Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mexican Crosses: Ciudad Hidalgo

Ciudad Hidalgo  
Known in ancient and early colonial times as Tajimaroa, Ciudad Hidalgo, in eastern Michoacán, was an important garrison settlement on the eastern boundary of the Tarascan empire. Here Tarascan armies successfully held the expansive Aztecs at bay, preserving their independence until the arrival of the Spanish in 1521.
   A few years after the Conquest the Franciscans founded a monastery here, forging a mission community here from an ethnic mix of frontier peoples: Otomis, Matlatzincas and Pirindas.
    By the 1550s the friary of San José was under construction, but was only completed around 1600.  Its plain, cliff like church front has been stripped of later baroque embellishments and fitted with new battlements emphasizing its original fortress character.
   The severe arched doorway is frugally ornamented with carved wheat sheaves and rosettes.
© Felipe Falcón
The Atrium Cross
Elevated prominently on a pyramidal base in front of the church, the rough hewn but complex octagonal cross is carved with Passion symbols, foliated bands and the Franciscan insignia. 
© Felipe Falcón
This 16th century cross boasts a circular obsidian disk at the crossing—one of the rare surviving examples of this ancient device. The dark disk is embedded in a chain like Crown of Thorns motif which is framed on three sides by fleur-de-lis crosses that bears a resemblance to both the ancient Maltese and Jerusalem crosses—the latter a symbol traditionally favored by the Franciscans. Several other carved recesses of indeterminate shape may also once have contained reflective obsidian insets.
Other Instruments of the Passion on the front of the cross are a trio of emblematic, blade shaped Wounds, each surmounted with three nails and carved in a sharply undercut tequitqui fashion. 
Two Wounds project from the arms while the third—an even larger relief incised with stylized streams of blood—is imposed on the main shaft. 
© Niccolò Brooker  
At the foot of the cross the eight facets merge into four larger sides, each boldly carved with ornate religious monograms. The Franciscan insignia of the Five Wounds (Stigmata) is accompanied by a skull and bones on the base. 
   Crudely carved block finials on arms and above INRI scroll with incised sunburst motifs on the tips of the arms.
Fleur-de-lis rosettes and the Stigmata reappear on the reverse side, and stylized corn plants sprout along the beveled sides. The pyramidal base is carved with the crowned monogram of the Virgin Mary.

The Baptismal Font
Another unique example of stone carving here is the unusual font, which was once the center of a public fountain. Projecting angel and lion reliefs alternate around the broad, shallow basin, originally serving as spouts into a lower pool.
   Apart from the word leon (lion) the remaining letters around the rim seem to spell out the alphabet rather than any dedicatory inscription.
text © 2016 Richard D. Perry. 
images by the author and courtesy of Felipe Falcón & Niccolò Brooker
please review our earlier posts on Mexican crosses: TepeapulcoCuitzeoActopanCharapanBucareli/El Pueblito; TepoztlanUruapanCholulaCajititlanCoyoacanAxotlaChimalistacMixcoacHuipulcoSanto Tomás AjuscoSan Pedro MartirAtoyacCapachoHuandacareoHuangoHuaniqueoCorupo


  1. Robert Jackson recently told me that there are embedded stones in the cloister of San José. I'll check them out next time I'm there. Perhaps you've already photographed them.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.