Thursday, April 29, 2021

Ixtacamaxtitlan.2 San Francisco

Next in our series of posts on the churches of northern Puebla we consider the conventual church of San Francisco Ixtacamaxtitlan.

The former convento of San Francisco here was founded in 1542 and served the Seraphic Order until 1567, when the building passed to the secular clergy and served as the parish church, which it remains.

The church takes the basilican form with side aisles divided by rows of pillars. Two substantial side chapels open off the nave, one dedicated to El Señor del Buen Viaje, and the second dedicated to the Virgin of Carmen.

El Señor del Buen Viaje

This chapel is notable for its several gilded altarpieces, fashioned in the early "solomonic" baroque style and framed with ornate spiral columns. 

The Virgin of Carmen

Here the principal altarpiece is later, designed in a modified barroco estípite style. The Virgin of Carmen occupies the center vitrine; both she and the child Jesus hold traditional scapulars, adorned with the Carmelite insignia.

Both chapels are reputed to contain paintings by noted Pueblan artists, Lorenzo Zendejas and Juan de Villalobos.

text © 2021 Richard D. Perry

photography by Niccolo Brooker and from online resources

Friday, April 23, 2021

Puebla. Ixtacamaxtitlan 1

Like most people we love ruins, in our case remnant colonial churches across Mexico.

In this post and others to follow we continue our survey of churches in northern Puebla, starting with the picturesque roofless church of Saints Cosmas & Damien on the outskirts of San Francisco Ixtacamaxtitlan in the state of Puebla near Chignahuapan in the Sierra Norte de Puebla.
Although undated, the church, a Franciscan visita, was founded on a former temple site and appears to have been built or enlarged in the 17th century, with a long single nave and facade extending out from an earlier chancel or open chapel whose blocky structure still rises from the east end.
The church is essential untouched since the loss of its roof. The facade is modest enough with a plain doorway, octagonal rose window and a steep gable that formerly framed a pitched, possibly thatched, roof.

Despite long exposure to the elements, remnants of early murals still adorn the nave walls, portraying birds and foliage including the two-headed Habsburg Imperial eagle.

text © 2021 Richard D. Perry
color photography courtesy of Niccolo Brooker

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Puebla. La Natividad Patla

We continue with our coverage of churches of interest in the region of northern Puebla with a look at La Natividad Patla.

This unassuming church and community is found near Zacatlan close to the Vera Cruz border.

The 17th century church was refaced in late colonial times with a folk baroque front currently painted bright blue. Although much of the foliated facade ornament is blurred by successive applications of paint, heavily whitewashed statuary and whimsical angel reliefs provide some contrast.

The bleakness of the largely bare nave is partially relieved by the gleaming colonial altarpiece in the north transept, fashioned in late baroque style, its ornate gilded niches neatly divided by estipite pilasters.
St. Peter;                                      St. Anne 
Sts Peter and Paul occupy the inner niches in the main tier, flanked by the parents of the Virgin, Joachim and Anne in the outer ones. The archangel Michael gestures from the upper tier.
The image of the Virgin of the Nativity rests in the undistinguished main retablo, emerging on her feast day to circulate through the pueblo in procession.
text © 2021 Richard D. Perry
images © Niccolo Brooker and from online sources.

Friday, April 9, 2021

San Luis Potosí. El Santuario del Desierto

In previous posts we looked at some outstanding late colonial buildings in the city of San Luis Potosí. Another area church of interest is the Santuario del Desierto, located to the immediate west of the capital.  

   Originally a small hermitage consecrated to San Juan Bautista, the temple was built in 1635. But it was not until the year 1735, according to inscriptions in the Sanctuary, that the construction of the present building took place—a pilgrimage shrine devoted to the cult of Guadalupe.

The Sanctuary front is simple, its classically framed brownstone facade flanked by two domed bell towers. Shell niches hold statues of noted saints including San Luis Rey, San Miguel Arcángel, & San Nicolás Tolentino, with the Virgin of Guadalupe at the top.
The other exterior item of interest is the atrium cross cut from red sandstone that retains a few eroded reliefs.

The nave and high altar

Set in an otherwise sparsely furnished nave, the handsome 18th century gilded main altarpiece has a broad central pavilion flanked by projecting wings that house statuary as well as paintings depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin.
The Annunciation;                      Nativity of the Virgin
John the Baptist;                 St Anne
Flanked by the statues of Sts Joachim & Anne, the central image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is a rare signed work by the noted Pueblan painter Lorenzo de la Piedra—dated 1625 and like that at Mexquitic (see previous post)  among the earliest art works in the region.
text © 2021 Richard D. Perry
images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker and from online sources

see our earlier page on the Temple of Carmen

Friday, April 2, 2021

San Luis Potosí. San Miguel Mexquitic,

Recently our attention was drawn to the conventual church of San Miguel Mexquitic de Carmona in the western part of San Luis Potosi state, NW of the capital.
   Mexquitic was a colonial mining town founded to house workers from Tlaxcala who were imported to work the mines as were others in the region including not too distant Pinos in the state of Zacatecas.
The original Franciscan mission from the 1590s, one of the first in the region, was rebuilt in the 1700s, when the front was redesigned in provincial baroque style. The upper facade contains three sculpture niches which contain statues of the archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.
San Miguel
San Rafael                       San Gabriel

Like the Pinos churches, San Miguel Mexquitic houses a main retablo very much in the late baroque estípite style, which suggests the possible involvement of the Ureña family and their principal retablista Juan Garcia de Castañeda.
While the gable of the altarpiece appears to be a later addition, the main tier of prominent estipites framing expansive niche-pilasters replete with statuary and figure sculpture bears a strong family resemblance to Ureña/Castañeda retablos throughout the region.
   A flamboyant archangel Michael occupies the broad center niche, while Franciscan saints stand in the flanking niches. 
before restoration
The most interesting feature of this altarpiece, however, is the painting of San Miguel in the upper part (Gable). This is a copy of the original, now housed in the sacristy and recently restored. During restoration, the painting was determined to date from the late 16th or early 17th centuries, possibly brought by the early settlers and likely the oldest  known colonial artwork in the state, possibly once installed in an earlier retablo.
detail of painting as restored

text © 2021 Richard D. Perry
color images © Tanja Mastroiacovo & Niccolo Brooker