Thursday, August 26, 2021

Yucatán. San Francisco Popolá

      San Francisco Popolá has a long history. It was founded in the mid-1500s as a visita of San Bernardino de Sisal and, according to Father Ponce, in 1588 it boasted "a stone church, monastery and a chapel with a ramada large enough for 1000 Indians."

 The remnants of the mission still nestle within whitewashed atrium walls capped by crosses and merlons. The steeply pitched thatched ramada was replaced early in the 17th century by the now roofless church, whose striking triangular facade is still intact, with a plaque dated 1639. 

The arched doorway is flanked by red painted pilasters headed by “floating” capitals carved with foliated reliefs.

A wall belfry is attached to the southwest corner.

A chapel has been erected inside the former nave, now partly roofed again.

 However, other parts of the 16th century visita remain, notably the original open chapel which was later incorporated into a striking two story camarín. Erected before 1750 to house a local image of the Virgin, now lost, the camarín featured an elevated altar within an arcaded gallery.

A remnant of the ruined convento lies to the north east of the church.

text © 2007/2021 Richard D. Perry

images by the author and courtesy Niccolo Brooker

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Yucatán. San Francisco Telchac

During the 1600s, the Franciscans established the substantial mission of San Francisco here, adding a spacious church and convento to the little 16th century visita chapel mentioned by Father Ponce.
The convento is now in ruins, but the church endures, its broad, rather plain facade enlivened by an undulating parapet and triple belfries.
The main item of note inside the church is the early 18th century "folk baroque" retablo, newly restored to its original red, white, blue and gold. 
The altarpiece retains its decorative green spiral columns wreathed with reliefs of vine leaves and bunches of grapes, as well as many of the original paintings and some statuary, including a figure of St Francis, the patron saint. 
A monolithic baptismal font, rimmed by the Franciscan knotted cord, stands in the nave.
The other artifact of interest is the atrium cross. Although plain it is a rarity in Yucatán.
text ©2007/ 2021 Richard D. Perry
photography by the author and © Niccolo Brooker

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Yucatan. San Francisco Cahsahcab

This is the second in our new series on eastern Yucatan missions.
As at Temax, a late 16th century mission anchors the charming 17th century church of San Francisco Cansahcab; its former open chapel, ringed with merlons, forming the raised sanctuary with an adjacent belfry.

A modest visita in Father Ponce’s time (late 1500s), San Francisco Cansahcab bloomed in the late 1600s, acquiring a convento and the vaulted stone church.
The substantial convento with its arcaded cloister adjoins the church to the northeast, fronted by an equally imposing arcaded portería. 
The pedimented facade is flanked by handsome twin belfries also set with merlons; the nave walls are also capped with castellated parapets.
Inside the simple arched entry, a pair of early stone fonts carved with the Franciscan knotted cord stands sentry: one by the doorway to the caracol stairway beside the north tower and the other in front of the baptistry, which contains another, larger monolithic baptismal basin. 
Our favorite work of art at Cansahcab, now kept in the sacristy, is the graceful, richly ornamented wooden figure of a fresh-faced Archangel Raphael holding his traditional fish.
text © 1988 & 2021 Richard D. Perry
images by the author and courtesy of Niccolo Brooker

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Yucatan. San Miguel Temax

We return this month to Yucatan to look at some lesser known churches in the eastern region of the peninsula. First the handsome early mission of San Miguel Temax.
   Visiting Temax in the 1840s, the American traveler John Lloyd Stephens was impressed with its “fine plaza with a great church and convento.”
This former visita of Dzidzantún is a classic amalgam of colonial religious architecture in Yucatan. The spacious late 16th century mission—a square open chapel, vaulted with flanking side rooms and a belfry—lies at its heart, forming the sanctuary and sacristy of the later church.
the early belfry

The 17th century church is impressive. Small transepts—uncommon in Yucatan—open up in front of the sanctuary and are now used as side chapels. The nave is lit by large lateral windows; massive nave walls support the broad barrel vault and enclose a camino de rondo.

As at nearby Dzemul, a pair of telescoped, triple-tiered towers cap the west front, which is otherwise square and rather plain except for the outsize colonnaded porch framed by serpentine borders. Carved floral panels surround the choir window, and smaller openings illuminate the tower stairway and the interior camino de rondo galleries.
As with so many Yucatecan churches, the interior was despoiled, although a handful of modest stone pilas survive along the nave. An image of the Archangel Michael—the church patron—rests in a niche above the altar. Passing through the elegant sacristy door, one can still view the remains of some rare late 16th century murals, including a Crucifixion similar in style to the frescoed niches at San Bernardino de Sisal (Chapter Four).
Temax mural; St Francis?
The convento lies to the rear of the church ADJACENT to the sanctuary. While the easterly rooms of the austere cloister may date from the 1500s, most of the convento was built in the 17th century. 
The convento has recently been renovated.
The outer arcading, however, is an 18th century addition, as are the 
cemeteryand its striking neo-Isabelline gateway on the south side of the church. 
Girded by its scalloped atrium walls and uncrowded by any neighboring buildings, San Miguel Temax dominates the settlement as it has done since early colonial times.

text © 1988 / 2021 Richard D. Perry
images by the author and © Emily Lloyd