Friday, June 9, 2023

Chiapas. San Cristobal: La Merced

We have not posted frequently on Chiapas on this blog. But we have two new posts on this remote southern state.

The first looks at the church of La Merced in the city of San Cristóbal and the second on a pair of colonial statues also in this city.

Mercedarian friars came to Chiapas with the conquistadors and ministered principally to the Spanish residents of colonial Ciudad Real (San Cristóbal de Las Casas as it then was) rather than to the indigenous Maya of the barrios. 
Although little visited today, the old monastery of La Merced, located just outside El Recinto (the old city center), west of the main plaza, was the first to be established in the city. 
Faced by a long, elevated forecourt, the imposing church was almost entirely rebuilt early in the 20th century, from its colonnaded "wedding-cake" front to its brittle neoclassical interior. 
The only surviving colonial remnant is the 18th century sacristy, whose archway and massive supporting pillar are decorated in colorful folkloric style. 
Sprouting from the fanciful rampant lion reliefs at its base, rising tendrils of painted foliage entwine the pillar. 
On the underside of the arches, bands of classically-inspired grotesque ornament, incorporating sirens and stylized masks with fan-like feather headdresses, curve upwards to meet bas-reliefs of the sun and moon. 
sun;                               moon detail

An inscription, dated 1757, is incorporated in the floral frieze above the arch, and in the spandrels, the Hapsburg imperial eagle almost disappears in a profusion of foliage and flowers.
Imperial two headed eagle

text © 1993/2023 Richard D. Perry
photography courtesy of Nick Brooker
and online sources

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