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Christian churches erected in Mexico during the early colonial era represented the triumph of European conquest and religious domination. Or did they? Building on recent research that questions the “cultural” conquest of Mesoamerica, Eleanor Wake shows that colonial Mexican churches also reflected the beliefs of the indigenous communities that built them. European authorities failed to recognize that the meaning of the edifices they so admired was being challenged: pre-Columbian iconography integrated into Christian imagery, altars oriented toward indigenous sacred landmarks, and carefully recycled masonry. In Framing the Sacred, Wake examines how the art and architecture of Mexico’s religious structures reveals the indigenous people’s own decisions regarding the conversion program and their accommodation of the Christian message.
As Wake shows, native peoples selected aspects of the invading culture to secure their own culture’s survival. In focusing on anomalies present in indigenous art and their relationship to orthodox Christian iconography, she draws on a wide geographical sampling across various forms of Indian artistic expression, including religious sculpture and painting, innovative architectural detail, cartography, and devotional poetry. She also offers a detailed analysis of documented native ritual practices that—she argues—assist in the interpretation of the imagery.
With more than 200 illustrations, including 24 in color, Framing the Sacred is the most extensive study to date of the indigenous aspects of these churches and fosters a more complete understanding of Christianity’s influence on Mexican peoples.
List of Illustrations
Chapter 1 Ritual Manifestations and the Search for the Sacred 35
Chapter 2 Colonial Ritual and the Accommodation of the Christian Sacred 55
Chapter 3 Indoctrination and the Building of Churches 77
Chapter 4 Native Perception of Churches 101
Chapter 5 Architectural Detail: Embedded Stones 139
Chapter 6 Painting and Sculpture in an Indo-Christian Context 171
Chapter 7 Framing the Sacred 235
Appendix A Churches, Chapels, Monastery Complexes, and Other Religious Buildings Visited by the Author (1991-2007) 257
Appendix B Sample of Native Maps and Their Representations of Churches Cited in Chapter 4 263
Glossary of Frequently Used Nahuatl or Nahuatl-Derived Terms 299