Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Yucatan. San Pedro Tekal

Tekal “Stone House with Flat Roof”

The little yellow church of San Pedro Tekal stands on a high platform, formerly a Maya temple mound. A steep flight of steps leads up to the gated entry of the walled atrium.
The arcaded triple espadaña above the church front, decorated with onion finials, was probably added in the 1800s.
The elevated apse, battlemented and supporting a belfry, may date from the 16th century when Tekal was a visita of Izamal. 
The nave is vaulted in traditional manner with log ceilings resting on broad stone archesThe sacristy is reached through a narrow passageway and contains several crucifixes. 

The silo-like stair tower on the north side, encloses a classic spiral caracol stairway, and a venerable monolithic baptismal font still stands in the nave.

Main Retablo
This altarpiece rests in the apse, framed by variety of spiral columns that enclose ornate reliefs. A statue of St Peter, the titular saint, occupies the upper niche.

text and images © 2022 Richard D. Perry

Monday, December 5, 2022

Yucatan. Tixhualactún

Tixhualactún, " place where one graven stone is placed upon another ”
is located just southeast of Valladolid, Yucatán's second city.
The most striking feature when you enter Tixhualactún is the huge crumbling old 17th century church on the main plaza, La Iglesia del Santo Cristo de la Exaltación or The Church of Saint Christ of the Exultation. 
Many of the building materials used to build this old church were in fact re-cycled from a previous Mayan temple standing here, said to be dedicated to the Maya god of rain and thunder, Chaac.
   In a state of nearly total neglect the substantial stone structure lost its vaulted roof to a cave-in—possibly a casualty of lightning strikes or more likely the result of fierce fighting here during the 19th century Caste War.

The facade is spectacularly cracked from top to bottom, threatening collapse. The entry archway is adorned by relief rosettes, an unusual feature in Yucatán.
Within the roofless nave, whose exposed walls are plain and rain streaked, a makeshift tin roofed shed stands before the lofty arched sanctuary, probably originally built as part of a former open “indian” chapel here.
Ogee arches and Moorish style pillars of the church porteria.

text ©2022 Richard D. Perry
images by the author and from online sources

to review our Yucatan posts search under this name

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Puebla. San Agustín.

Although its formal name is "Temple of the Incarnation of Our Lady" or "Santa María de Gracia", this city church is best known as San Agustín after the religious order that built it. Construction began in 1555, however,  it was not opened for worship until 1612, still unfinished.
The west front is designed in classic 
sober Pueblan style, and dates from the 17th century. It is divided by Doric-style pilasters, some fluted, that enclose shell niches housing sculptures of notable saints of the Order: Saint Monica and, among others, San Nicolás Tolentino, San Guillermo de Tolosa and San Juan de Sahagún.
statues of St Monica (l) and John of Sahagún (r)

San Agustín relief - detail
In the upper part there is a marble relief representing "The vision of Saint Augustine" The saint is seen praying on his knees flanked by Latin inscriptions: hence I feed from the wound, hence I nurse to suckle, referring to reliefs of Christ crucified and the Virgin Mary respectively in the upper corners of the tableau.

The renovated interior of the church is distinguished by the imposing statue of St Augustine above the main altar, and a old, scarred crucifix known as El Santo Cristo de Burgos.
text © 2022 Richard D. Perry
images from online sources
for other posts on Puebla search under that heading

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Morelos. San Agustín Tepetlixpita

The chapel of San Agustín Tepetlixpita is one of several isolated open chapels dating from the early years (mid-1500s) of the evangelization of the region by the Augustinians; in this case as a visita of nearby Totolapan and Huatlatlahuca.
elevations by JB Artigas
Although altered over the centuries, the basic plan and structure has endured; it consists of a square apse with a rectangular transverse nave attached in front. 
The apse is framed by battlemented walls with a belfry, and capped by a dome.
current view -2021
The nave is fronted by a plain triple arcade braced by intervening buttresses; all archways were open at one time but are now partially blocked with the exception of the altered central arch now framing the entry.
A rare early regional example of a chapel with a transverse nave in this region.

text © 2022 Richard D. Perry
Graphic © Juan Benito Artigas. Photography by Niccolo Brooker and Robert Jackson

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Puebla. San Jerónimo Coyula

Following our post on St Jerome, we now visit a church dedicated to the saint.

Located near the historic Pueblan town of Atlixco, and best known for its former grand hacienda, now in ruins, San Jerónimo Coyula is also home to a later colonial parish church.
The renovated church front features a plain arched entry flanked by paired spiral columns on two levels. 
The gable is rimmed by an arched cornice and encloses a shell niche containing a battered statue of the patron in a penitential pose—kneeling while mortifying himself with a stone beside a lion, his animal companion. 
Folkloric reliefs of archangels stand on either side, while a large, fanciful relief of a rampant lion brackets the gable on its south side.
   A handsome two tier bell tower flanks the facade on its north side, the elongated openings framed by estípite pilasters with mask like capitals.
Cut stone crosses cap the gable and stand in the adjacent cloister patio.

text © 2022 Richard D. Perry
photography  courtesy of Niccolo Brooker and Diana Roberts

Monday, October 24, 2022

St. Jerome in Mexico

painting: Tecali, Puebla
St. Jerome was a much traveled and prolific 4th century writer, polemicist and translator, his most famous work being his translation of the Bible into Latin (The Vulgate)
mural: Teabó, Yucatán (Jerome with book, pen, lion and trumpet)

As a result, Jerome is often represented in western art as one of the four Doctors of the Latin Church (along with Saints Augustine, Ambrose, and Pope Gregory I.) usually seated with a pen and book. He frequently appears with the other Doctors on the predellas of major altarpieces in colonial churches.
 altarpieces: San Felipe de Los Alzate, and Tupataro (Michoacan)
Jerome is frequently accompanied by a lion, in reference to the popular belief that he had tamed a lion in the wilderness by healing its paw. This story may have been conflated with the second century Roman tale of Androcles.

mural: Purificación Teotihuacán;                                                  altarpiece:  Mani, Yucatán
As a secretary to the pope Damasus 1 (a.d. 366 - 384) he has often been portrayed anachronistically as a cardinal, often with a red, tasseled cardinal’s hat (also the insignia of the eremitic Hieronymites or Order of St. Jerome closely associated with the Spanish Augustinians) 
Insignia of the Hieronymites
mural: Tetela del Volcán, Morelos
Because of the latter years he spent as a hermit and penitent in the desert, he is often depicted as a half-clad anchorite with a crucifix, skull and Bible in his cell or cave in the wilderness. In this role he is usually portrayed kneeling while beating his naked chest with a rock, as he contemplates the suffering Christ on the cross.
Tlacochahuaya, Oaxaca. facade statue
He is sometimes depicted with an owl, representing wisdom and scholarship, and a trumpet as a symbol of God’s Word and of Judgment Day.
Santa Mónica, Hidalgo. relief
San Jerónimo Coyula,  facade gable with penitent statue of Jerome, and lion relief
In popular Mexican art he is portrayed with at least one or several of these attributes.
Big and Little St Jerome, Yaxcopoil, Yucatán

text © 2017 Richard D. Perry.
images by the author, ©Niccolo Brooker and online sources.

see our earlier posts on popular and less well known saints as portrayed in Mexico:

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Santa Cruz de Tlaxcala: a side altar

A while back we ran a series of posts on altarpieces in Tlaxcala, as well as a special feature on unique paintings in the celebrated church of Santa Cruz.
retablo of Santa Elena
In this post we look at another retablo in the church, one dedicated to a seldom referenced saint Santa Elena, or St. Helen, the mother of  the emperor Constantine the Great.
main altarpiece
Fashioned in the Solomonic baroque style, like the highly ornate main altarpiece of the church, resplendent with gilded spiral columns, the retablo showcases a statue of the saint in the center niche holding a cross, surrounded by paintings relating episodes in her legendary discovery of the true cross.

text © 2022 Richard D.Perry
color pictures by the author and Niccolo Brooker.
See our posts on other Tlaxcalan retablos: Tepeyanco; Zacatelco; Santa Cruz de Tlaxcala; Apetatitlan; San Jose

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Zacatecas. The Cathedral 2

This the second of two posts on the magnificent cathedral of Zacatecas.
Besides the west front, the cathedral possesses two contrasting facades framing the lateral entries. Both are later than the main body of the cathedral dating from the 1770s.
The South facade more closely follows the west front: the doorway, framed here by geometrical relief, is flanked by tritostyle columns encrusted with vine reliefs. Above, the figure of N.Sra. de los Zacatecos occupies a grand niche flanked by spiral columns and medallions of saints enveloped by passages of dense floral vegetation. Two archangels and an ornamental cross cap the facade.
Although of similar date, the North facade is fashioned in a more eclectic manner: winged caryatids cap the Corinthian columns to either side of the doorway above which angels hover with Instruments of the Passion in the spandrels.
The upper section is dominated by a curtained Calvary scene in which the crucified Christ is flanked by figures of the Virgin and St. John set on pedestals supported by putti. Freestanding reliefs of angels outflank the framing estípite pilasters.
   As in the west facade, God the Father emerges from banks of scrolling relief foliage in the crowning gable.

text © 2022 Richard D. Perry
photography courtesy of Niccolo Brooker

Friday, September 23, 2022

Zacatecas. The Cathedral of the Assumption 1

In earlier posts we have looked at various colonial treasures in the state and city of Zacatecas*.
In this and a subsequent post we tackle the preeminent monument in the city: the cathedral of the Assumption.  See our earlier post on the cathedral crucifix.
This unique baroque building boasts three facades of unparalleled ornamental richness, informed by a popular feeling. Begun in 1729, several noted designers and architects contributed to its final appearance. 
In this first post we look at the west front of the cathedral, a classic example of Mexican horror vacui with no surface left undecorated. 
The fantastical, shield like facade, sculpted in rose colored stone, rises in three tiers, each framed by spiral columns wreathed in vines, shells and angels; pearls fruit and feathers are embedded in the tapestry of relief vegetation that fills the intermediate spaces. 

 Between the columns ornamental niches with sculpted pedestals house figures of Christ and the Apostles—13 in all. 
Above the mixtlinear porch, a rose window also ringed by luxuriant relief opens in the middle tier,

A relief of God the Father stands alone in the surmounting gable niche, accompanied by musical angels almost lost in the mass of surrounding floral relief.

text © 2022 Richard D. Perry
photography by the author and Niccolo Brooker