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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