Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Morelos. Oaxtepec: Hospital de Santa Cruz.

Oaxtepec is best known for its early Dominican priory, but the other early colonial monument of importance here, now largely in ruins, was in its day celebrated across New Spain and beyond.

Founded by the Hyppolitan Order of Hospitallers in 1586, it was one of a group of convalescent refuges for the sick and mentally ill. The lush location was already renowned for its benevolent climate, hot springs, botanical diversity and as a former retreat of the Aztec emperors.

Built  by drafts of native labor from across the region, the hospital complex was known for its extensive lodgings and broad outdoor patios, which can still be visited. The hospital was run by the Brotherhood of Charity (Los hermanos de la caridad) enjoying many land and financial grants for its support, and over the years it hosted many patients of note, including the chronicler Gregorio L√≥pez.

The primitive early chapel was replaced by the present substantial church building in the mid-1600s, constructed largely of stone with brick vaulting. 

 This single nave church was abandoned in the mid-1700s after an earthquake and was further damaged by the temblor of 2017. Repair and conservation work are under way to stabilize and restore the structure. 

The fine brick arcades of the patio adjoining the church although eroded still stand after much restoration.

Traces of mural decoration lighten the otherwise austere interior.

text © 2021 Richard D. Perry
color images courtesy of Niccolo Brooker and from online sources

Friday, February 11, 2022

Mexico. The Angels of Tulpetlac

In our previous post we explored the churchyard crosses of Tulpetlac, north of Mexico City. Here we look at the reliefs and statues of angels, mostly archangels, that adorn the walls of the church.
   The works fall into two categories: 1. freestanding statues atop the atrium walls. and 2. reliefs embedded in the church walls.
Both depict archangels mostly holding Instruments of The Passion. 
Veronica;                               Three nails
The statues are skillfully carved with swirling skirts, carefully detailed spread wings and buskins, and stand atop pedestals faced with relief rosettes.

Cross;                                        Spear and Hyssop
The reliefs are carved in the same manner, probably by the same stone masons, and may simply represent angels rather than archangels.

text ©2022 Richard D. Perry
photography © Niccolo Brooker

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Mexico. the Crosses of Tulpetlac

This is the first of two posts on the stone sculptures of Tulpetlac, in Mexico State (edomex)
Once an important Aztec center, Tulpetlac (Place of Tule Mats) was later closely associated with San Juan Diego and the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Although the church has been altered since the 1500s and is now jointly dedicated to Santa Maria and El Cristo Rey, much of the original Franciscan ornament survives, most prominently the doorway with its carved eagles, serpents and rosettes.
archaic relief of the Virgin above doorway

But one of the chief glories of Tulpetlac is the group of finely carved, quite ornate crosses found within its precincts.
Three closely related crosses stand atop the atrium walls and gateway:

El Pilar Cross
This exceptional cross now stands above one corner of the NW atrium wall. Sometimes known as El Pilar, it is strikingly similar to that at nearby Tultepec, reminiscent in its detail of the classic sculpted crosses of Guadalupe and Atzacoalco.
   Cylindrical arms and shaft display a full complement of Passion reliefs carved in the round rather than in a flat, tequitqui style. A delicately sculpted Face projects from the crossing ringed by a spiny Crown around the neck.
   Prominent Sun and Moon reliefs decorate the arms along with slender, pierced Wounds. Stars appear on the reverse of the arms.

As at Guadalupe, star-shaped floral finials cap the arms and the cross is headed by a bescrolled INRI plaque inset with angels’ heads. The abbreviated petals on the finials of all three crosses strongly resemble cacao beans—perhaps a prehispanic survival.
Cross #2
A second cross stands atop a section of the wall to the southwest. Sparely carved, with more widely spaced reliefs, this cross may be the model for its sister cross. It also boasts a sculpted Face at the crossing and a prominent “soft” Crown encircling the neck.
As with El Pilar, Sun and Moon reliefs on the arms are complemented by Stars on the reverse. 
The Gateway Cross
The third, smallest, and most decorative of the crosses is perched atop the brightly painted atrium gateway. Reputedly a replica of an earlier cross in the same location, like the others it features a panoply of In- struments carved in high relief.
   An exceptionally prominent Face of a youthful looking Christ, fully modeled in the round with chiseled features and wreathed by wavy hair, puts the adjacent soft Crown and Wounds in the shade.
   The oversized INRI plaque atop the cross is extravagantly framed by feathery scrolls with cherubs.

text ©2022 Richard D. Perry
photography © Niccolo Brooker