In contrast to Zempoala, all the Epazoyucan murals are contained in the adjacent convento.
The ConventoPart of the ancient temple stairway now leads up to the entrance (portería) of the convento attached to the south side of the church.
Although partly restored, it remains open to the sky. Two plain arcades bridge the deep entry, some of whose columns are headed with unusual foliated capitals—models for the cloister arcades, whose plain molded arches and and simple banded columns are transformed by the capitals.
Their feathered scrolls swell like bulbs and curl up to embrace the rising curves of the arches—a striking effect that is amplified in the corner piers of the two story cloister.
Almost every surface in the Epazoyucan convento—walls, vaults, niches, friezes and even the door frames—was covered with frescoes. Among the richest and most program of 16th century mural decoration to survive in Mexico, most of the frescoes have been restored by INAH, the government agency in charge of historic sites.The murals fall into two main groups, the cloister frescoes, and those in the former Sala de Profundis.
The Cloister Murals
Most of the narrative murals along both the upper and lower cloister walks have been erased save for their decorative bands and grotesque borders, which display complex patterns of ribbons, vines, fruit, flowers and birds as well as the ornamental lettered friezes favored by the Augustinians.
The sole survivors are the four scenes of Christ’s Passion in the corner niches at the end of each walk. Originally monochromatic, the murals were much later crudely accented with blues, reds and ochers.
A native artist skillfully transposed and enlarged these scenes from various European print sources—French, Flemish and Italian engravings—to the grander scale of the monastery walls, thereby enhancing their graphic power.
|The Way of the Cross|
The fresco is crowded with incident and anecdotal detail—note the little dog trotting by unconcerned in the foreground.
Here much of later added color has been removed to better reveal the original lines, although there is no landscape as in the other scenes. One unusual indigenous detail is the large corn plant that Christ is holding.
The two secular figures standing on the right are Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.
Here too, the background landscape includes identifiable local formations including the prominent peak of Cerro Epazoyu for which the town was named.
The other remaining mural in the lower cloister, above the stairway entrance to the upper level, is an extended portrayal of the death or Tránsito of the Virgin Mary. The blue robed Virgin, laid out on her bier, is attended by a group of solicitous Apostles and a flock of ten mournful, praying angels below.
The Holy Trinity appear in the heavens, above an inscription from the Song of Songs.
For our next, final post on Epazoyucan we describe and illustrate the superb sequence of murals in the former Sala De Profundis, or friars chapel.
text and images © 2015 Richard D. Perry. except where noted