Friday, January 13, 2023

Chiapas. Cuxtitali

This charming little ermita church is located at the heart of a barrio on the northeast edge of the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas. Built in the 1650s, it was originally subject to the nearby priory of Santo Domingo.
Cuxtitali is a classic pueblo-de-indios church, its simple nave covered by a pitched artesonado roof in the Chiapanec style. Brick buttresses reinforce the original adobe walls and an external stairway on the north side gives access to the raised, wooden choir.
    The facade is a rustic delight with ever changing colors. Recently, its naive architectural and decorative elements were picked out in baby blue against the brilliant whitewashed front. The rounded arches of the various openings—the doorway, the choir window, the side niches and the upper bell arcade—create a pleasing counterpoint to the grid of flat pilasters and string courses. Whimsical corner volutes and a zig-zag frieze energize the undulating gable of the espadaña, which is also accented by a trio of red bells. 
But the most intriguing feature of the facade is the cluster of naive stucco reliefs depicting the instruments of Christ's Passion. The sacred heart, embossed above the choir window, stands amid the scourge, the crown of thorns, the crowing cock and the hammer and nails, accompa-nied by a pair of hovering angels. A ladder and an overflowing chalice appear on the adjacent pilasters flanked by a folksy sun and moon.
Seasonal decoration of the church reaches its height during the barrio fiesta of El Dulce Nombre de Jesús, held early in January. At that time, the venerable statue of San Sebastián, which stands on an altar in the church, is dressed in an elaborately looped loincloth, Guatemalan style, in readiness for his saint's day at the end of the month.

text and images © 2023 Richard D. Perry
all rights reserved

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