Catedral de Oaxaca
Return to the zócalo’s opposite, north side, for a look at the present cathedral. It replaced the 1550 original, demolished by an earthquake in 1696.
Finished in 1733, with appropriately burly twin bell towers, the present cathedral is distinguished by its Greek-marble main altar, where a polished Italian bronze Virgin of the Ascension is being drawn upward to the cloud-tipped heavenly domain of the Holy Spirit (the dove) and God (the sunburst). Notice the glass images of noble, bearded St. Peter and St. Paul flanking opposite sides of the altar.
Of considerable historical interest is the Santa Cruz de Huatulco (Holy Cross of Huatulco), enshrined in a chapel at the middle, south (right) side of the nave. The cross, about two feet high, in the glass case atop the chapel altar, is one of four made in 1612 by Oaxaca bishop Juan Cervantes from the original mysterious cross worshipped by the natives on the southern Oaxaca coast long before the conquest.
An explanation, in Spanish, gives three versions of the story of the cross, which, the natives reported to the conqueror Pedro Alvarado in 1522, was erected long before by a strange, white-robed holy man who soon departed and never returned. Bishop Cervantes sent the three other copies of the cross, respectively, to authorities at Santa María de Huatulco town, Mexico City, and Rome.
For more information on the history of the cross, see The Holy Cross of Huatulco.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition