The simple baroque exterior of this little chapel, located close to San Francisco and dedicated to the rarely honored Virgin of La Defensa, is another minor Oaxacan classic.
Rebuilt between 1786 and 1792 after an earthquake in 1795, the cruciform church features sober portals, rebuilt more than once following further quakes—west and north facing—with attractive baroque accents.
Pillowed pilasters and layered cornices frame the more elaborate north doorway, which is capped by a fanciful curving pediment adorned with urns and volutes. The statue of a Spanish hidalgo bearing the insignia of the Order of Calatrava—probably a benefactor of the church—sits in the overhead niche.
La Defensa is also worth a visit for its Churrigueresque main retablo. As glimpsed from the west entry, the altarpiece radiates a golden glow at the dim far end of the chapel. Two tiers of elongated estípites bracket several dark 18th century paintings portraying the Life of the Virgin, each enclosed by a complex mixtilinear frame. Swirling, shell-like forms fill the intervening spaces and cover the finely worked, gilded altar table in front. In the central niche rests the image of the Virgin known as The Sweet Name of Maria.
A second gilded altarpiece in similar style, dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, stands in a painted niche along the nave.
Also of note is another colonial art work, that of St Joseph with the Christ Child
text 2005/2022 Richard D. Perry
pictures by the author and from online sources
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