Postcard from Tlacolula de Matamoras, Oaxaca, Mexico: So many saints lost their heads….

Generally, statues of saints lining the walls in churches are robed modestly and depicted holding the iconic symbols associated with their lives, but a Baroque side chapel in the Church of La Asuncion de Nuestra Senora in the bustling city of Tlacolula de Matamoras does not cloak saintly sacrifices. The beautifully restored Dominican church dates from the middle of the 16th century.

The walls and ceilings of the chapel dedicated to El Senor of Tlacolula, a “black Christ” credited with performing miracles, are covered with gilded sculptural reliefs graphically illustrating the violent ends to the lives of numerous saints. Bloody wounds and severed heads testify to the gruesome suffering the martyrs endured for their faith.

Dim lighting and flash restrictions hindered our efforts to share the unusual portrayals, save for soft images of a severely gouged San Judas Thadeo enthroned behind Jesus astride a burro and poor decapitated San Pablo.

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