Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Hidden Gems: Santa Inés Xanenetla, a folk baroque chapel in Puebla

From time to time we take a look at modest Mexican churches with a colonial pedigree that are overlooked by most students of viceregal art and architecture, but that often possess features of special artistic interest.
Xanenetla, supporting angel
Named for the light volcanic gravel of the locality (Xalnenetl)—a favored construction material as well as an ideal medium for the pottery and tiles for which the barrio is noted—Xanenetla was originally settled in the 1550s by indigenous workers from the Valley of Mexico, drafted as labor for the building of the city of Puebla.
In the 1620s, a large convent was founded here to house elite Dominican nuns that was dedicated to the 15th century prioress and miracle worker St Agnes of Montepulciano
In the 1770s it was decided to rebuild the nun’s chapel, which was rededicated in 1777. The present folk baroque facade dates from this time, a colorful local landmark noted for its painted stucco estípite pilasters and reliefs, whose colors change from time to time—formerly burnt orange, white and red; currently green and light blue!
As is customary, saints Peter and Paul flank the doorway, while the pilaster medallions portray saints Dominic and Catherine of Siena, and the Franciscans Francis and Clare—all in popular style.

A statue of Santa Inés stands atop the facade balustrade. Curiously, her namesake, the lamb (agnes=lamb) which usually sits atop the book she carries, here rests on her head! (a traditional relief of Santa Inés from Santo Domingo de Puebla is on the right)
And much eroded figures of archangels stand out between the columns of the elaborately tiered bell tower.

The Archangel Raphael;                   The Guardian Angel;

Of special historic interest are the large 18th century paintings hung along the nave, portraying key events in the history of the convent depicted in a manner that contrasts with the folkloric style of the facade. 
   Above, Bishop Domingo Pantaleón Álvarez de Abreu bestows the veil on the founding sisters, and below, we see the presentation by Pope Benedict XIV of the official cedula authorizing the founding of the convent (detail).
Check out our other Hidden Gems: Xichu de IndiosSan Felipe Sultepec; San Pablo Malacatepec;  OcoxochitepecMixquiahualaCherán;
text © 2017 Richard D. Perry
color images by ELTB

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