Monday, December 30, 2019

The Chapels of Metztitlan: San Pablo Jilotla

Another striking nearby visita of Metztitlan is that at Jilotla.
Set within a large walled and paved atrium, the small church or chapel of San Pablo is built entirely of stone. Its walls are battlemented and heavily braced by imposing buttresses, including arched “flying” buttresses supporting the domed sanctuary at the east end, which may once have served as an open air chapel.
San Pablo Jilotla plan

The facade follows the regional pattern; its tall whitewashed front is capped by an ornamental triple belfry or espadaña in the style of the priory church at Metztitlan, containing at least two colonial era bells.
A separate stone structure, again sturdily buttressed and battlemented, occupies the southeast corner of the atrium, possibly the site of a former processional posa.
Please review our other pages on Metztitlan and its visitas: MalilaXihuicoZacualtipanZoquizoquipanTlacolulaAtzolcintlaIztazacualaHualulaTepatetipaNonoalcoTlatemalcoAtecoxcoMetzquititlanItzacoyotla; Amajatlan
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
photography courtesy of Niccolo Brooker and Robert Jackson, who reminded me about this church.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Metztitlan: La Comunidad

In an earlier series of posts we looked at the great Augustinian priory of Santos Reyes Metztitlan and its many dependencies*.
   In this post we turn to its predecessor mission in that town, the church and convento of La Comunidad, located in the lower part of the pueblo.
   This relatively modest mission, later superseded by the grand priory, consisted of a church and adjacent convento, possibly incorporating an open chapel in its early days, which are thought to date to the late 1530s, placing the mission among the first to be built in Mexico subsequent to the Spanish Conquest.

Abandoned for many years to neglect and virtual ruin, the roofless church, long used as a stable, has recently been cleared of rubble although not significantly restored, apart from its imposing belfry or espadaña which sets in the common wall between church and convento.

A later belltower sits above the octagonal apse.
The overgrown cloister features arcades of great interest in that lateral columns are ingeniously recessed within each pillar on either side and, aside from the base pedestal, extend unbroken by any molding or capital around the entire archway.
column base © JB Artigas

©Niccolo Brooker
Apart from a few mural fragments, little of the original ornament remains. The former convento entry, however, is largely intact, surmounted by an baskethandle arch of rosettes in relief and above, the relief of a Calvary cross with Instruments of the Passion. 
Please review our other pages on Metztitlan and its visitas: Malila; Xihuico; Zacualtipan; Zoquizoquipan; Tlacolula; Atzolcintla; Iztazacuala; Hualula; Tepatetipa; Nonoalco; Tlatemalco; Atecoxco; Metzquititlan; Itzacoyotla;
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
photography courtesy of Robert Jackson and Niccolo Brooker

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Chapels of Metztitlan: Amajatlan

Set on a commanding site backing into the hillside, San Pedro Amajatlan is another visita* of Metztitlan modeled after the main priory of Los Santos Reyes. Its imposing rectangular front is capped by an elongated espadaña with multiple openings containing bells with dates from the late 1700s.
In the same way, the whitewashed cross in front is a close cousin to the Metztitlan atrium cross, carved with prominent "wounds" on the arms and shaft, an outsized woven crown-of-thorns motif at the crossing and an INRI plaque unscrolled across the neck.
Text © 2019 Richard D. Perry. color images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker

This is a list of the churches and chapels associated with the priory of Santos Reyes Metztitlan featured on this blog:

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Jalisco: Zacoalco

For the final addition to our recent series on the chapels of Jalisco we go to the lake country south of Guadalajara.
   San Francisco Zacoalco has a long history of destruction and rebirth. The primitive lakeside mission (Lake Zacoalco) was destroyed by an earthquake soon after its completion in the 1550s. Although its successor was built on sturdier stone foundations, the adobe superstructure failed to withstand earthquakes and was replaced by a masonry structure in the 1650s, under the supervision of Fray Antonio Tello—the Franciscan chronicler of the "spiritual conquest" of New Galicia. 
   This ill-fated third building also succumbed to the elements, replaced by the present post-colonial parish church. What has survived at Zacoalco, however, is the hospital chapel of La Concepción (aka Capilla de San Vicente) recently restored by INAH with partial funding from a private donor. 
Against the rustic front of rough tezontle blocks, the sculpted entry stands out for its rich variety of folk carvings. 
As with many area churches, numerous reliefs of angels and other figures, crosses and foliage are embedded in the exterior walls, here most notably a pair of guitar and violin playing minstrels to the right of the doorway.
Lively grotesque panels and foliated carving decorate the pilasters and door jambs as well as the choir window. As at Mezquitan, angels hold up the Virgin’s crown in a relief above the entry. A statue of La Purísima, the patroness of the chapel, rests in the gable niche. 
The intimate interior also has great charm, its vaults and doorways adorned with reliefs and figure sculptures.
© Niccolo Brooker
The other colonial artifact of note at Zacoalco is the finely wrought paneled stone cross, now set on a buttress beside the main church of San Francisco.  Like others in the region, it features the characteristic cross-within-a-cross design with a wreath at the axis and cannonball finials terminating either arm.
text © 1997 & 2019 Richard D. Perry
images by the author except where noted

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

Friday, December 13, 2019

Mexican Altarpieces. Dolores Xaltocan: the Passion altarpiece.

Behind the unexceptional facade of this 17th century church in the Xochimilco region of Mexico City rests a late colonial altarpiece of special artistic interest. 

The retablo of the Passion is notable for its suite of large paintings illustrating the Passion of Christ. Although the author is not securely documented, it is thought that they may be from the workshop of the prolific baroque artist José de Páez, whose work we saw in Oaxaca
   The focus of this post is on the graphic source of the works—all adapted from the popular pictorial book Imágenes de la historia evangélica by the Spanish converso and Jesuit Jerónimo Nadal, published in the closing years of the 16th century and illustrated with woodcuts by the well known Flemish engravers, the Wierix brothers.

Below we display some of the panels alongside their print sources:
The Agony in the Garden
The Taking of Jesus - Betrayal of Judas

Jesus before Caiaphas

The Flagelation

Crown of Thorns

The Way of the Cross

The Descent from the Cross

Dating from the mid-1700s the altarpiece stands on the side of the nave. Eight of the nine canvases, which extend from the predella to the arching top tier, document traditional scenes, from the Agony in the Garden to the Descent from the Cross itself.
See our earlier posts on Mexican altarpieces of note:
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
images from online sources and adapted from Alena Robin (2006)

Monday, December 9, 2019

San Rafael Ixtapalucan: the atrium cross

We add to our previous posts* on the crosses of Puebla, with this example at Ixtapalucan, located in the tongue of northwestern Puebla.
The church of San Rafael Ixtapalucan boasts a distinctive stepped front faced with red ladrillo tile regularly interposed with glazed azulejos in the poblano style.
Our interest here is the unusual atrium cross standing just beyond the similarly tiled atrium gateway.
The carved front faces the church. An eroded face of Christ with flowing locks occupies the crossing, imposed on what appears to be a square "veronica" plaque. 
All front faces of the stone cross—arms, neck and shaft—are bordered with undulating swags that serve to frame a variety of Passion objects in relief, including hands and other implements such as nails, pincers, etc.  Above crossed corn? plants on the neck rests an also eroded, barely readable INRI inscription.
While the reverse side is plain, the cross stands on a layered pedestal boldly carved with a skull and crossed bones.
text © 2019 Richard D. Perry
images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker & online sources
See our other posts on Pueblan crosses: Huaquechula; Tepeapulco

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Mexican Crucifixes: Yecapixtla

Complementing our series on Mexican stone crosses, we also take note of a related category, that of colonial crucifixes or sculpted stone figures of the crucified Christ. 
    While a broad range of crucifixes, predominantly of wood but also of stone, adorn church altars, facades and cemeteries all across Mexico, here we look at a selected examples found on colonial church fronts, focusing on their varied styles, from the frankly folkloric to sculptural master works that can stand beside the most accomplished contemporary European examples. 
    Regardless of their relative sophistication or skill of execution, all these crucifixes share an innate expressive strength informed by a powerful emotional impact that springs from the deep well of faith shared by the stone carvers and their audience.
For our inaugural post we feature the early crucifix at Yecapixtla:
Perhaps the most important of great Augustinian monasteries in northern Morelos, 
Yecapixtla is noted for its fine stone carving, especially in the facade, with its superb Plateresque porch and rose window.
Here we draw attention to the Calvary crucifix mounted in the gable above the west porch, which because of its relatively small scale and lofty location is less than conspicuous. 
Sculpted with consummate skill, it features the foreshortened but full body of the crucified Christ, rendered in an almost expressionistic manner with special focus on the sinewy details of the tortured body. 
   Probably dating from the 17th century and almost certainly sculpted by an anonymous native artisan rather than a Spanish master, this is one of the finest pieces of stone figure sculpture in Morelos. 
text © 2018 Richard D. Perry. images courtesy of Niccolò Brooker
Visit our other posts in this series: Totolapan; San Agustin Salamanca; Santiago Silao; 
San Jose Irapuato; San Agustin de Queretaro; Zacatecas Cathedral; Singuilucan;

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Querétaro. San Agustín, the crucifix

In previous posts on San Agustín de Querétaro we have looked at the sculpted cloister and the statues of musical archangels around the dome.  In this final post we describe the full body crucifix on the church facade.
The Church 
The design of San Agustín represented a startling break with the austere classicism of the 17th century. Traditionally attributed to the great Queretaran designer Ignacio Mariano de las Casas, it was in all probability a collaborative effort, involving other regional architects and sculptors, notably Francisco Martínez Gudiño and also Juan Manuel Villagómez, the architect of Tlalpujahua (Michoacán). who is usually credited with the facade design although Gudiño may have supervised the sculptural program. 

The Facade
The broad facade retains the retablo form, but on a grander and more theatrical scale. Within its playfully geometric framework, the San Agustín facade is un abashed y sculptural. Its principal features—octagonal columns with slashed spirals, the polygonal main door way, the coffered choir window, the faceted projecting cornices and sausage-like friezes encrusted with foliage—all reveal a disciplined but highly mannered architecture that deliberately attracts attention to itself, clearly rejecting the self-effacing restraint of the traditional Querétaro style. 
St Augustine - facade statue
The eye-catching sculpture seems especially idiosyncratic. Narrow scalloped niches squeezed between the spiral half columns house the statuary—a gallery of elongated figures that includes St. Augustine and St. Francis below, and the Augustinian saints Santa Mónica and Santa Rita de Cascia on the middle level. 

The Crucifix
Pilasters bearing atlantean figures with smiling, childlike visages and leafy skirts flank the large upper niche, where a large cruciform frame encloses the foreshortened figure of Christ on the cross—a motif seen in other regional Augustinian churches. The niche is a sculptural tour-de-force, profusely decorated with vines and swirling foliage in high relief. Fantastic, siren-like caryatids cling below, and naked cherubs gaze down from above. 
   The longhaired figure of Christ is configured in the manner of the crucifixes at Salamanca and Irapuato, but in our view sculpted with greater finesse. Mounted in a niche ornamented with swirling vines and foliage, the somewhat foreshortened figure is sensitively portrayed, the drawn features of Christ’s Face sagging beneath the heavy tiara of the Tres Potencias that crowns his brow.
text, drawing and photography © 1995 & 2019 Richard D. Perry