Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Tlaxcalan altarpieces: Xicotzinco

For another in our series on the altarpieces of Tlaxcala, we report on a pair of late colonial examples at Santo Toribio Xicotzinco.
Xicotzinco, the church front (Felipe Falcón)
Originally founded as a 16th century visita of the Franciscan convento at Tepeyanco, the present parish church of Xicotzinco (Under the Beehives) was built starting in the late 1700s. 
   The present colorful front, completed in the early 1800s, is distinguished by its two tall towers, and a brilliant red painted facade inset with patterns of glossy azulejo tiles in the popular Pueblan manner.
Colorful, tiled panels depicting archangels, complement the folkloric painted statues of archangels. 
As well as the figure of the patron saint, an early Christian Spanish bishop, Turibius of Astorga (Santo Toribio)—one of the few Mexican churches to carry this dedication. *
Turibius of Astorga (Santo Toribio) 
The Altarpieces
Although the church interior underwent a neoclassical makeover in the 19th century, one fine, late baroque altarpiece has survived in a transept. 
retablo of Santo Toribio
The retablo of Santo Toribio
Designed in an exceptionally bold Churrigueresque style, the retablo features prominent, freestanding estípite columns set at an angle and capped by sharp, zigzag “prow” cornices, as at Tepeyanco.  
Santo Toribio and St. Christopher
Most of the original statuary seems intact, notably that of the patron Santo Toribio in the center niche, together with St. Christopher, John the Baptist and Franciscan saints.
The retablo of Guadalupe
Similar to the Toribio altarpiece although on a smaller scale, this side retablo is also framed by giant estípites—in this case robust pilasters that extend unbroken through two tiers of canopied niches to the rounded gable.
   A conventional Guadalupe panel occupies center stage. Above, a second painting portrays the young Virgin Mary, flanked by statues of her parents Saints Joachim and Anne on either side. A relief of the Mexican Trinity projects from the center niche in the gable.
pulpit. carved stone relief of Santo Toribio, with his episcopal staff and miter in adjacent panels
We noted the rarity of images of Santo Toribio in Mexico, but here at Xicotzingo yet another apparent portrait of the saint appears, this time in a relief carved on the old stone pulpit—also no doubt from the earlier church—making this unique in Mexican colonial sculpture (good eye Niccolò!)
* Although there is no firm documentary evidence, the rarity of Santo Toribio as a patron saint in Mexico suggests that the founding of Xicotzinco may be ascribed to the prominent early Franciscan missionary Fray Toribio de Benavente (aka Motolinia) who evangelized Tlaxcala, and may have named it in honor of his patron saint Turibius, the former Bishop of Astorga in northwestern Spain.  
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry. 
Color images by Niccolo Brooker, Felipe Falcón and others
see our posts on other Tlaxcalan retablos: Tepeyanco; ZacatelcoSan José de TlaxcalaSanta Cruz de Tlaxcala; Apetatitlan;

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