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 the church of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán:

Christ carrying the Cross
Christ Child
Christ Child (with Crucifix 1)
Christ seated in the pretorium ("Pensive Christ")
Crucifix 1
Crucifix 2
Main altar
Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Sorrows
Palm Sunday Christ
St. Dominic 1
St. Dominic 2
St. Michael
St. Michael (with Crucifix 1)
St. Peter
St. Raphael (with Crucifix 1)
St. Sebastian
Soledad (?)
Trinity 1
Trinity 2
Unidentified Dominican nun

Unidentified Franciscan
Unidentified saint 1
Unidentified saint 2 (Christopher?)
Unidentified saint 3
Virgin Mary 1
Virgin Mary 2

Other santos not photographed

Tour of the Museum
Tour of the Ayuxi Chapel

Written on the hexagonal stand on which the statue is set: Se conclullo [sic] este imagen de la SSma Trinidad el viernes tres de junio deste año 1808 a devocion de los Mallordomos..... y Luis Hernandez.... Mallor.... diputados." (This image of the Most Holy Trinity was completed on this Friday, the 3rd of June as a an act of devotion on the part of the Mayordomos... and Luis Hernandez... Mallor... deputies.)

God the Father is a young man who looks in sadness toward the right. He holds up his right hand, thumb, index and middle finger extended in blessing. The left hand is held palm upward and unnaturally flat. On it must have sat the dove that would represent the Holy Spirit. The use of the Host as a symbol of Christ is a significant departure from the crucifix set on a mappa mundi orb that is usually presented to the world by the Father in Trinity statues. The fact that it is higher than the Father and is in an monstrance suggests a parallel with the priest's offering of the host at Mass.

The gold and red cope is the kind that is always worn by the Father and almost never by anyone else. In this case, there is no "pin" to close it. The artist was more interested in the broad curve of gold that forms the top of the cape and dramatizes the head. Unique to all the Trinity statues we have seen, the swirl of the gold and red cape forms a heart shape out of which the hand extends. The statue wears a robe of white decorated with a large red rose framed in three gold petals just above the gold belt. Smaller roses can be seen on the sleeves and at the hem.

The throne is deep blue trimmed in gold. It has been planned not so much as a seat but as a retablo for the statue. The high back rises in inverted curves to frame the father's head and his tall crown and as repetition of the curves of the mantle. At the very top are positioned the sunbursts of the monstrance. The chair's fiddle legs are not meant to support the statue's weight. They open on either side of the statue's legs, framing the bottom of the figure and giving a solid base to the composition. The feet of the statue appear at the hem of the robe, the left one slightly higher than the right and resting on a stone that is part of the base. The whole is then set on the blue and gold base on which is written the message transcribed above.

Local Name: La Santísima Trinidad.

Basis for Identification: Father enthroned, wearing triple cope and triple tiara. Son represented by monstrance above.

Other characteristics: The dove is missing.

Site: Church of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán.

Location: Narthex (see note).

Media and construction: Wood, gesso, paint. Eyes: glass.

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Diaz Ordaz, Mitla, Tamazulapan, Teitipac, Teotitlán, Tlacolula, Xoxocotlán, Tlacolula 2

External Links:
Wikimedia Commons: Throne of Mercy in Mexico.
Catholic Encyclopedia: The Blessed Trinity
Wikipedia: Trinity
Christian Iconography:
The Trinity

Next: Also in the narthex, an altar with another Trinity and an unidentified saint

Introduction to the church at Yanhuitlán

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.