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