Monday, May 25, 2020

Oaxaca: San José Tenango

In earlier posts we have remarked on the survival of elegant colonial altarpieces in otherwise modest country churches across Oaxaca. On this page we look at the first of two churches in the foggy mountain region of northern Oaxaca known as La Cañada, close to the Puebla border, which house fine examples of late colonial, gilded altarpieces.
We consider first the church of San José Tenango. Beyond its unassuming pitched front, fine gilded altarpieces light up the nave beneath a handsome beamed ceiling.
The main retablo mayor in the apse is the star, its complex estípite pilasters, capped by caryatid busts, set against a swirling tapestry of gilded ornament.  Colonial statues include those of Sts Peter and Paul, with the patron St Joseph in the top tier and the Virgin Mary in the center.

A second altarpiece is dedicated to our Lady Of Sorrows. Fashioned in a similar manner although less richly than the main retablo, it features spiral columns in traditional Oaxacan style.
   One item of note in the retablo is an image of El Niño Doctor,
the Christ Child portrayed as a physician - a recent and burgeoning cult across Mexico, perhaps reflecting the inadequacy of health care there.
The presence of these elegant and costly furnishings in a humble country church speaks to the traditional piety and former
wealth of this now overlooked rural community.
Please visit earlier posts in this series: Ayotla; Santo Domingo del Valle; Tomaltepec; Tamazulapan; Soyaltepec; Yautepec

text © 2020 Richard D. Perry
altarpiece photography courtesy of Niccolo Brooker, who brought this church to our attention.

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