Monday, April 13, 2020

Hidalgo. The Carved Cross of Mapethé

In an earlier series*we reviewed many of the outstanding carved stone crosses of Hidalgo, a region north of Mexico City. One exceptional example that we omitted was the celebrated cross of Mapethé, which we showcase here.
   Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra de Pachuca in central Hidalgo, with El Cardonal, Mapethé is one of two old mining towns that host popular shrines with imposing churches and “miraculous” crosses. 

Reputedly brought from Spain by a miner in the 16th century, in the following century a then decaying wooden crucifix was providentially restored. Known as El Cristo Renovado, this miraculous cross was removed to Mexico City.
   Its later colonial successor, El Señor de Mapethé, is now housed in its 18th century baroque Santuario, where it attracts primarily Otomí pilgrims and miracle seekers to this still remote community. 
The Atrium cross
In addition to the crucifix inside, a sculpted stone cross—also the venerated recipient of prayers and offerings—is mounted on a plinth in front of the church.
   Close in form and style to the San Mateito cross at Huichapan, this substantial cross has rectangular arms and shaft. Almost every surface is carved with low reliefs of most standard Passion objects, although Wounds, Cock and Column are conspicuously absent.
On the front, a boldly modeled Face of Christ with fleshy nose and lips projects from the crossing, the eroded Crown across his brow woven into his flowing locks. A large radiating Sun flanks the Face on the left, while an unusually full face Moon stands on the left. Spikes appear at the ends of either arm.
Rows of vertical objects adorn the shaft, notably an elaborate, spindly Chalice with Host flanked by Candles—a rare depiction.
Other Passion symbols are carved on the underside of the crosspiece.
The reverse side is more enigmatic, with more uncommon elements. At the axis, a stylized, wheel like Crown of Thorns motif, ringed with cog like spines, encircles an eight petaled corolla at the center. 
   Undulating waves issue from a Hand on the right arm, while an ambiguous, temple like object—possibly a Lantern—appears on the left. A Spear skewers objects along the shaft, including a rosette and Tunic at the top, and a hyssop and rows of Coins below.
   Finally, button finials terminate each arm and a bescrolled INRI block heads the cross, inscribed with the enigmatic acronym 
I R.O.S? on its reverse side. 
* Aculco, Pino Suarez; AlfajayucanAtlan; Anaya; El CardonalEl Sauz; HuichapanJaltepecLa Magdalena; NonoalcoSan JerónimoTecajique; TepeapulcoTezontepec; TlacolulaTlahuelilpa; Zempoala; Zoquizoquipan
text © 2020 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker and Robert Jackson

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