Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Jalisco: San Juan de Ocotán

Back in 2012 some of our earliest posts on this blog featured missions near Guadalajara, notably Santa Cruz de las Flores and the churches around Lake Cajititlan. We also visited Mezquitan on our web site.
   Now we take a look at some other colonial churches in the area, starting with San Juan de Ocotán.
Northwest of the city of Guadalajara, beyond Zapopan, lies the historic barrio of San Juan de Ocotán with its colonial church.
The square facade of honey colored limestone has been restored to showcase its classical doorway adorned with foliated arabesque panels in low relief.
   The two tier espadaña and rounded gable lend the church a modestly pleasing profile.
A heraldic escutcheon below the gable is carved with a Marian invocation above the lions and castles of Spain—a rare survival of the Spanish Royal arms. 
   It has been pointed out * that this armorial relief bears a strong resemblance to the reverse side of the Spanish silver dollar, or "piece of eight," minted in 1776 during the reign of King Carlos lll, from which it may have been adapted.
In addition, the relief bears the date 1779, which may mark the completion of the present facade, although the church itself is earlier.
Mounted on a high pedestal in the alameda of jaracandas  and eucalyptus trees leading to the church door, is the atrium cross, inscribed with the date 1680. 
© Niccolò Brooker
The plain, squared cross is incised along the arms and shaft in the distinctive, regional cross-within-a-cross pattern. On the front, sharply tipped, arrow-like, twin grooves intersect within a simple wreath at the crossing, while on the reverse diamond points spring from the sunflower style motif at the axis, and are repeated spear like at the ends of the incised lines.
Inside the church, the main item of interest is the statue of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, formerly belonging to the now demolished hospital chapel of Ocotán.
Ocotán is noted for its colorful festivals: the festival of the Tastoanes to honor Señor Santiago in July, and a musical celebration when the Virgin of Zapopan visits the church on her periodic recorrido.
text © 2015 Richard D. Perry.  images courtesy of Tony Burton and Niccolò Brooker.
thanks to William Taylor who alerted me to this detail. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Puebla: The church of San José

In a group of earlier posts we looked at the colorful tiled churches in the colonial city of PueblaOne that we did not cover in that series is the parish church of San José, whose history and colonial treasures we take a closer look in this post.

San José 
(Plaza de San José.  Calle 18 Oriente 200)
St. Joseph, a Franciscan favorite, was the original patron saint of Puebla. The first church dedicated to him was founded on this site in 1570. But it was not until the middle of the next century that the present church was completed.  
   The colonial image of St. Joseph—according to legend sculpted from a tree struck by lightning, although much altered—survives inside the church on the main altar of a side chapel dedicated to the saint. 
The broad front of the sprawling 17th century parish church of San José, with its many chapels, faces its own busy city plaza. 
Due to later additions—part of an earlier front lies behind the present one—the present facade is a tiled Pueblan classic. 
   On either side of the arched doorway of gray local cantera, luxuriantly tiled Corinthian half columns are faced with gold, blue and white floral glazed azulejo tiles cut and set diagonally—an effect that both mirrors and contrasts with the petatillo pattern, or diaper work of the dark red ladrillo brick front. 
Zigzag patterning of blue and yellow tile continues atop the spectacular octagonal dome.
The handsome arcaded church interior is equally rich and colorful.  The sequence of gilded colonial altarpieces standing in the aisles along the nave is the finest in Puebla. They display a variety of baroque styles and feature fine sculptures and paintings by Puebla’s celebrated colonial artists, including several by the poblano master Miguel Jerónimo de Zendejas*

 Churrigueresque altarpieces: St. John Nepomuk (left)  St. Teresa with archangels (right)
Left: Retablo of La Inmaculada, with spiral columns.  Right: rococo retablo of the Holy Family *
La Capilla de Jesús Nazareno
This sumptuous chapel, known as the Cañon Dorado, adjoins the church on its north side and houses the famous local crucifix of Jesus the Nazarene
   Added in the late 1600s to a design by the noted architect Diego de la Sierra, its spectacular tiled dome  is splashed with stars and zigzags of blue, yellow and orange azulejo tiles. 
Folkloric archangels flank a relief of the Cross of Jerusalem atop the gable, which is surmounted by a verónica plaque with the face of Christ and overhead, a replica in stone of the eponymous patron.
Inside the ornate rococo chapel, the statue of Jesus the Nazarene, a 17th century work attributed to the Portuguese sculptor Gerónimo Rodríguez, rests in the neoclassical main altar.  
Numerous large canvases hang in the chapel, but the most interesting group consists of several panels above the entry. Also the work of Zendejas (1784), these notably include an expansive Last Supper with a cat and dog facing each other in the foreground.
text © 2015 Richard D. Perry
sources: Guia de patrimonio religioso de la ciudad de Puebla (2012)

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Chihuahua Cathedral; El Pozo de Animas

In addition to the stone retablos that we described previously, one of the most intriguing features of Chihuahua Cathedral is the so-called Pozo de Animas (Well of Souls) a shaft set in the nave wall between the ornate lateral entry facade and the east tower.
This narrow, enclosed space is marked at the bottom by a plain, carved wall cross set beneath a shell like canopy. 
Above the nave wall, cut into the balustrade, the shaft is ventilated by a series of small windows and is capped by a deep, angled pediment that is surmounted by two pinnacles.
Within the pediment is an unusual relief portraying St Francis, also beneath a prominent shell canopy, presiding over a row of figures (ánimas) emerging from the flames of Purgatory below. 
Although the function of the Pozo is undocumented, this sculpted image suggests the possible former use of this odd structure as an ossuary.
text © 2015 Richard D. Perry. color images © Niccolò Brooker

Monday, October 5, 2015

Angahuan. The Calvary cross

In an earlier post on Angahuan we highlighted, among its many other features, two stone crosses, one plain and one sculpted. 
In this follow up we focus on a third carved cross there.
The Calvary Cross
Not far from the main plaza at Angahuan, atop a Calvary hill of red and black volcanic rubble, stands a quite different style of cross, on which the abbreviated body of Christ is represented by his Face, Hands and Feet. The cross is Christ, and vice versa.
Hirsute, bearded and crowned with thorns, the Face reveals partly closed eyes and is framed by a cruciform tiara carved with triple tongues of flame signifying Las Tres Potencias, the Three Powers of the Soul—memory, intellect and will—a popular devotion of Christ in colonial Mexico.
    The Hands, pierced with deep Wounds and set in lobed, floral frames on the arms, point outwards, while the crossed Feet, bearing a third Wound and framed by a foliated loop, project from the shaft.    A simian looking Skull grimaces from the foot of the cross.
During Easter reenactments, penitents carry a crucifix up the stony hill, leaving their bloodstained crowns of thorns at the base of the cross. 

text & images ©2015 Richard D. Perry