Friday, May 29, 2020

Oaxaca: San Juan Bautista Coatzóspam

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 second of two churches in the foggy mountain region of northern Oaxaca known as La Cañada, close to the Puebla border, which still house fine late colonial altarpieces:
San Juan Bautista Coatzóspam (Serpent Peak)
Capped by a pitched roof and flanked by a squat belltower, the square front of the parish church presents a simple arched doorway and choir window framed by whitewashed paired pilasters.
the church in the fog
The spartan church front hardly prepares the visitor for the interior, spanned by a rustic wooden beamed ceiling and choir loft, and housing a group of gilded baroque altarpieces.
the main altarpiece
Although showing signs of long term neglect and wear and tear, all the altarpieces evince elegant and once costly workmanship and ornament. Worn but finely crafted statuary fill the niches against fading gilded columns and pilasters headed with atlantean busts.
main altarpiece details

The other altarpieces in the nave are fashioned in the later baroque style, replete with estípite pilasters and richly gilded ornament. The retablo dedicated to the Virgin of Sorrows, is in better condition than the worn main altarpiece, and is notable for its silver altar in front.

A smaller side altar of Las Animas with Our Lady of Mt Carmel, displays an arresting bust of an agonized soul consumed by the flames of Purgatory.
Please visit earlier posts in this series: AyotlaSanto Domingo del ValleTomaltepec;TamazulapanSoyaltepecYautepec
text © 2020 Richard D. Perry
color photography courtesy of Niccolo Brooker, who brought this church to our attention.

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