Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Jalisco. San Miguel Mezquitan

The pueblo of San Miguel Mezquitán is now a barrio of the rapidly spreading city of Guadalajara. Overlooking a deep barranca from its lofty site, the parish church dates back to the mid-1600s, according to inscriptions on the entry and the atrium cross. However, the handsome building as we see it today was completed in the 1770s.
We owe this surprisingly elegant church to its architect and master of works Martín de León, the putative designer of Santa Mónica in Guadalajara. 
Although the facade appears unfinished - there is no gable - the restrained filigree decoration of its friezes and pillowed pilasters reveals a sensitive eye and masterly treatment of form and surface.
Figurative sculptures and reliefs also abound. Notable among these is a striking pair of angels in flight supporting a crown above the doorway. Wearing the distinctive plumed "cone-like” helmets associated with St. Michael, the patron of the church, they are unmistakably shaped by an indigenous hand and sensibility. 
Their archaic style of carving harks back to the tequitqui reliefs of the 16th century, and stand in piquant contrast to the otherwise sophisticated baroque detailing of the church front and interior.
Diminutive statues of the Virgin of the Rosary and San Isidro, also carved in an earlier mode and possibly from an former building, perch in the niches of the facade. 

Gargoyles grimace from atop the nave walls.
The spacious interior matches the front in airy elegance. Its lofty nave is divided from the narrow side aisles by stone arcades of slender columns headed by complex layered capitals.
The supporting drum and pendentives of the dome are also densely carved with reliefs and figures of archangels.

A lifesize figure of St. Michael reveals the archangel's militant side as he vigorously subdues the chained Satan beneath his feet.
The other item of note at Mezquitan is its monolithic atrium cross, sparely carved with a woven crown of thorns motif at the crossing. Holes are drilled for nails in the arms and octagonal shaft—the latter inscribed with the date 1645.
text ©2008 and 2019 by Richard D. Perry. All rights reserved.
color images courtesy of Cecilia Zuñiga Ramirez and © 2005 by the late Edward Fesler, who made a special trip to photograph Mezquitán and provided historical documentation. 
text based in part on the monograph San Miguel de Mezquitán by Dr. Rubén Villaseñor Bordes.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Jalisco. Los Reyes Cajititlan

We return to the largest of the lakeside towns, Los Reyes, which boasts Cajititlan’s most imposing church. The parish church of the Three Kings, begun in the late 1600s and completed in the 1770s, was restored to its former glory in the 1960s by Father Luís Méndez, the energetic local priest.
Its wide basilican facade, extended by a massive tower base on one side and the chapel of the Virgin on the other, faces west towards the lake across a huge terraced atrium. The striking church front, recently cleaned and repointed, and the paved atrium are both fashioned from same reflective brownstone, hewn from local quarries. 
The refaced facade is surprisingly austere with little ornament aside from a decorative moorish style window and a few small reliefs. A youthful statue of Gaspar, one of the Three Kings, stands in the sculpture niche, flanked by pilasters carved with alternating rosettes and winged cherubs.
The bell tower is encrusted with layered pilasters, carved friezes and arabesque reliefs. Lion’s head gargoyles project from the nave walls.
© Beverley Spears

Inside the aisled church, rows of white columns and a succession of painted vaults lead towards the raised apse—a richly ornamented space, obliquely lit by ornate Moorish side windows and divided horizontally by large, complex foliated entablatures. Carved stone figures of winged angels, bearing musical instruments and the symbols of the Passion line the ribs of the vault—motifs repeated in the other lakeside churches.*  The gilded main altarpiece houses richly robed statues of the Three Kings. 
   The side chapel also features several charming passages of exterior stonecarving, including animals, flowers and a mariachi of musical angels.
   Cajititlan is in its most folkloric mood during the boisterous festival of Los Reyes Magos, every January, when the church is colorfully decorated for Epiphany. The festivities, which come to a climax on January 6th, included masked Nativity plays and indigenous dances performed in the vast atrium, as well as the inevitable fireworks. Bustling market stalls surround the church precincts, where traditional seasonal specialties such as almond tequila and roscas ­—sweet breads decorated red and green, ­ are consumed.
   In accordance with ancient tradition, both church and atrium are crowded with the faithful from all over the region, paying homage to the Three Kings, whose statues are lowered from the retablo into the nave for the occasion—a thriving example of cultural continuity in this area of rapid change. 
atrium cross.      front                                     reverse side
Another monument of interest is the undated atrium cross mounted in front of the church, fashioned in the cross-within-a-cross pattern common to Jalisco, with a stylized crown of thorns at the axis and wound sockets cut into the shaft and arms. An INRI scroll caps the cross while cannonball finials terminate both arms. The base is carved with shell reliefs.
text © 2006/2019 Richard D. Perry
images by the author except where noted
* visit our earlier posts on the other Cajititlan churches: and Jalisco crosses

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Jalisco: San Juan Tecomatlan, the atrium cross.

Like nearby Santa Cruz El Grande, also a former visita of the Franciscan mission at Asunción Poncitlán, San Juan Tecomatlan retains its former mission site plan, typical for the region, with the church and chapel, both now largely rebuilt, facing each other across an extended atrium or plaza.
The latter structure occupies the place of the original hospital chapel—a fixture of all early missions in the region.
Although little that remains can be securely dated, the Purísima chapel features an unusual doorway, headed by a ogee arch carved with scrolls and rosettes, reminiscent of the side doorway at San Juan Cajititlan, that may date from the 1600s.
atrium cross mounted in front of the church

The other colonial feature of interest at Tecomatlan is the atrium cross. Fashioned in an ornamental variant of the classic Jaliscan cross, it features the customary cross-within-a-cross design with a crown of thorns motif at the crossing enclosing four pearl like nodules. 

 All surfaces of the cross are edged with scalloped moldings on both sides—an unusual decorative feature in this group.

Holes are drilled in the arms and lower shaft on the front, to provide for temporary nails or metal inserts. And below the sculpted base of vegetal scrolls, is inscribed a date from the 1600s.
The reverse side of the cross is similarly bordered with a leafy rosette at the crossing but no visible drilled holes.
other Jalisco crosses: The Crosses of CajititlanSanta Cruz de Las FloresTuxpanSan Juan Ocotan; Santa Cruz el Grande; Sayula; Analco; Cuexcomatitlan;

text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of  Jim Cook © 2019

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Jalisco. Cuexcomatitlán: the atrium cross

In earlier posts on Jalisco we have looked at colonial churches in the communities bordering Lake Cajititlanwith a special focus on their stone carving—a regional tradition that includes sculpted stone crosses.
Another of these lakeside villages is Cuexcomatitlán (At the Place near the Granary) whose colonial monuments include the parish church of La Purísima and the Antigua Casa de Indias or women’s house—both dating from the 1750s and much restored.
Here, the old atrium cross still survives, mounted on a high base in the churchyard.  Cut from the local pocked limestone, it follows the regional style, with a cross-within-a-cross pattern, intersecting inside a highly stylized, double crown of thorns motif at the axis.  
   Three drilled holes on the extremities of the arms and shaft signify Christ's wounds and allow for the insertion of spikes. The cross sits on a round pedestal faced with shell reliefs. 
The reverse side of the cross is similarly configured, although in a more modest manner. At one time carved stone ball finials were inserted in the holes on the end of either arm. 
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry.  color images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker
other Jalisco crosses: The Crosses of Cajititlan; Santa Cruz de Las Flores; Tuxpan;  San Juan Ocotan; Santa Cruz el Grande; Sayula

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Jalisco. Sayula: The Passion Cross

Continuing our series on the crosses of Jalisco, we look at the grand atrium cross in the lakeside community of Sayula, in the eponymous valley south of Guadalajara.

As at nearby Tuxpan, the reconstituted cross at Inmaculada Sayula is octagonal and largely plain. 
   The roughly textured, brown tezontle crosspiece is the oldest section, flanking a complex, much eroded Crown relief at the axis with projecting thorns within and without. 
   As with other regional examples three drilled Wound holes in the arms and shaft are the other principal features.
By contrast, the pyramidal base is more intensely carved on all four faces. Dated 1781, although it seems earlier, the cross features Passion reliefs that include the heads of Judas and Caiphas as well as a fully realized Verónica—a rare depiction, especially for the base of a cross.
The Verónica
text & graphic © 2019 Richard D. Perry. all rights reserved.
base details © Niccolo Brooker
other Jalisco crosses: Tuxpan;  San Juan Ocotan; Santa Cruz el Grande; Sayula, San Sebastian Analco; Santa Cruz de Las Flores

Monday, July 15, 2019

Traveling Photographic Exhibit

We are thrilled to announce venues for the traveling photography exhibit by aficionada architect Beverley Spears in Mexico.   The first show opens this month in the historic Casa de La Canal in San Miguel Allende and will run until September.
Later it will go on to locations in Yucatán. (La Casa de Montejo, Mérida); Durango (La Casa Suchil), and others to be announced. 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Jalisco. San Juan Tuxpan: the atrium cross

courtesy of Jim Cook
Tuxpan is an attractive and prosperous town in southern Jalisco, within sight of the active volcanoes of neighboring Colima. 
   The town center is dominated by the parish church of San Juan Bautista, whose imposing facade is faced with paired, classical columns, sculpture niches and tall domed towers. 
The Atrium Cross.  courtesy of Diana Roberts
The Atrium Cross
Standing on the site of an earlier mission and possibly an even older prehispanic shrine, this restored * cross dates back to 
the 16th century and is the oldest colonial remnant in the religious complex—a prominent reminder of the historic Franciscan presence here. 
   Known locally as La Cruz Gorda, because of its massive stone base, this is a classic colonial atrial cross, with an octagonal shaft and arms. The cross itself is plain with no carved features apart from the angled INRI plaque at its head.
The pedestal supporting the cross, however, is carved with a skull and bones, and a sequence of heraldic reliefs that include rosettes and religious insignia surround the large, square base. 
The Stigmata;                                                      IHS monogram of Christ
These include ornate monograms of Christ and the Virgin Mary, as well as the stylized Franciscan emblem of the Stigmata, or Five Wounds of Christ. The spiral knotted cord bordering all four sides of the base leaves no doubt that this was a Franciscan monument.

During a project in February 2006 to restore its crumbling stonework, workers began to chip away at the surfaces, allegedly damaging some of the original carving in the process and raising alarm among local residents. Work was stopped and an investigation ensued, in which municipal officials and INAH conservators admitted their responsibility and vowed to make good any ill effects.

text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of Niccolò Brooker except where noted

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Jalisco. Santa Ana Tepetitlan: the Hospital Chapel

Adding to our ongoing series on the churches and chapels of the Jaliscan baroque in the vicinity of Guadalajara, we visit the colonial hospital chapel at Santa Ana Tepetitlan.
Founded as a visita of the convento of San Francisco in Guadalajara, the chapel is located in the community of Zapopan south of the city.  As at nearby San Agustín, while the main church has been virtually rebuilt and lost much of its original character, the hospital chapel has survived with its colonial character intact.
The imposing entry, set against a broad church front and unevenly fashioned from honey colored stone, is currently in need of restoration. Simply but handsomely styled, the doorway and choir window are framed by paneled jambs with plain Doric capitals. 
Apart from the statues of Peter and Paul flanking the choir window, carved, foliated keystones provide the only other ornament. 
images courtesy of José Alfredo Alcántar Gutiérrez
As with some other hospital chapels in the region, the Santa Ana Capilla boasts a long, wide nave divided by slender arcades, here roofed by a beamed ceiling—rare in the region. Surprisingly the sanctuary is almost as wide as the nave.
text © 2019  Richard D. Perry.  
color photographs by José Alfredo Alcántar Gutiérrez  and Wikimedia

see our other posts on the Jaliscan baroque:  Santa Cruz de las Flores,  San Sebastianito,  Santa Anita Atlixtac;  Santa Cruz El GrandeSan Juan de Ocotán; San Agustínand the churches around Lake Cajititlan

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Guadalajara: San Sebastián Analco, the atrium cross

Set on a broad, paved terrace at the heart of Analco, one of the oldest native barrios of Guadalajara, the rambling pilgrimage church of San Sebastián faces a huge, tree-shaded atrium with sculptures and fountains.
There is also an unusually ornate stone cross, one of the most intensively carved we have seen in Jalisco, atypical for the region. *
On the front, to either side of the unusual, windmill style Crown of Thorns at the axis, vines with curling leaves stretch out along either arm to aggressively projecting bleeding Wound reliefs formed like bunches of grapes and punctured with holes at the center. A head of Judas with a rope around his neck appears on the left arm.
A third Wound protrudes from the lower shaft, above which another long vine with bell shaped blossoms spirals up to the axis. 
   Almost as an afterthought, other Passion objects are shoehorned into the remaining spaces: an elongated Column and cockerel, a Ladder, Scourge and a Spear are squeezed together at the foot.
A similar vine with octofoil rosettes snakes up the back of the shaft, while a rows of foliated motifs run along the other sides of the cross.
moon finial

The INRI acronym is incised into a segmented scroll across the neck of the cross, while sun and moon motifs decorate the finials.

text © 2019 Richard D. Perry

images by the author and courtesy of Niccolo Brooker

More posts on Guadalajara: Jesus Maria; Santa Monica; Aranzasu Chapel

* see our other pages on Jaliscan crosses: Cajititlan; Santa Cruz el Grande; Tecomatlan; Santa Cruz de Las Flores; San Juan de Ocotan