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The Ladies of Tejupan

Formerly the capital of the ancient Mixtec kingdom of Texupa, Tejupan was a wealthy, populous community at the time of the Spanish conquest. It was soon transformed into a significant Dominican mission town, renowned for the skill of its tlacuilos, or native artists, who in 1579 drew up a handsome picture map, or lienzo, of the colonial settlement (above,) one of the finest early examples of the genre in Mexico.

The Dominican church of Santiago Tejupan is one of the gems of the Mixteca Alta region of Oaxaca. Together with its neighbors at Tamazulapan, Teposcolula and Yanhuitlan, the nave is lined with beautifully wrought, gilded altarpieces from the baroque era, many with fine portrayals of notable female saints.

The recently restored principal altarpiece, rippling with gilded estípites and spiky carved foliage, is one of three examples in the so-called Churrigueresque style in the church. The figure of St. Joseph rather than Santiago stands in the center of the main altarpiece, flanked by sinuous statues of two female saints clad in flowing estofado gowns: Catherine of Alexandria (right) and Rose of Lima? (left)

(Although St. Catherine retains the sword of her martyrdom and stands over the severed head of the Emperor Maximian, St. Rose is inappropriately costumed and is missing her traditional attributes of a bouquet of roses and anchor. Alternatively, the statue may portray Catherine of Siena,another Dominican saint.)

Two other opulent retablos in an even more ornate vein face each other across the nave. One, framed by an undulating shell canopy and estípites embellished with gesticulating angels, showcases a beautiful statue of the Virgin and Child, a Dominican favorite, while St. Nicholas of Tolentino kneels on the top.

Large paintings of the Passion of Christ fill the retablo opposite, which also frames unusual, paired portrayals of a languid St. Mary Magdalene along the base.

Several unusual colonial canvases hang in the adjacent Rosary Chapel, notably a charming canvas of the Virgin of the Rosary.
Wearing a crown and a green, star spangled, gold trimmed robe, she looks down tenderly at the infant in her arms, surrounded by cherubs holding rosary beads.


* Tejupan, the nave retablos


* Tejupan, the main retablo of San José .>


* The Virgin of the Rosary


* St. Catherine of Alexandria


* St. Rose of Lima ?


* St. Mary Magdalene





In addition to these other works of art there is also the shell of a superb baroque pipe organ, dated 1776.

St. Nicholas of Tolentino appears again on a side panel, flanked by portraits of the pious couple who most likely commissioned the instrument.