Santos in Oaxaca's Ancient Churches

A study of santos in 16th-century and other churches in Oaxaca, Mexico


By Claire and Richard Stracke
Funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

In Santiago Cuilapan:
Christ Carrying the Cross
Christ on Palm Sunday
Christ Resurrected

Immaculate Heart of Mary
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Our Lady of Sorrows 1
Our Lady of Sorrows 2
Our Lady of Sorrows (Soledad)
Our Lady of the Rosary
Sacred Heart of Jesus
St. James the Moorslayer
St. Joseph
St. Michael the Archangel
Unidentified Dominican
Unidentified Saint
Virgin and Child

Other santos not photographed

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Our Lady of Mount Carmel:
This Carmen is different from the traditional and the statue may originally have represented a different saint. The garments are not brown but white brocade trimmed in gold; yet the bib, reaching to mid-calf, marks them as unquestionably the Carmen garments. Only the virgin has a scapular; traditionally both figures have one. Finally, the fine features and sheen of the face make the statue seem older than other Carmens.

Local Name: La Virgen del Carmen, more formally Nuestra Señora de Monte Carmelo.

Basis for Identification: Scapular, bib, crown, holding child who wears a crown.

Site: Basilica of Santiago Cuilapan.

Location: In a glass case on a wooden altar along the north wall of nave (see note).

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint, fabric garments. Hair: bald beneath wig. Eyes: glass. Closed mouth.

Size: About 5 feet (150 cm.)

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Coixtlahuaca main altar, Ejutla, Etla, Guelavia, Huitzo, Teitipac, Teposcolula, Tlaxiaco, Xoxocotlán, Zaachila, Zimatlán.

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Statues of Nuestra Señora del Carmen in Mexico
Wikipedia: Our Lady of Mount Carmel
, Virgen del Carmen.
Christian Iconography: Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Saint Joseph

In the same case kneeling at the virgin's feet is a small statue of a full-bearded male dressed in polyester garments. The headpiece is a round coil such as is depicted in modern Biblical illustrations. It wears a green, collared robe and a long gold wrap in apparent imitation of the robe and mantle of the older, larger statue standing to the right of the case that we provisionally identify as Saint Joseph.

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Achiutla, Santa Ana del Valle, Cuilapan1, Cuilapan2, Mitla1, Mitla2, Ocotlán, Díaz Ordaz, Teitipac, Teotitlán, Zimatlán.

Next: On the same wooden altar, a statue of an unidentified saint, possibly St. Joseph.

Previous santo

Introduction to Santiago Cuilapan

Santos Home Page

Note: On this site, references to the cardinal directions always assume that the main altar is at the east end of the church, the narthex or entry area at the west end, and the two walls of the nave on the north and south. (The nave is the long central section.) Actual orientations may differ.

The photo shown here is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. You are free to share or remix it on two conditions: first, that you attribute it to the photographers, Claire and Richard Stracke, without implying any approval of your work on their part; second, that if you alter, transform, or build upon this photo, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.