Saturday, May 27, 2017

Oaxaca. San Mateo Capulalpan

For the last in our current series of posts on Oaxaca, we look at a close neighbor of Ixtlan, the mountain church of San Mateo Capulalpan. Following along a mountain road that winds southeast of Ixtlan, the first sight of Capulalpan is its imposing church, perched above a windswept atrium with panoramic views of the surrounding ridges of the Sierra Juárez
Between sheer, symmetrical towers, the severe classical facade rises in measured stages to a tall, triangular pediment. Nine steps lead up to the west entry, which is framed by subtly layered pilasters and sculpted cornices. 
   A carved inscription over the doorway is dated 1715, although another date, 1731, appears on the underchoir .
A simple statue of St. Matthew, the patron saint, holds up his gospel in the diminutive upper niche below a relief of the papal insignia.
The nave is a model for several other Sierra churches. Roofed by a trapezoidal wooden ceiling, it is braced at intervals by carved tie beams. The centerpiece is an octagonal ceiling over the crossing—a complex mosaic of shaped and fitted cedar in mudéjar style. 
The Altarpieces
As at Ixtlan, the chief artistic legacy at Capulalpan is its spectacular collection of colonial wooden altarpieces, which come in all shapes, sizes and finishes.
   Closely fitted into the narrow apse, the gilded main retablo is a masterpiece in traditional Oaxacan style, dating from the 1730s. Rising in four tiers and five vertical columns to the roofline, the center pavilion of the retablo projects dramatically forward, its rectangular compartments framed by spiral columns wreathed with vines and cornices dripping with spindles. 
Carved foliage and arabesques proliferate throughout. A solemn, bearded statue of St. Matthew stands in the recessed center niche, surrounded by fourteen large, rectangular canvases portraying scenes from his life. 
As at Ixtlan, smaller, highly ornate retablos are angled on either side of the sanctuary arch.
Exceptional late baroque, mostly Churrigueresque altarpieces line the whitewashed nave. While some are gilded, others remain unfinished, their dark red cedar estípite pilasters lacking their final paint and gold leaf.
Several retablos incorporate archangels in the form of caryatids, displaying elaborately layered, ruffled tunics—a signature motif in the Sierra region. A few, even more ornate, smaller retablos have undulating, shield-like outlines with fanciful foliated fringes.
Among the numerous engaging figures of archangels, one superb, unfinished statue of a youthful, fresh faced but one-eyed St. Raphael stands out, fitted with stylized wings, ruffled skirt, wide sleeves and a lofty plumed headdress all carved from cedar. 
   Elsewhere, a carved and painted figure of God the Father (part of a Trinity sculpture) sits in an ornate frame also encrusted with archangels.
A number of fine colonial paintings stand out at Capulalpan, among the most notable being a sympathetic 17th century portrait of the youthful St. Rose of Lima, in the south transept. 
   Dressed as a novice, in one hand she holds up a bouquet with an image of the child Jesus, while from the other hangs an anchor with a representation of the city of Lima, Peru, of which she is the patron saint.
text © 2017 by Richard D. Perry
color images by the author and courtesy of Felipe Falcón

No comments:

Post a Comment