel Ixtla, conducted by INAH and other agencies along with community involvement, has been ongoing to document, conserve and even restore some of the more important chapels.
   In this series we focus on five of these: La Capilla de Ojo Zarco (aka El Templo del Barrio); San Isidro, the largest of the chapels, and the painted chapel of La Pintada. We also look at two smaller ones, those of La Capilla de Los Angeles and La Capilla Segunda de Najar.
   Some of the capillas retain carved stone crosses within their precincts, both of colonial origin and of more recent vintage.

text © 2014 Richard D. Perry
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