Friday, January 16, 2015

Stone Retablos: Chihuahua Cathedral

From the cathedral in Puebla we now turn north to Chihuahua cathedral.  Among its many other treasures, three stone altarpieces stand in the cathedral: the retablo mayor in the apse and two lateral retablos in the nave, albeit much later than the Puebla altarpiece.
Chihuahua cathedral. the main altarpiece today
The main altarpiece (retablo mayor) replaced a more ornate "churrigueresque" retablo in the 1790s, but was significantly altered in the 1930s when a neoclassical altar with fluted Corinthian columns was added in front, obscuring much of the original.
    The colonial structure, of which only the outer columns and sculpture niches are still visible, was the ultimate work of the Durango architect and designer Nicolás Morín and is dated 1791/2.  Nicolás died in 1791 however and the altarpiece was completed by his son Ignacio. 
Chihuahua cathedral.  main altarpiece before alteration
To judge by old photographs, the original design was in an elegant but restrained late baroque style, with tall, slender estípite columns, ornate bescrolled niches and lambrequin pendants—a mode that was already outdated by the 1790s.
Following the 1930s addition, in the 1940s the modest undulating pediment, housing statues of the Virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, was replaced by a flashy, neo rococo gable.
The Virgin of Regla (Bargellini)

Currently, the statues in the side niches are those of San Felipe and, on the left, a handsome colonial folk image of the Virgin of Regla (repositioned from one of the side altars) which replaced the original figure of Santiago.

retablo of San José
The two other stone retablos in the cathedral are an almost identical pair that face each other across the nave and are dedicated to San José (1793) and N. S. de Los Dolores (1803-13) respectively. 
retablo of Dolores
While Nicolás Morín prepared designs for both in the style of the main altarpiece, after his death Ignacio Morín again assumed responsibility.  
   However they were later completed as they appear today by a different architect, Juan de Pagaza Urtundua, more in the turn of the century "neostyle" fashion, combining baroque and neoclassical elements.  Fluted Doric columns appear alongside broken baroque pediments and lambrequins.
text © 2015 Richard D. Perry. color images by Niccolò Brooker except where noted.

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