Thursday, August 30, 2018

Oaxaca: San Baltazar Yatzachi el Alto

Another impressive but remote church in the Sierra de Juárez is that of San Baltázar in the hill community of Yatzachi El Alto, not far from Zoochila along a tortuous mountain road. 
Its imposing, neatly repainted front, configured with sculpture niches and squat flanking towers like nearby Tabaa, is very much in the Oaxacan "earthquake baroque" style.
Inside, the church is entirely vaulted by a remarkable painted wooden artesonado ceiling, tied by cross beams carved in a complex mudéjar fashion.
Like others in the region, the principal treasure of the church is its magnificent gilded main altarpiece. Constructed with a projecting center pavilion with flanking wings like the main retablo at San Juan Tabaá, the altarpiece is another opulent example of the classic Oaxacan baroque style, replete with foliated helical columns and jutting cornices hung with spindles, set in a dense matrix of gilded filigree ornament.
St. Balthazar, the patron saint and traditionally the dark skinned one of the Three Kings, occupies the elaborate center niche, flanked by one of his companion Magi on the left (the third king is missing)
The Visitation;                                 The Annunciation.  
Eight large, rectangular paintings of scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary fill the lateral frames of the retablo, their broad range of color rendered in a soft, popular baroque style.
photo courtesy of IOHIO
Another artistic and musical treasure at Yatzachi is its handsome 19th century pipe organ, currently in need of restoration—further witness to the former wealth of this remote hill town.
text © 2018 Richard D. Perry.  
color images © Niccolo Brooker— our friend, intrepid traveler and aficionado who brought this colonial treasure to our attention.

please visit our other posts in this series: San Miguel del Valle;  Santa Ana del Valle;  Santo Domingo del ValleSantiago Zoochila; San Baltazar Yatzachi el Alto; San Juan Tabaá; San Mateo YucucuiSanto Domingo Tomaltepec

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Oaxaca: San Juan Tabaá

The Sierra de Juárez in central Oaxaca is richly endowed with imposing churches lavishly furnished with colonial art and artifacts of high quality, often located in remote mountain villages. 
   Among the churches of the region, that of San Juan Tabaá, in the Villa Alta area, stands out for its handsome facade and fine baroque altarpieces.  It also possesses an extraordinary painting of the Last Judgment, which we describe on our sister site.
Anchored like so many other Oaxaca church fronts by massive bell towers, the broad retablo facade at San Juan Tabaá features ample but empty shell niches framed by pairs of fluted Plateresque columns. Bands of carved rosettes arch over the lofty doorway and recessed niches alike.
The sanctuary arch and main retablo - detai
In contrast to the sober facade, the church interior is a riot of colors, textures and styles, especially in its varied retablos.  Framed by an artesonado style sanctuary arch, the sumptuous main altarpiece fills the apse with its golden glow.
Designed in the classic Oaxacan baroque manner, with twisting spiral columns and gilded cornices hung with spindles, the central pavilion of the altarpiece projects forward into the nave, flanked by flared outer calles that act to draw in the attention of the viewer. 
Statues of saints occupy the lavishly framed shell niches, several of which are unusually embellished with large, beautifully carved and painted figures of archangels.
St, Anthony of Padua;                                  La Soledad.
Oaxacan style Trinity (Throne of Mercy)
   A rich, late colonial treasure in this remote mountain region.
                       Nuestra Señora del Socorro;                                             La Candelaria;   
Several other baroque retablos line the nave, mostly dedicated to the Virgin Mary in her various guises, including those of La Candelaria, El Rosario and El Socorro.  
 text © 2018 Richard D. Perry
color images © 2018 Niccolò Brooker, who brought San Juan Tabaá to our attention.
please visit our other posts in this series: San Miguel del Valle;  Santa Ana del Valle;  Santo Domingo del Valle;  Santiago Zoochila; San Baltazar Yaztachi el Alto; San Juan Tabaá; San Mateo YucucuiSanto Domingo Tomaltepec

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Oaxaca. Santiago Zoochila

The Sierra de Juárez in Oaxaca is richly endowed with imposing churches lavishly furnished with colonial art and artifacts of high quality, often located in remote mountain villages.  
Santiago Zoochila (Slippery Sands) is a classic example, affording a variety of colonial artworks. Located about 30 kms east of Capulalpan, at the end of a scenic but twisting mountain road subject to subsidence, rock falls and washouts, this remote and aptly named Zapotec village occupies a precipitous hillside site commanding spectacular, forested mountain vistas.
The church front is typically Oaxacan: whitewashed and minimally adorned with an undulating baroque gable set between red domed towers. 
Inside, the broad nave is covered by a pitched wooden roof with carved and painted crossbeams. Translucent ceiling panels at intervals provide the only illumination for the spectacular array of colonial altarpieces on either side.
A painted triumphal arch frames the apse and its magnificent main altarpiece. Bordered by an extravagantly flared outer shell inset with reflective oval cartouches and lateral niches, the retablo appears to be in good condition. 
   Bright gilded columns, intricately carved with spiraling vines, articulate the face of the retablo which retains a full complement of colonial paintings and statuary in sumptuously framed niches. 
As elsewhere in the region, a Throne of Mercy inspired Trinity occupies an upper niche.
retablo of Dolores;                                          retablo of La Soledad
At least six other baroque retablos line the nave, framed for the most part in classic Oaxacan style, with twisted, foliated columns and dense golden filigree ornament. 
   The majority are dedicated to the Virgin Mary and display her image in various advocations, including the venerated regional favorite Our Lady of Juquila
One smaller retablo showcases a large, dramatic painting of El Carmen with Souls in Purgatory surrounded by flying putti. 

The vault of the apse is decorated with a equally superb late colonial mural, depicting the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus and the stoning of St. Stephen.
text © 2005 & 2018. Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of Felipe Falcón and Niccolò Brooker

please visit our other posts in this series: San Miguel del ValleSanta Ana del Valle;  Santo Domingo del Valle;  Santiago Zoochila; San Baltazar Yaztachi el Alto; San Juan Tabaá; San Mateo Yucucui; Santo Domingo Tomaltepec

Friday, August 17, 2018

Oaxaca. Santo Domingo Tomaltepec

Before we go up to explore the more remote churches in the Sierras, we look at one more church of interest in the Tlacolula valley—that at Santo Domingo Tomaltepec. 
Although built in classic "earthquake baroque" Oaxacan style, the sheer tower bases and broad, aggressively vertical pilasters in the center facade make this 18th century church front seem less than earthbound. 
The eye is drawn upwards to the baroque gable atop the facade, neatly outlined in brown, where colorful ceramic plates are embedded in the matching towers and cupolas. A diminutive statue of St. Dominic, the patron saint of the church, stands in the crowning niche.


Beyond the rather cramped sanctuary arch—part of the 16th century apse—gleams the handsome main altarpiece. Crafted in classic Oaxacan baroque style, this later colonial altarpiece is framed by paired spiral columns and elaborate cornices dripping with spindles.
   Dramatic baroque paintings, still in excellent condition, fill the outer compartments, while statues of St. Dominic and a smaller, probably older Virgin Mary occupy the center niches.

A colorful frieze, or dado, runs along the nave on either side, providing a backdrop to several fine colonial statues and a pair of late 18th century side retablos, also of high quality.

An exquisite smaller retablo, dedicated to La Purísima, is of exceptional artistry. Its main focus is a striking image of the Virgin, set against a stylized landscape surrounded by her attributes. The sinuous folds of her star-spangled gown, outlined by gilded borders, are especially striking.

text © 2018 Richard D. Perry

Monday, August 13, 2018

Oaxaca: San Miguel del Valle

Above Santo Domingo in the Tlacolula valley is San Miguel del Valle, the third of these Zapotec churchesPainted a dazzling white with red domes, this imposing hilltop church overlooks its broad atrium and commands a sweeping panorama of the Tlacolula valley below. 
The grand entry stands at the head of a steep pyramidal stairway, its angled doorway flanked by giant Tuscan tritostyle columns with pearl and starburst carvings. Narrow red borders outline every facade detail. 

Twin domed towers studded with ceramic plates—some apparently of antique majolica—sandwich the rather fussy baroque gable. 

Gleaming beyond the dull, gray concrete vaulting of the nave, and framed by a gaily painted apsidal arch, the gilded main retablo is the focus of interest. 
Within its boldly curved, scalloped border, highly ornate niche-pilasters are carved with figures of saints and angels in rich estofado costumes. Archangels with rippling petticoats adorn the upper estípites.
Statues fill the three tiers of niches. These include an animated St. Michael in the center vitrine and the Virgin as Queen of Heaven in the swagged top tier—altogether a beautiful work of art, and in excellent condition.
Among the other colonial art works of special note in San Miguel, a striking painting of the Mexican Holy Trinity stands out. Each identical  figure is crowned with a gilded, triangular nimbus and clothed in swirling, gilt edged robes.
There are also several old cristos and a colorful red, black and gold wooden pulpit. Carved rosettes and Dominican fleur-de-lis crosses adorn the stone font in the baptistry—probably the oldest artifact in the church.
       Tlacolula Valley:  Tlacolula; Santa Ana del Valle; Santo Domingo del Valle;
text © 2018 Richard D. Perry
color images by the author and courtesy of Felipe Falcón.  All rights reserved