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 Santo Domingo Díaz Ordaz:

Our Lady of Sorrows
Palm Sunday Christ
St. Joseph
St. Peter of Verona (Peter Martyr)
St. Peter the Apostle
Virgin and Child (1)
Virgin and Child (2)

Other santos not photographed

The Trinity (Throne of Mercy)

The Trinity:
The statue's retablo is dated 1733. The head and crown of the Father fit perfectly into its carved shell pattern, suggesting that the statue is at least that old. Beautifully made, the statue as well as the case are simple in their composition, solid and naive in the rendering of God the Father on his throne. Though not naturalistic, the face conveys deep emotion as the Father proffers his crucified Son.

The statue is dressed in full papal regalia of triple crown, cope, and robe. The golden mantle is closed at the chest. The external garment is decorated in large red flowers on what may once have been a black background. A 3 inch (8 cm.) band of sky blue is painted about 6 inches (15 cm.) below the knees. The garment is belted with a narrow red sash. The sharp angles of the robes and the flat fall of the robe between the knees are naïf, as are the oddly jutting knees. The chair is painted red and is roughly decorated with a folk tracery of gold flowers and stems. Silk flowers and real flowers decorate the case.

The crown is painted with what appear to be stories from Genesis on two tiers, and is topped by a simple cross. It is carved as one with the head, sitting neatly atop the short bangs and long back hair. The statue's face is young and smooth with a dark beard, fine nose, and small, closed mouth. The statue's glass eyes stare straight ahead, fixedly and rather worriedly.

As is usual with such figures, the Father's hands are held palm upwards at chest height to receive the cross bar of the crucifix, whose vertical support rests on the globe between the legs. The sky- blue orb is not full. The bottom is flat and seems to be part of the base. The crucifix is green and the tips are painted gold. It and the globe are simpler than the statues themselves.

The glossy Christ figure is of wood, gesso and paint and about 14 inches tall (36 cm.). All of the wounds are indicated by flowing blood, but the rivulets painted on the very old statues are not present. The head falls to the right and the left hip juts out. The loincloth is carved and painted. The figure wears a short wig. The artist would not seem to be same as the one who sculpt-ed the bird and the Father. The statue is more conventional and may be newer.

The golden dove above the crucifix represents the Holy Spirit and is about 8 inches tall (20 cm.). It is round and solid and may be by the same artist as the Father.

Basis for Identification: Crucifix on a mappa mundi orb surmounted by a dove and held up by the Father, seated and wearing a triple tiara and cope.

Site: Church of Santo Domingo Díaz Ordaz.

Location: In a glass case at the east end of the north wall of the nave (see note).

Media and construction: Polychrome; 4' . Figure and chair are set

Size: The statue is about 4 feet tall (120 cm.) and is on a carved and polychromed slab about 3½ inches high (9 cm.).

Comparable santos in Oaxaca: Mitla, Santa Ana del Valle, Tamazulapan, Teitipac, Teotitlán, Tlacolula, Xoxocotlán, Yanhuitlán, Yanhuitlán 2.

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

Next: Also at this end of the nave, a statue of St. Joseph

Previous santo

Introduction to Santo Domingo Díaz Ordaz

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.