5800 - Portal Decorations of the Colonial Franciscan Monastery of Dzidzantún, Yucatán

The fortress church of Santa Clara in Dzidzantún, erected in 1567, is anomalous in its design and decoration, outmatching other early contemporary Franciscan structures in Yucatán in its massive scale, complex rib vaulting, delicate sculptural carving, and extensive murals. Its relatively ornate style has engendered comparisons with early convents in central Mexico; Miguel Bretos, for instance, has noted its affinity to Acolman, north of Mexico City. Saints Peter and Paul appear at least twice in the complex: in sensitively carved sculptures that mark the façade and in murals flanking the church’s west entrance from the monastery. What conditions mediated this unusual (if ultimately unsuccessful) design, decorated with European-like illusionistic images? Using the main portal carvings and lateral doorway murals of Saints Peter and Paul and symbolic bower as a microcosm of the complex as a whole, I suggest that the church presents a nexus of competitive cultural and political values: Spanish/Maya, rural/urban, and peninsular/extra-peninsular. Though linked to Europe and other parts of Mexico, the imagery suggests a strategy for evangelization specific to the peninsula, which created a dialogue between the Maya and Christian religious traditions.

Palabras claves: Art, colonial, Mexico

Autores: Williams, Linda (University of Puget Sound, Ud States of Am / USA)


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