Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Via Crucis in eighteenth-century New Spain: Innovative practices in the sanctuary of Jesus of Nazareth at Atotonilco, Guanajuato
by Perez Gavilan, Ana Isabel, Ph.D., State University of New York at Binghamton, 2010, 326; 3412038
Abstract (Summary)

This study focuses on the sanctuary of Jesus of Nazareth at Atotonilco (1740–1776), Guanajuato, in central Mexico, and its adjacent House for the performance of the Exercises of St. Ignatius. The establishment of this complex, I argue, resulted in a proliferation of Vía Crucis devotions without precedent in New Spain.

Strategically located on the Camino Real or Royal Road, in one of the most prosperous commercial and mining regions, the Bajío, this rural site received the patronage of the commercial elite of the nearby village of San Miguel el Grande (now San Miguel de Allende). Its founder, the Oratorian creole priest Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro (1709–1776), conceived of it as a redemptive place for the conversion of “pagans” and for the practice of ascetic piety. He recruited the regional artist Miguel Antonio Martínez de Pocasangre to the site, to decorate the complex’s walls and ceilings in paint (tempera) and in three-dimensional media in a rich baroque style. Discrete as its parts may be in architecture and iconography, the complex was given coherence by its numerous cycles that focused meditation on the Vía Crucis, reminding the faithful, with each artistic component and accompanying text, of the site’s connection to the topography of the Holy Land and the Passion of Christ.

A crucial element of this dissertation is to understand the meeting at Atotonilco of various currents of Christian piety, namely Jesuit, Franciscan and Oratorian, with their associated visual expressions. These currents are recognized in the private and public rituals of thirteen series of the Vía Crucis, under three varieties—of the Sacred Heart, of Jesus (including a public procession in San Miguel), and of the Virgin. The textual sources for these cycles and accompanying painted texts are examined, along with the unusual ritual spaces that they constituted. The varied social groups involved in devotional practice here are also the object of analysis. The “textuality” of the Vía Crucis cycles, I explain, extended to the spectacular devotions enacted annually in the streets of neighboring San Miguel, confirming Atotonilco’s unique contribution to the development and diversification of this devotion in New Spain.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Barzman, Karen E.
Commitee: Straight, Stephen, Tomich, Dale W., Walkling, Andrew
School: State University of New York at Binghamton
Department: Art History
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 71/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Religious history, Latin American history, Art history, Latin American Studies
Keywords: Atotonilco, Guanajuato, Mexico, Neri de Alfaro, Luis Felipe, Oratorian, Sacred heart, San Miguel de Allende, Sanctuary of Jesus of Nazareth, Via Crucis
Publication Number: 3412038
ISBN: 9781124090214
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