Thursday, October 7, 2021

Hidalgo. Ixmiquilpan: the Facade

The imposing west front of the priory church at Ixmiquilpan is one of a broad series of classic, Augustinian Renaissance
Plateresque facades.  
    Based on the refined front at Acolmantogether with those at Actopan, Yuriria, Cuitzeo, Atotonilco el Grande and Metztitlan, it is one of an unequalled suite of boldly sculpted 16th century church fronts.
Faced with rose and lavender ashlar stone, a triumphal arch  dominates the facade design at Ixmiquilpan. Paired, fluted Corinthian columns enclose slender niches, now void of statuary but surmounted by cornucopia of slotted speech or song scrolls.
A broad, two tiered arch caps the doorway, its coffers framing a variety of reliefs, Carved in the round, winged angels and seraphs alternate with floral urns and rosettes, while tasseled, Augustinian pierced heart emblems nestle in the spandrels.
A feather motif is carved on the scrolled keystone of the archway, while winged horses or griffons prance along the frieze above, song scrolls issuing from their mouths.
More ornate floral urns flank and cap the elegant, classical choir window, some balanced atop more song scrolls—a veritable choral symphony in stone. 

The Facade Escutcheons
As at Acolman, heraldic shields project on each side of the choir window. Although not easily decipherable from the ground, these escudos are highly significant. Their imagery excludes any reference to Spanish or Christian symbols, foreshadowing the extraordinary murals inside the church. 
    To the left of the choir window the relief shows an eagle perched on a cactus sprouting from a rock above a lake—a motif adopted by the Aztecs as their imperial symbol and now the emblem of modern Mexico. Beside the cactus, the eagle is costumed as an Aztec warrior with a tlauhquechol, or plumed headdress, unfurling his pantli or war banner. A pair of eroded jaguar figures crouch carrying chimalli, the native war shields. 
The relief on the right portrays an eagle and jaguar on either side of a stylized foot-path, again with water below. Comma-like speech scrolls curl from the mouths of the two animals, indicating a dialogue between them. 
text and photography ©1992 & 2020 Richard D. Perry

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