Saturday, February 27, 2021

Mexico. Magdalena de Las Salinas

Santa Maria Magdalena de Las Salinas
Magdalena de Las Salinas, church front
A unique atrium cross, incorporating Aztec relics, stands precariously on a street corner opposite the gateway to the modest church of Magdalena de Las Salinas, located at the heart of a poor neighborhood not far from the Basilica of Guadalupe.
In spite of its worn and fragmentary state, the Magdalena cross is an interesting oddity. The original crosspiece is missing, long ago replaced by a now crumbling cement block. But most of the black basalt shaft remains, carved on all sides with eroded but still identifiable Instruments of the Passion: a stumpy Column with a cockeyed Rooster, above what appears to be the Host on the front of the cross. 

Ladder;                                              Crossed bones

Reliefs of a Ladder and a Corn stalk growing from a Ewer or vessel are carved on the sides, and on the reverse, two crossed objects—either Crossbones or the Reed and Lance—are carved beneath what may be a splashy Wound. No INRI inscription or finials survive, and the head of the cross appears plain except for a vestigial rounded cap. 
But the most intriguing feature of the present cross is its placement atop a pyramidal base in which is embedded a large Aztec ring stone, possibly a ballcourt marker, whose recessed center continues to be used for offerings of candles and flowers.
Inside the church a notable survival is the main altarpiece, fashioned in early 18th century style with spiral columns and gilded foliated relief throughout.
   The retablo includes paintings as well as statuary, with a focus on female saints, notably the patron Mary Magdalene in the center niche.
The Holy Trinity occupies the niche in the surmounting gable.

Text & b/w images © 2021 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of Robert Jackson

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