Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Hidalgo. Mapethé, the altarpieces

 In an earlier post we looked at the superb carved cross in the atrium at Mapethé. Here we turn our attention to the opulent baroque altarpieces inside the church.

The first church here was founded around 1540 or 1545 although the building took many years to complete.  In 1621 a hurricane destroyed half of the roof of the chapel leaving the church abandoned and in ruins. 

In 1728 permission was obtained from the viceroy, Juan Vázquez de Acuña and Bejarano, 1st Marquis of Casafuerte for the construction of a new one to replace the original church.

On the lintel of the archway that leads to the altarpiece, the date is engraved: May 26, 1737; with the name of the master builder Gregorio Durán. In 1739 the main arches for the vaults were closed, and by 1744 the architect Nicolás de la Cruz  took charge.

nave view

The Altarpieces 

Inside there are five wooden altarpieces in late baroque style, a project of the bachelor Antonio Fuentes de León, the first priest, from 1751, 

The main altarpiece was finished gilding on May 15, 1765, and by 1773 the two side altarpieces nearest the presbytery had been completed.

Between 1775 and 1778 two other altarpieces were added. All were  completed  by 1792.

THE MAIN ALTARPIECE, is the most elaborate and opulent of the set. Two pairs of complex estipite columns frame the figures: reliefs and sculptures of saints, virgins and masks; the only paintings being smaller lateral oval paintings with representations of little angels holding crosses, blankets with Latin inscriptions. 

An inscription at the bottom contains the date of completion of the altarpiece: May 15, 1775. 

The other altarpieces have similar characteristics to the main altarpiece, such as the paired columns and oval pictures of angels, but the designs feature paintings rather than sculpture.


 On the left side of the nave are the altarpieces with scenes from the life of Christ (Man of Sorrows) and the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows respectively. 

Guadalupe;  Santa Rosalia

On the right side of the nave are the retablos of  THE VIRGIN OF GUADALUPE; AND another dedicated TO SANTA ROSALÍA with painted scenes from the life of the saint.

Las Animas

Below the choir area on the left side of the nave is the canvas of Las Animas whose main image is the Virgen del Carmen, crowned by five cherubs and surrounded by a red curtain. She gestures from the center of the scene, down towards the souls in purgatory engulfed in flames.

The Virgin is flanked by several saints notably Saint John the baptist; St. Joseph, San Nicolás de Tolentino; and St. Francis of Assisi. 

In 1964 a fire caused by the candles damaged much of this altarpiece. Restoration work on the painting of Las Ánimas was carried out during the seasons of July 1997, August 1998 and August 2000.

Since the 1980s, this building and its contents has become an ideal location for training and research on conservation and restoration, led by the Manuel del Castillo Negrete National Conservation, Restoration and Museography School (ENCRyM) of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) 

text © 2021 Richard D. Perry

color images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker & Benjamin Arredondo

Monday, September 13, 2021

Hidalgo. The Chapels of Metztitlan: the smaller chapels

In addition to the former visitas of the great Augustinian priory of Metztitlan that we described earlier, there are a number of lesser churches and chapels in the area, mostly dependent at one time on the priory.
   Although changes have been made to some of these chapels over time, many remain largely in their original form, for the most part following the regional pattern of a plain whitewashed rectangular front capped by an espadaña or wall belfry like the mother church.
   We list these chapels below in no particular order, starting with San Juan Metztitlan:
San Juan Metztitlan, small chapel on raised platform
Jilotlan: classic configuration with domed apse, buttressed and battlemented nave
and high rectangular front with espadaña
Olotla (with a small tower instead of a wall belfry)
Amajatlan, another typical profile with tall front and belfry
Palmar, more of a chapel than a church
Tlatepexé, rustic barrio chapel
text © 2020  Richard D. Perry
images from online sources

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Hidalgo. Santa Monica

In this post we return to Hidalgo to look at the conventual church of Santa Monica near Epazoyucan.
The church is all that remains of a 16th century Franciscan mission here, although considerably altered in the 1700s by all appearances.
The West Front
The most striking aspect of the facade is the elaborately framed original doorway, whose broad jambs and surmounting alfiz are carved with a variety of complex floral reliefs, from swirling flowering vines to more compact bush like plants, that give the ensemble a disruptive, staccato rhythm that may have been intentional.   
   The archway of the entry is emphatically framed by the Franciscan knotted cord and linked rosettes.
Curiously, stylized reliefs of more bushy potted plants stand out in the spandrels above, where one might expect Franciscan insignia such as the Stigmata, which may signify the former sacred association of these, possibly psychoactive plants.
The Main Retablo
This unusual gilded altarpiece, set in the apse—in front of the sacristy or former open chapel— is notable for its numerous sculpture niches, also framed with a variety of supports.
   The broad center pavilion is flanked by wings on either side with complex spiral columns which date the retablo to most likely the early 1700s.
St Jerome
St Augustine
A variety of Franciscan and Augustinian saints fill the niches, while distinctive painted reliefs of the Fathers of the Latin Church, notably Saints Jerome and Augustine occupy panels in the base predella.

text © 2021 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker except where noted.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Yucatán. Tixhualatun, the Candelaria chapel

For the last in our new series on Yucatán, we showcase a now rare feature in colonial era churches and chapels.

While many residential structures in Yucatán have palm thatched roofs, few religious buildings are now so covered. While most mission churches in early colonial times bore thatched roofs or ramadas, most were later replaced by some form of wood or masonry vaulting.

La Candelaria chapel
One recent exception that has come to our notice is the tiny Candelaria chapel at Tixhualatún, near Peto in the southern tip of the state of Yucatán, although probably of fairly modern construction.

roofless nave & sanctuary
The original mission of San Francisco Tixhualatún remains in ruins, a victim of the Caste War that raged through the region in the mid 1800s. Its roofless masonry nave serves as a cemetery, and the old stone font stands beside the south wall.

text © 2021 Richard D. Perry
color photography courtesy of Jurgen Putz