Monday, November 22, 2021

Puebla. Izúcar de Matamoros,

Named for the militant saint Santiago Matamoros, this town’s best known colonial monument is the old Dominican convento of Santo Domingo.

The 18th century parish church, or Santuario of Santiago Apostol is another. Built in the later 1700s, it is ornamented and furnished in the prevailing barroco estípite style with Pueblan accents.

The first feature of note is the splendid western triple gateway, an eye-catching assemblage of angular columns, broken pediments and spiny pinnacles, interposed with now empty shell niches.

The church facade is divided by elongated pilasters, and distinguished by the fantastic bell tower, adorned with complex spiral columns and passages of zigzag poblano tilework.

The church interior was damaged during the 2017 earthquake when the cupola above the apse collapsed. The remaining colonial art works, fortunately undamaged, are two late baroque gilded altarpieces set in the shallow transepts of the Santuario.

Our Lady of Sorrows altarpiece

One is dedicated to our Lady of Sorrows and the other appears to be to St Christopher, whose mutilated statue stands prominently in the center niche.

Both retablos feature painted panels of female saints and martyrs framed by ornate estípite pilasters. and swirling rocaille relief.

As noted, the church sustained considerable damage in the earthquake of 2017. Work of reconstruction and restoration is under way.

text © 2021 Richard D. Perry

images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker, who brought this monument to our renewed attention, and online sources

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Puebla. San Diego Huejotzingo

In a previous post we looked at two side altars in the chapel of San Diego Huejotzingo, Here we take a broader view of the chapel and its other features of interest.
We begin with the eclectic chapel front, which although refaced in faux brickwork, retains its generous Mannerist doorframe and in the gable ring a venerable, battered statue of Virgin and child, and above that, a worn statue of the titular saint.

A blind arcade on the north side of the church frames a large relief of St Francis, receiving the Stigmata?
But the church interior holds the finest pieces, notably the retablos and the spectacularly roofed sacristy.
   As noted, we have already described the side altars; here we look at the expansive main altarpiece—a worthy companion to its 16th century counterpart at San Miguel Huejotzingo. Framed with spiral columns, this 17th century retablo showcases canvases illustrating scenes from the life and miracles of San Diego de Alcalá; his statue looks out from the upper middle niche.
Death of St Joseph;             Coronation of the Virgin
Two large paintings of a later date flank the main altarpiece to either side. One depicts the coronation of the Virgin and the other what appears to be the Death of Joseph.
Aside from the previously mentioned side altars, another, fashioned in late baroque estípite style stands out: that devoted to the Immaculate Conception. The statue of the Virgin is flanked by portraits of her parents Sts Joachim and Anne.

In front of the main retablo stands the original well around which the chapel was built. There is also an early stone font ringed by the Franciscan cord and and Isabelline "cannonballs."

Another treasure here is the church sacristy, roofed by an elegant mudéjar style wooden artesonado paneled ceiling dotted with star shaped bosses.

text © 2021 Richard D. Perry
color images © Niccolo Brooker and 
José Ignacio Lanzagorta

Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Altarpieces of Yucatan: Izamal

In our earlier series on the altarpieces of Yucatán * we neglected to include those at Izamal, one of the handful of major Franciscan monasteries in the peninsula.  We remedy this omission in this post.
Built by the controversial Bishop Landa in the 1550s, the great church and adjacent convento of Izamal are sited atop a vast former Maya pyramid, known as Papholchac (House of Heads and Lightning) 
   It was dedicated to the Virgin of Izamal, a miraculous image from Guatemala, and in colonial times became a major Marian shrine and center of pilgrimage in the region.
The Main Altarpiece
Like that at San Bernardino de Sisal, the grand main retablo at Izamal dates from later colonial times. Although evenly compartmented in conventional baroque style, it is framed by estípite columns typical of the later 1700s. 
   Constructed in two main tiers with a predella below and an elaborate gable above, the altarpiece has identical wings that cant forward on either side. 
In addition to the venerated figure of the Virgin in the principal niche, the other, classically framed niches showcase statues of Franciscan saints in the lower tier, and painted scenes from the life of the Virgin in the upper tier.
   Like that at the San Bernardino too, the altarpiece boasts the characteristically Yucatecan burgundy and gold color scheme.

text © 2002/2021 Richard D. Perry
photography by the author
for more on Yucatán consult our guidebooks

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Yucatán. Concepción Chocholá

Like Opichen, this unusual looking mission is an accretion of 16th and
17th century elements, given some unity by its attractive
weathered  “rejoneado” stonework of limestone rubble and chips.
   The 16th century visita was one of several attached to the large
mission at Uman a few miles up the 'Camino Real' towards
Originally it was a simple an open chapel with side chambers, which now forms the core of the sanctuary and adjacent sacristy of the church.
   At the beginning of the 17th century, the mission was
expanded and construction started on the church and monastery.
Now largely ruined, the monastery block to the north east of the church was a compact structure. 
   Although there were arcades flanking the building there does not appear to have been a full cloister. Instead, the central area was vaulted for use as a large room; possibly a school or refectory, The main arch
which supported the roof is still in place.

It is possible that the open chapel,with its great dome
was also enlarged at this time, the two tier
espadana with 
decorative finials added above it, although maybe original, may have been later.

The church seems to be typical early 17th century. The
single, barrel-vaulted nave, heavy construction and plain
masonry all point to this date, the nave braced by projecting buttresses
   The nave windows, on the north and south sides have curious polygonal openings in_moorish style although the windows themselves are square. (These too may be a later alteration.) 
The doorways are framed in simple Renaissance fashion with unusual carved capitals on the jambs, those on the west porch depicting what appear to be angels, one superimposed upon another, probably at different times.
   The facade itself is incomplete, having no towers or
'espadana', and simply following the outlines of the walls and
barrel vault. The central part containing the porch and choir
window is framed by a round arch set on giant pilasters
   Towers and an upper facade may have been planned but appear never to have been built. 
 The facade inscription is indecipherable, but a carved plaque on the first south buttress is dated 1615. 
 On the north side of the nave an unusual feature is the rounded
stairway tower of medieval aspect with its dome and slit
openings illuminating the caracol stairway within.
text © 1984/2021 Richard D. Perry
images © the author