Thursday, October 11, 2018

Chiapas: El Calvario de Chiapa de Corzo

Chiapa de Corzo, the ancient chiapanec capital of Chiapas, is known for its varied colonial monuments, most notably the spectacular 16th century brick fountain, the old Dominican priory of Santo Domingo, and the roofless hillside church of San Sebastián, dedicated to the town's patron saint.
   Less well-known is the tiny Calvary Chapel, located at the top of a hill, next to a spreading ceiba tree in the outer barrio of San Pedro, commanding panoramic views of the city and its monuments.
courtesy of Robert Guess
The Facade
At its heart a 17th century building, the chapel front was remodeled in popular neogothic style around 1900. Despite their folk gothic arches and pinnacles, the crowded belfry arcade between the squat towers remains in the tradition of vernacular architecture in Chiapas.
Unfortunately, El Calvario was damaged in the earthquakes of September 2017, but restoration work is currently under way.
photos courtesy of Robert Guess
One unique feature of the facade is a pair of large, painted bas reliefs, depicting Our Lady of Mt Carmel (L) and St. Francis of Assisi embracing the crucified Christ (R) both set in ogee-like niches or frames.
   Such painted facade reliefs, while a rarity in Chiapas, are firmly in the tradition of popular religious art in Guatemala and Andalusia, as well as other parts of southern Mexico.
courtesy of Robert Guess
The Descent from the Cross
Another unexpected colonial treasure at El Calvario rests inside the church. This is a venerable painted wooden relief illustrating The Descent from the Cross, thought to have belonged to the now lost 16th century main altarpiece taken from the old Dominican priory of Santo Domingo (located down the hill beside the river, just off the main plaza in Chiapa de Corzo).

The Descent from the Cross (detail).  courtesy of Niccolo Brooker 
Although displayed inside a glass case on the right hand side of the narrow nave (which makes it difficult to photograph in situ) the panel is carved, painted and gilded in an unexpectedly sophisticated style, of excellent workmanship and compelling composition, probably based on a European print or painting, and possibly the work of a European artist.
St. Mary Magdalene.  courtesy of Niccolo Brooker

The figures are convincingly modeled, especially the slumping body of Christ in the foreground; the elaborate robes of the many onlookers are carved in rhythmic, flowing lines and incised with estofado patterning, especially the figure of Mary Magdalene kneeling in the foreground.
the nave with El Señor del Calvario.   photo courtesy of Robert Guess
El Señor del Calvario
El Calvario is also the focus of one of Chiapas' most interesting folk festivals, dedicated to El Señor del Calvario, a venerated crucifix that rests above the main altar, fortunately undamaged during the 'quake.
courtesy of Robert Guess

The nine day observance begins on the third Friday of October, a colorful and well attended celebration at the chapel, which has been spectacularly decorated with floral enramas, fruits and festive foods including circular rosca breads for the occasion.

courtesy of Robert Guess
text © 2005 & 2018 Richard D. Perry
color images © Niccolo Brooker and Robert Guess with appreciation. All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment