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Conflict and Imagery: Saint Michael and Ecclesiastical Power in New Spain

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Article of journalLeyva-Gutiérrez, Niria E. (Long Island University, Estados Unidos). Conflict and Imagery: Saint Michael and Ecclesiastical Power in New Spain.  / Conflicto e imaginería: San Miguel y el poder eclesiástico en Nueva España In  Visual Arts VIII Hispanic Research Journal, 2014 vol. 15 no. 5 p. 422–444. Keywords:
History | Religions, Beliefs
San Miguel, siglo XVII, historia de la iglesia, Puebla, Ciudad México, Cristóbal de Villalpando, Juan de Palafox, Manuel Fernández de Santa Cruz, San Miguel del Milagro, Francisco de Florencia
17th century


On 25 April 1631, Saint Michael the Archangel appeared to the Indian Diego Lázaro in the town of San Bernabé in Puebla de los Ángeles. This apparition, the sanctuary built in honour of Saint Michael, and the promotion of his cult by Puebla’s episcopacy cemented a connection between the saint and the city. What might have been an obscure occurrence in a tiny Indian town became a crucial event for the development of New Spanish painting. Curiously, while the apparition took place within Puebla’s jurisdiction, it was in Mexico City that the most spectacular Saint Michael imagery was created. Of the six large-scale canvases created at the end of the seventeenth century for the cathedral’s sacristy, four include the image of the archangel, but without reference to Puebla. Conceived in a spirit of competition with Puebla, the decoration of Mexico City’s sacristy offered the chapter an opportunity to elevate its status and document its own connection to the archangel. This paper explains how the tensions between the two rival cities helped create such a rich visual tradition of Saint Michael in New Spain.

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