Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Oaxaca: Santo Domingo del Valle

Santo Domingo del Valle (aka Díaz Ordaz) is the second of the Zapotec villages we are profiling in the Tlacolula valley of Oaxaca.
   In 1860 the liberal general José Maria Díaz Ordaz, a native son of the pueblo, met and defeated a conservative force here in the Battle of Santo Domingo. He was killed in action and soon thereafter, the town was re-named in his honor.
Although founded by the Dominicans as a visita of Tlacolula as early as 1526, the sober church dates largely from the 18th century. Two surviving posa chapels that sit on the west side of the large atrium may be earlier.
Posa © Box Wagner collection
The Church Front
Elegantly carved from pocked gray stone, pairs of fluted Ionic columns with carved bases form a triumphal arch around the church doorway, enclosing pointed shell niches. 
Above, ornate candelabra columns and finials flank an octagonal choir window as well as the sculpture niche in the scalloped gable.

Embedded pottery and azulejo tiles add color to the towers and cupolas, whose formerly painted estípite pilasters are capped by simian looking atlantes.
The Church Interior 
Currently painted in jarring tones of mottled blue and mauve, the nave is heavily outlined by chocolate-colored vaults, pilasters and cornices.
   A majestic gilded retablo fills the apse, its composition and refined detailing exemplifying the classic Oaxacan style. Foliated spiral columns frame large rectangular paintings of scenes from the life of St. Dominic, whose statue occupies the center niche. Oval medallions encircle the altarpiece.
Several other colonial altarpieces stand along the nave. As with the retablo mayor, twisting solomonic columns and jutting cornices encase the towering retablo of the Passion of Christ, set against the north wall.  
   Dated 1733, it is composed entirely of fine Mannerist inspired paintings in a compelling tenebrista style. These include the Baptism of Christ, a Purgatory scene and the Apotheosis of St. Peter with an angel bearing the Host. 
The principal panel of the Crucifixion with John the Baptist and St. Francis is especially dramatic. 
Fashioned in the same style and dated 1733, the smaller retablo of the Trinity against the north wall is a real gem. Inscribed portraits of archangels accompany a painting in popular style of the Coronation of the Virgin in the center panel. 
   An exceptional sculpture of the Holy Trinity, or Throne of Mercy, occupies the projecting vitrine. A classic among several such works found mainly in Oaxaca.
The Holy Trinity Crowning the Virgin;                       The Throne of Mercy 
One aspect of the church that strikes the visitor is the variety of its santos, placed in the retablos or beside altars along the nave, including a richly costumed figure of Christ entering Jerusalem, the Virgin of Sorrows in flowing floral robes, and another processional statue of the Virgin—very similar to the one seen at Santa Ana del Valle—with gessoed, painted garments stretched over a bell shaped wooden frame.

   As we follow on with this series, we will venture further up into the Sierra de Juárez to explore several other Zapotec mountain villages, their colonial churches and their works of art.
Visit our other Oaxaca pages:
IxtaltepecYucucuiTlalixtacTeotongoTlaxiacoTlacolulaSan Nicolás AyotlaTeposcolulaSeven PrincesVirgin Mary & St DominicManuel Fernandez FialloRose of Lima in OaxacaMiguel de MendozaOaxaca CathedralBaptismal FontsCasas de CortésYanhuitlan;
TejupanSan Agustín de Oaxaca; San Felipe Néri; Santo Domingo Tomaltepec;

Oaxaca murals: Santo Domingo muralsCuilapan muralsTeitipac muralsEtla muralsJalapa del Marqués;
text © 2018 Richard D. Perry
color images by the author and courtesy of Felipe Falcón

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