Friday, June 14, 2019

Barroco Poblano: San Pablo de Las Tunas

We continue our series on the popular baroque churches of Puebla with a visit to the former Franciscan visita of San Pablo de Las Tunas, aka Felipe Angeles, set among cactus fields in the east central part of the state near Acatzingo.
The Church
Aside from its rustic name, the village of San Pablo (St. Paul of the Cactus Fruits) is mainly remarkable for the picturesque colonial church, situated on its western outskirts. Founded in the 1500s, the church was entirely refaced during the 1700s in a style strikingly similar to the renovated parish church of nearby Acatzingo, possibly by the same designer or artisans.
   The ornate "folk baroque" facade is divided into three tiers of carved, molded and colorfully painted stucco. Bold spiral columns, some capped with busts of angels, divide the lower two tiers, whose four large niches, now vacant, are festooned with drapes and putti.
The complex top tier is an elaborately scrolled gable whose sinuous profile is made even more conspicuous with the addition of several ornamental urns or pinnacles. The central niche, framed by flamboyant rocaille decoration, retains its bulto of San Pablo, and is flanked by exuberant folk estípite pilasters, once again entwined with carved foliage, from which emerge numerous winged cherubs and saints' heads. 
   Filled with other decorative motifs, including rosettes, scrolls, shells and assorted objects - their details freshly picked out in bright reds, blues and earth colors - the church front is beautifully maintained and a feast for the eye. Its symmetry is offset by the mismatched towers and an added belfry, although this merely adds to its offbeat charm.
The Main Retablo
This extraordinarily ornate gilded altarpiece provides yet another surprise in this rural community. Designed in full blown Mexican Churrigueresque style, it is far more sophisticated in its intricate, layered forms and masterful execution than the folk baroque facade, and indicates the work of an accomplished urban taller, or workshop, probably in Puebla or even Mexico City. 
The figure of the patron St. Paul appears in the upper niche, while another image is that of a sorrowful Jesus, known as El Señor de la Paciencia.
The baptismal fonts are also items of interest in the church. One venerable example, rimmed with fleurs-de-lis and the Franciscan knotted cord, stands beneath the choir. And the basin of a second font is ringed with an unusual crown of thorns relief—a motif more common on stone crosses—and set on a base carved with an archangel.
 text © 2019 by Richard D. Perry
color images by the author and Niccolò Brooker
Please review our earlier posts on the folk baroque churches of Puebla: San Jeronimo AljojucaSanta Inez XanenetlaTlancualpican;  Santa Ana JolalpanSanta Maria Jolalpan;  San Simón Quecholac; San Pablo de Las Tunas; 

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