Thursday, April 12, 2018

Acolman 2: The Cloister Reliefs

Acolman, the "new" cloister
In addition to the facade carvings, twelve intriguing reliefs project above the arcades in the larger rear, or “new” cloister at Acolman.  These illustrate a number of motifs—mostly crosses in some form, together with Augustinian insignia and religious monograms. Although they reveal a wide variation in the quality and styles of the stone carving, all are distinguished by their boldness of execution:
1. The Tree Cross
This is a classic Mexican tree cross in the style of Huejotzingo, and a striking piece of sculpture. Prominently studded with “pruned” stubs on the arms and shaft, the cross stands on a tiered base with a spiny crown of thorns draped around the crossing. An elongated, ornamental INRI scroll slants across the neck.
2. The Shield Cross
Framed by a curved shield or medallion and expertly modeled in the round, this is the most complex and the most detailed of the cloister medallions.
   A variant of the Mass of St Gregory, the cross features many of the Arma Christi. A slender cross emerges from a tomb or altar accompanied by a compendium of classic Passion symbols, although no wounds are shown. 
   One of the inclined heads of the Witnesses on either side resembles Judas with his penitential cap and stylized speech scroll. The bearded Head opposite may represent Caiphas.
3. The “Wounds” Cross
Rising from an elegant Christic monogram at the foot—a reworking of the IHS motif at the foot of cross in the old cloister except that the S is here reversed—this classic wall cross features a spiky crown of thorns around the neck.
    However, its most striking element is the three outsize wounds on the arms and lower shaft, all oozing extended gouts of blood with bulging tips. An elongated, scrolled INRI plaque, almost as long as the arms, heads the cross.
4. The Calvary Cross
In contrast to the others, this stark composition shows a plain Calvary style cross sprouting from an Aztec inspired skull and flanked by large, realistically carved bones.
5. The Pierced Heart #1
This simple, unframed relief shows the Augustinian heart transfixed by three large arrows. The aorta protrudes from its top while blood streams from the entry of the arrows.
6. The Pierced Heart #2
In this more ornate version, the heart at center is also pierced by three arrows oozing blood but is framed by a foliated ring overlain by twisting tassels—another Augustinian motif.
7. The Pierced Heart #3
Here the rounded heart is placed in a circular recess with the three feathered arrow fletches on the perimeter. The small, foliated cross above is again festooned with hanging tassels.
8.  IHS #1
Not easy to read, the ornamental, foliated monogram of Christ in this relief is enveloped in a complex floral wreath.
9.   IHS #2
By contrast, in this version the letters are easily distinguishable, neatly incorporating a cross like relief #3. The stylized wreath is almost geometrically angular.
10.  IHS #3
A solid wreath with protruding fleurs-de-lis on the corners enfold the monogram in low relief which, like the others, incorporates a cross.
11.  Cross with Stigmata
In this relief, featuring a Franciscan rather than an Augustinian emblem, the five copiously bleeding wounds surround a plain cross, which pierces the center wound. A woven crown of thorns frames the entire motif.
12.  Monogram of the Virgin Mary
Sinuous vines and foliage frame the letter M which is surmounted by an open crown.
text © 2018 Richard D. Perry images by the author and ELTB
See our other posts on Acolman: The Facade; The Crosses; The Murals;

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