Saturday, February 25, 2017

Jalapa del Marqués: above the waves

Jalapa del Marqués in 2017
Some years ago, for one of our posts on the “drowned “ churches of Mexico, we ran a story on Jalapa del Marqués, in Oaxaca, whose 16th century Dominican mission of La Asunción was inundated by the dammed lake of Presa Juarez.
Jalapa del Marqués in 2013
Quechula in 2015
As with the related church at Santiago Quechula, another drowned Dominican mission in adjacent Chiapas, during periods of extreme drought, lake levels fall dramatically and the buildings re emerge from the waters.
Such is currently (February 2017) the case with the Jalapa monastery, which has been re exposed for the first time since the 1960s. This allows a closer view of its architectural and ornamental details, long obscured beneath the lake.
Much of the convento remains, most of it still roofed including the open chapel in front, although mud and silt levels remain high.
  The sturdy buttresses supporting the nave also still stand, although sections of the church fabric including the domes and facade are badly cracked.
The formidable church front is also largely intact, its recessed facade still protective of the entry architecture—the classically inspired doorway elegantly framed by layered brick pilasters.
Before the inundation in the 1960s, attempts were made to document and preserve some of the murals in the convento. We review these on our sister blog.
   The present situation offers the opportunity for closer study of the newly emerged church and convento by the appropriate authorities before the waters rise again.
text © 2017 by Richard D. Perry.  selected internet images

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Stones of Molango

The hilltop atrium at Molango with campanario  (image by Diana Roberts)
The isolated Augustinian monastery of Our Lady of Loreto Molango stands upon a platform high above the village, a precipitous site that seems suspended between the often misty skies and the green chasm of the valley below. 
   Its tree girded atrium stretches to the edge of the heights bordered by a crenelated wall, above which rises a campanario or freestanding belfry.*
The facade is distinguished first by its extraordinary, sculpted west doorway. Half columns boldly carved with spiraling vines divide the broad jambs, extending into the arch over the doorway. Repeated, foliated motifs flank the columns and archway and extend across the capitals.
But the most striking element in the doorway are the angels adorning the inner jambs. Carved in sharply undercut "tequitqui" style, they are portrayed full length, with wings spread and upholding large crosses against a backdrop of celestial clouds. Some of the faces are inset with obsidian eyes.
A miniature Calvary cross finely detailed with stylized Crown of Thorns, Wounds and Skull & Bones at the apex of the archway links to the alfiz overhead, formed by baluster style colonettes densely decorated by feathery filigree.
The second distinctive feature of the facade is its rose window, ringed by angels heads, vines and “windblown” rosettes. The rosette at center is set in a swirl of flamboyant tracery.
The cloister arcade features plain columns massed in the corners—a simplified version of the treatment seen in the Augustinian cloisters at Atotonilco El Grande and 
cloister columns at Atotonilco El Grande (l) and Acolman (r)
As at Acolman, reliefs of Augustinian and other insignia, many carved with exotic foliage, are emblazoned above the arches:

A final piece of exemplary stone work at Molango is the ornamental baptismal font, also boldly carved with rosettes and large scale foliage interspersed with the Augustinian pierced heart.
the campanario at Molango from the west, below the atrium
The freestanding belfry, or espadaña exenta, at Molango is one of three surviving examples in the Sierra Alta. The other two can seen at Tlanchinol and more remote Chichicaxtla.
the campanarios at Tlanchinol and Chichicaxtla
text © 2017 Richard D. Perry
except where noted, photography © 1990 by the author. all rights reserved

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The stonework at Mixquiahuala

Lofty twin towers flank the facade of the imposing parish church of San Antonio in Mixquiahuala, a sizeable town on the highway between Tula and Actopan in the state of Hidalgo.
But for us the most impressive feature of the facade is its sculpted doorway. Framed in classic, early Franciscan style it boasts broad jambs firmly bordered by rows of rosettes, carved in the round top and bottom. Ornamental relief rings enclose the Franciscan symbol of the Five Wounds boldly emblazoned on either jamb.
  The arch enjoys a similar ornamental treatment, and the doorway is capped by a decorative alfiz, inlaid with fleur-de-lis moldings.
While the sharp profile of the carving suggests recent renovation, the original entry may date back to the 16th century and bears a marked resemblance to the west doorway of nearby Tlahuelilpa, another Franciscan church from this period.
Tlahuelilpa, west doorway (Patrice Schmitz G.)
Inside the church, the original sanctuary arch—its outline much lower than today—shows a similar design treatment, with sculpted jambs, a broad archway with relief rosettes and a carved, surmounting alfiz.  
The ornamental carving is less constricted and abstract, more rooted in nature than the facade, taking a delight in exotic birds and luxuriant, albeit still stylized foliage, in the classic tequitqui manner of the 1500s.
Tlahuelilpa, the sanctuary arch (Patrice Schmitz G.)
Once again, the format is clearly related to the similarly framed sanctuary arch at Tlahuelilpa.
check out our other recent posts on exceptional colonial doorways: TecamachalcoYanhuitlanTexcocoLa Casa de MontejoTemplo de EncinoIxtacalaTlamaco; Tepeaca
text © 2017 Richard D. Perry
color photography by Niccolo Brooker except where noted.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

San Francisco Tepeaca: the convento entry

In recent posts we have looked at the murals of Tepeaca, its unique early Moorish tower, with its warrior eagle relief, and the remnants of its great 16th century fountain.
   For our last post on Tepeaca we consider the expansive carved entry to the convento, a classic early Franciscan doorway, located in the south corner of the portería.
Niccolo Brooker
Compared to the plain north doorway of the church, and even the painted west doorway, this is a remarkably elaborate sculptural statement, incorporating a wide variety of ornamental motifs.
   In form it follows a typical early Franciscan pattern, with broad jambs, a flattened "basket handle" arch, framed by a surmounting, rectangular alfiz, all cut from reddish stone.

Paired vertical relief panels with pruned plant sprays and rosettes form the jambs, which are in turn capped by concave, leafy capitals and rows of rosettes along the base.
   Eight point rosettes continue around the arch, echoed by a row of pomas, or pearl moldings, inset above—a motif we saw over the west doorway. 
   The alfiz is even more complex, lined with relief medallions of religious monograms, alternating armorial fleur-de-lis crosses and "windblown" rosettes.
Benjamin Arredondo
Beverley Spears
Pomas, here more like cannonballs in scale, again decorate the complex capitals along the cloister arcades, also spanned by basket handle arches.
text © 2017 Richard D. Perry
images by the author except where noted.
check out our other posts on exceptional colonial doorways: Tecamachalco; Yanhuitlan; Texcoco; La Casa de Montejo; Templo de Encino; Ixtacala; Tlamaco

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The lost fountain of Tepeaca

In recent posts on our sister site we have looked at the murals of Tepeaca, and in an earlier page here, we made note of the warrior eagle relief. In this new post we attempt to trace the remnants of the great 16th century fountain at Tepeaca.
   As we have seen previously, one of the most pressing needs in early colonial settlements was an adequate water supply. The first friars often went to extreme lengths to assure this supply, sometimes building long aqueducts from distant sources.
   Tepeaca was no exception, where water was piped many kilometers from mountain sources in Tlaxcala for distribution in the convento and at a grand fountain in the center of the village.    According to 16th century accounts,* the octagonal fountain featured eight access points, all housed in carved stone figures with spouts at each corner.
Santiago Ocuituco fountain                                        San Agustín Morelia fountain
While a handful of elaborate fountains with zoomorphic spouts have survived, notably in the cloisters at Ocuituco and Morelia, the Tepeaca fountain has long been dismantled. 
However most of the Tepeaca stone figures adorning the fountain have survived, at least two of which are currently mounted in the vast village plaza beside the also octagonal, Moorish style colonial watch tower, or "rollo".  
   Two others are housed elsewhere in Tepeaca and another pair is reportedly in the collection of the Museo Regional de PueblaTwo more, also thought to be from the same source, are located in the Museo Nacional del Virreinato.
zoomorphic spouts in the Museo Nacional del Virreinato
Although lions are more generally associated with Spanish style fountains, these sculpted figures appear to be dogs or coyotes. In addition all are cloaked with feathers—an unusual feature that has a clear connection to the pre-hispanic tradition of plumed animal deities, and marks them as the work of native stone carvers. 
Aztec feathered coyote, patron deity of feather artists
* La Relación de Tepeaca y su Partido  (c.1580)
text © 2017 Richard D Perry.   color images by Niccolo Brooker

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The stone fonts of Puebla: Atlixco

In earlier posts we looked at the exceptional altarpiece in the hilltop Franciscan monastery church of Asunción Atlixco. For this post we feature two old carved stone fonts also found in its precincts.
Like the baptismal font at Acatzingo, this scalloped basin is rimmed by reliefs of fluttering angels, although on a more modest scale and, in this case, supporting the wreathed, woven monogram of Christ (IHS)
The second, older and more primitive font in the church is carved overall in a basketwork pattern of interwoven strips.  
A third sculpted stone font in Atlixco is located in the Franciscan sister church of the Third Order, down the hill from the main monastery. 
Interestingly, none of these fonts feature the knotted cord of the Franciscan order.
text and color images © 2016 Richard D. Perry
See our posts on other Pueblan pilas at Acatzingo and Tecali, and those in other states, including OaxacaYucatánMichoacán and Tlaxcala.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The stone fonts of Puebla: Acatzingo

In previous posts we looked at stone baptismal fonts and carved holy water basins in several states, including Oaxaca, Yucatán, Michoacán and Tlaxcala.
   We have also featured fonts in the Puebla region, notably those at San Gabriel Cholula and Tecali. 
   In this and subsequent posts we illustrate some of the other interesting examples in the state, starting with the extraordinary sculpted font at Acatzingo.
The formidable 16th century "fortress" church of San Juan Evangelista Acatzingo boasts one of the finest and most intriguing sculpted baptismal fonts in Mexico. 
4 Rabbit glyphs: from the font and on an Aztec sculpture
Set prominently in the middle of the nave, instead of in the baptistry, and rimmed by the Franciscan knotted cord, the font stands atop a stylized, feathered or petaled base on which the date 1574, or 4 Rabbit, is inscribed in Aztec pictorial glyphs.
Acatzingo place glyphs
The town coat of arms, also in indigenous style, is emblazoned on the other side, incorporating reeds and water—a reference to Acatzingo's place name: Where Reeds Grow.
    Painted at one time, the basin is boldly sculpted with winged Angels of the Apocalypse who seem ready to take flight. Flanking a relief of the Sacrament, the angels point upward to the Latin words of the Benediction of Baptism inscribed around the rim, the beginning and end of which are visible here:

Ite, docete omnes gentes, baptizantes eos in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.

Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

text © 2016 Richard D. Perry.  images by the author and Tacho Juárez Herrera

review some of our other posts on Puebla: Puebla cathedralSan José ChiapaSan José de PueblaSan Francisco de PueblaIzucarEl CarmenLa LuzSan AntonioSan MarcosGuadalupeEagle WarriorsJolalpanTecamachalcoQuecholac