Saturday, November 9, 2019

Morelos: El Nicho de Hueyapan

Santo Domingo Hueyapan before the earthquake
The early Dominican monastery of Santo Domingo, a World Heritage Site, is located in remote Hueyapan on the slopes of the volcano Popocatepetl.
   It suffered greatly in the great earthquake of 2017 when the dome and vaulting over the nave collapsed during a mass; fortunately only one casualty was reported. 
major earthquake damage at Hueyapan
Hueyapan church front 2019
While restoration work on the single tower is under way, reconstruction of the dome and interior vaulting remains to be tackled—a vast undertaking. 
   No word on the extent of damage to the church furnishings is yet to hand, which included several altarpieces, and in particular, the Nicho de Hueyapan, an early 19th century masterpiece signed and dated 1828 by the noted regional native sculptor and retablista, Higinio López, the “Master of Zacualpan” whose work we saw at Tlacotepec.
El Nicho de Hueyapan
Located in the church sacristy, the niche is a portable altar elaborately carved and painted to house the image of El Señor de Hueyapan posed in the classic attitude of Christ the Nazarene, kneeling with the cross. 
    The work is notable for its complex carving that incorporates several figures, notably the Four Evangelists, Luke and Mark, a lamb, Adam and Eve, and putti in various poses, together with other Passion scenes.
The Hueyapan nicho 2019 (©INAH)
Although the nicho sustained minor damage during the earthquake, the structure and most of the sculptural detail appears intact.
Santo Domingo Hueyapan, the main retablo
two side altars
In addition to this piece, other works of art include the late baroque gilded main altarpiece along with some side retablos in colorful popular style. The current condition of all these works after the quake damage remains to be ascertained.
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
images by eltb and other internet sources


  1. I just submitted an information request to the INAH about the current state of the nicho. We'll be receiving an update and some recent pictures on December 20.

    Also, you'll be glad to know that the one guy who was crushed by the dome during the earthquake was alredy dead. It happened during his funeral.

  2. INAH just sent me an update. The nicho had damages of "approximately 12%". It's too vague to draw conclusions and I hope they add more data soon but, at least, we know it wasn't destroyed.

    1. I just got the updated pictures and damage report. I can send it to you if you give me your email address.

  3. Thank you Arturo,
    Please send me this material to

    Thanks again. Richard