Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Salamanca: La Nativitas crosses

In previous posts we looked at some so-called "syndesmos" crosses, those designed to symbolize the physical body of Christ, carved with head, hands and feet.  
Here we describe another example.
La Nativitas in 1994
Located in an outlying workaday barrio on the east side of the industrial city of Salamanca, Guanajuato, the the tiny, 18th century chapel of La Nativitas is a folk baroque gem.
La Nativitas, the gable in 1994
The sculpted facade is framed by geometrical estipite pilasters and crowned by a scalloped, rounded gable. Boldly carved shells and spiraling foliage adorn the openings and niches. Archaic statues of the Virgin of the Assumption and her aged parents Joachim and Anna occupy the upper niches.

Until fairly recently a striking stone cross, thought to be the original atrium cross, topped the gable, moved there in the last century when the atrium was reduced in size. Bordered by serrated edges like other regional crosses—notably in Queretaro—the cross is carved with reliefs of the Instruments of the Passion.
One special feature of this cross is its framing as the symbolic body of Christ. A detailed relief of Christ’s head, complete with crown of thorns , wavy hair and beard, is flanked by outstretched, stigmatized hands on either arm, with a pair of crossed feet on the lower shaft.
More recently the cross was moved from the gable to a place atop the adjacent tower, replaced by a scarred statue of St Michael.
   A Calvary cross relief, also serrated or carved with "tree stubs," is mounted above the sculpted north doorway of the chapel.
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
b/w images © 1994 by the author.  color photography by Niccolo Brooker and Benjamín Arredondo

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