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Tag Archives: Santiago de Compostela

The emergence of the pilgrimage to Compostela in the eleventh century combining with the Great Schism which separated the Orthodox and the Catholic church in 1054 led to a redrawing of the sacred topography of the Christian world.

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With Rome now in the centre and Jerusalem under an orthodox patriarchate, the West was henceforth defined by the shrine of the Apostle James at Compostela.

The main altar at the cathedral was surrounded by eleven chapels which radiated around the tomb along the transepts and ambulatory. These formed a symbolic geography of the pilgrimage road itself by recalling some of the major stations along the way. The two chapels of the north transept were dedicated to Saint Nicholas and The Holy Cross, those of the southern transept, Saints Martin and John the Baptist.

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Around the ambulatory were chapels dedicated to Sainte Foy, Saint John the Evangelist, the Holy Saviour, Saint Peter and Saint Andrew. Behind the main altar was an oratory of Mary Magdalene and in an upper chamber above the chevet there was a chapel dedicated to Saint Michael.

This deployment of chapels was a microcosm of the Compostelan pilgrimage. The most prominent saintly shrines of the road were hereby recalled, Saint John the Baptist at Angèly near Saintes, Sainte Foy of Conques in the southern Auvergne, Saint Martin of Tours on the Loire, Saint Peter of Rome and at Bari, Saint Nicholas.

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The central position of the saint of Vézelay, Mary Magdalene was consonant with her function as Apostle to the Apostles and the positioning of her chapel pointedly alluding to the similar plan at the church of the Holy Sepulchre

The upper chapel dedicated to Saint Michael referred similarly, to the sanctuaries of the Archangel on the pilgrimage road on elevated sites of Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe at the Puy-en-Velay, Monte Gargano and the Mont Saint Michel.

Although the Italian shrines are not included in the Pilgrim’s Guide which limits itself to the French routes, they are mentioned repeatedly elsewhere in the Jacobus. Book One makes reference to the Italian stations along the Via Francigena to Rome and the Via Traiana which led from Rome to Bari and thence by ship to Jerusalem.

Platerias-Col-9-WPMore than any other saintly shrine of western Europe, Santiago de Compostela, being on the periphery, depended on the very notion of pilgrimage. When the Jacobus defined the road in terms of the saintly remains along the way, it was implicitly posing a challenge to the great sanctuaries of Christendom. The tombs of Saint Trophimus at Arles, or Saint Saturninus at Toulouse, were ultimately mere stations on the road to the ultimate goal.

This idea was perfectly realised by the layout of the chapels at Compostela, surrounding as they did the main altar of Saint James situated above his tomb.

Biblio: Santiago de Compostela in the time of Diego Gelmirez, Barbara Abou-El-Haj, Gesta XXXVI/2 1997

Reading Romanesque Sculpture: The Iconography and Reception of the South Portal Sculpture at Santiago de Compostela, Karen Rose Mathews, Gesta XXXIX/1 2000

The Romanesque Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela: A Reassessment, Christabel Watson, BAR International Series 1979-2009

The Codex Calixtinus as an Art-Historical Source, S Moralejo in John Williams / Alison Stones The Codex Calixtinus and the Shrine of St. James 1992

Manuel Castiñeiras: Didacus Gelmirez, Patron of the arts. Compostela’s long journey: From the periphery to the centre of Romanesque art. Compostela and Europe : the story of Diego Gelmírez.Milano : Skira, c2010.

Topographie Sacrée, Liturgie Pascale et Reliques dans les grands centres de pèlerinage: Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle, Saint-Isidore-de-Léon et Saint-Étienne-de-Ribas-de-Sil, Manuel Antonio Castiñeiras González, Les Cahiers de Saint-Michel de Cuxa, XXXIV, 2003

The Basilica in Compostela and the way of Saint James, John Williams, Compostela and Europe : the story of Diego Gelmírez.Milano : Skira, c2010.

The Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela as well as linking so many reliquary shrines along its highways and byways, was also the source of numerous legends of a mystical nature and the terrestrial road itself, was invested with an inherent and immanent sacred character. This is perfectly expressed in the legend of the Milky Way, wherein the road to Compostela could be traced by following the course of the stars of that galaxy across Europe to its furthest edge in northwestern Spain.lsj-milky-way-1

The legend of the shrine of Saint James at Compostela familiar to medieval pilgrims is most likely the one described in the History of Charlemagne and Roland which originally was included in the Codex of Calixtus, the twelfth century manuscript devoted to the cult of the Apostle.

According to this story, Charlemagne was visited in a dream by Saint James who urged him to liberate his forgotten tomb from the Saracens who then occupied the land. Follow the course of the stars of the Milky Way, the emperor was counselled by the apparition of the Apostle, to its end in Galicia and there he would there find the abandoned burial ground containing the saint’s body.

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The pilgrim road mirrored the heavens on earth. The stars of the night sky representing the saints ascended to the celestial realm, were reflected on earth by their shrines where the remains of their physical bodies were kept as relics. Conduits between Heaven and Earth. The myriad numbers of reliquary shrines along the pilgrim roads corresponded to the Milky Way, which Charlemagne was ordained to follow so that it might lead him to the lost tomb of one of the mightiest saints of the heavenly firmament, James the Apostle.

charlemagnes-dreamHeeding the call of the Saint, Charlemagne set forth for Spain. The Holy Roman Emperor’s army took the road over the Pyrenees and besieged the Saracen town of Pamplona. Echoing the feats of the Israelites  at Jericho, the thunder of the Frankish trumpets caused the walls of the city to crumble to dust.

Charlemagne, his twelve Paladins and his army of Frankish warriors, liberated the road to Compostela and took possession of Saint James’ tomb at Compostela, the emperor constructing the first church above it.

 

 

Conques and Compostela formed an alliance early on. There has been much debate among medieval historians regarding the influence held by the great Burgundian abbey of Cluny over the political and religious life of Christian Spain in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, particularly regarding the development of the pilgrimage roads to Santiago de Compostela.

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Less often mentioned is that of the southern French abbey of Sainte Foy at Conques.

Both Cluny and the independent Benedictine abbey of Conques were sponsors of the Reconquista and as towns fell to the Christians it was their monks who rose to occupy the new episcopal sees and found priories on the newly conquered lands.

When the taifa city of Barbastro finally fell in 1100 to the forces led by the Aragonese king Pedro Ist, he appointed Pons, an erstwhile monk of Conques to the newly created bishopric.

Conques-Cloister-WP-1The northern Hispanic kings benefitted from Cluny’s closeness to Rome and its ability to send out its monks to reform monastic communities. Cluny also benefitted from the relationship in the form of the massive financial contribution it received from Alfonso VI for the building of its great abbey church.

What was of possibly greater interest to the authorities in Galicia was that Conques, like Compostela was a pilgrimage shrine in a remote location whose cult of a miracle working relic had been spectacularly transformed into a pan-European phenomenon.

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As a result, Conques’ influence on the Galician shrine was more cultural, expressed largely in the fields of architecture and sculpture.

It’s abbey church was the prototype for the four other great pilgrimage churches which all began construction in the last quarter of the eleventh century, including the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

These churches featured side aisles along the nave and transept with an ambulatory around the apse allowing pilgrims to process continuously without interrupting the liturgical programme.

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When construction began at Compostela on the new cathedral in 1077, builders and sculptors from Conques were called upon.

Of all the evidence of a connection between Conques and Compostela the most obvious is the striking similarity between the figures carved on the great stone porch sculptures at the two shrines.

Although, separated by almost seven hundred and fifty miles, it is scarcely believable that the same hand was not responsible for both the twin tympana over the Puerta de las Platerías and the great west porch at Conques.

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Most probably the Conques master accomplished his work in Galicia before returning to France, as the monumental sculpture at Compostela dates from the years 1101-3, in other words, at the very birth of the large scale sculptural ensembles which were to come later.

The influence of Conques on Santiago was experienced in another way. This was in the development and transmission of legendary material which enhanced the prestige of the shrine as a pilgrimage destination.

Conques-Manuscript-WP-1A key figure in this process was Pierre d’Andouque, occasionally referred to as Pedro de Roda. Originally a novice at Conques, Pierre had subsequently been a monk  at the Languedocian abbey of Saint Pons de Thomières. He was was elected to the see of Pamplona in 1082.

Conques claimed its foundation from Charlemagne. Its treasury contained a reliquary known as the A of Charlemagne. According to legend the emperor had given each of his monastic foundations a similar reliquary in the form of a letter of the alphabet. Conques-Charlemagne's-A-WPConques had received the gold and gem encrusted reliquary, allegedly shaped in the form of an A and intended as a symbolic reference to the preeminent position the abbey held in Charlemagne’s esteem.

In 1101  Pierre d’Andouque, along with Pons of Barbastro obtained a donation of a church, almshouse and estate at Roncevaux, just below the Cize Pass over the Pyrenees on the Spanish side. These were then transferred to Conques which established a dependent priory and hospital overseen by the monks of Sainte Foy.

Roncesvalles-WP-3How and when this site was determined to be the location of the climactic scene of the Roland legend will remain difficult to confirm with any certainty.

This route would become the most popular pilgrim road over the mountains and references to the passage of Charlemagne’s armies are scattered throughout the text of the Pilgrims’ Guide.

A chapel was built over the only attribute of the legend which remained in situ, the rock on which Roland had attempted to break his sword Durendal.

Roland and Roncevaux were integral components in the Charlemagne mythology. They became the decisive element in that narrative which claimed the emperor as liberator and founder of the shrine of Compostela.

It was a fusion of history and geography which transformed the pilgrimage road from a simple terrestrial highway into a hallowed space.

historia-turpini-1This legend found its fullest expression in the fourth volume of the Book of Saint James, the History of Charlemagne and Roland, a manuscript composed under the pseudonym of Charlemagne’s archbishop Turpin, but which commentators believe can be attributed to an author from Navarre within the French circle of Pierre d’Andouque during his time as bishop of Pamplona.

Pierre d’Andouque was present at Compostela when the absidial chapels were consecrated in 1105 and one, dedicated to Sainte Foy, he consecrated himself.

Sources and Biblio: Les Origines Méridionales de la Chanson de Roland, Frédéric de Gournay, Cahiers de St-Michel de Cuxa, XXXII, 2001

Une Abbaye de Pelerinage: Sainte-Foy de Conques et ses rapports avec Saint-Jacques. Georges Gaillard Compostellanum Sección des Estudios Jacobeos, 1965

 Etude sur les sculptures de Sainte-Foy de Conques et de Saint-Sernin de Toulouse et leurs relations avec celles de Saint-Isidore de Léon et de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. Paul Deschamps

Roncevaux-19-WPThe Cize mountain over which pilgrims passed was believed to be the highest mountain in the whole of the Pyrenees. According to the Pilgrim’s Guide, from the summit one could see as far as the Atlantic ocean.

The Guide tells us that on the summit there was a cross which had been placed there by Charlemagne when he entered Spain on his way to liberate the shrine of Saint James at Compostela. Eyment-Bridge-1A papal bull of Paschal II in 1106 decreed that this cross designated the boundary between the dioceses of Bayonne and Navarre, thereby making it a de facto marker between French and Spanish territory.

The custom grew that pilgrims having made the ascent would erect their own crosses so that, as the Guide puts it, “one can find there up to a thousand crosses”, affirming that it was the first station of prayer on the road to Santiago de Compostela.

Angoumois-Road-1The Cross of Charlemagne was one of a number of sites on the pilgrimage road associated with the legend of Charlemagne’s Spanish expedition and which are indicated in the Pilgrim’s Guide.

On the northern slopes of the mountains was Valcarlos “where Charlemagne encamped with his armies” while the battle was raging in the heights above at Roncevaux.

After descending from the pass, there was a hospice and a church built over the rock “that Roland, the great hero, split with his sword in the middle from top to bottom with three strikes of his sword.”

Landes-Road-1Following this, the pilgrim reached Roncevaux, “the place where for sure, the great battle took place in which were slain King Marsile, Roland and Olivier and others together with forty thousand Christians and Saracens”.

It was a part of the intention of the Pilgrim’s Guide to direct pilgrims towards the reliquary sites that were considered essential on the road to Compostela.

Among the list of the tombs of saints advocated by the Pilgrims Guide were those of the fallen heroes of Roncevaux. “Next to Blaye on the seashore one must ask for the protection of the Blessed Romanus in whose basilica” the Guide informs us, “the remains of the Blesses Roland the martyr rest”. We are told that the Olifant was held at the abbey of Saint Seurin at Bordeaux.

Saintonge-Road-1A paragraph in the Guide is dedicated to providing a list of those paladins martyred at Roncevaux who were buried near the town of Belin. Among these was Roland’s companion, Olivier.

The passage of Charlemagne’s armies in Spain is again evoked when the Guide describes the Cluniac abbey of Sahagún in Castile. Pilgrims were directed to visit the remains of its saints, Facundus and Primitivo, and that their tombs were contained in a church built by Charlemagne. St-Jean-Pied-de-Port“Next to their town,” the Guide continued, “there are wooded fields where it is related, the lances of the warriors which were planted in the ground, grew leaves again”. This was a reference to the miracle of the lances recounted in Turpin’s History.

The great events of the historic past which themselves were reiterations of sacred events from the Biblical past were authenticated by these hallowed places that pilgrims visited on their way to Compostela. Visible and tangible evidence directly linked to the goal of their journey and the legendary material which surrounded it, was an integral part of medieval pilgrimage.


Biblio: Bernard Gicquel La Légende de Compostelle Le Livre de Saint Jacques, Tallandier 2003, The Pilgrims’ Guide to Compostela, Melczer, Italica Press New York 1993,  The Interaction of Life and Literature in the peregrinaciones ad loca sancta and the Chansons de Geste, SG Nichols Speculum 44 1969 51-77

Loire-@-La-ChariteFifty miles from Vézelay pilgrims reached the crossing of the mighty Loire river. Visible on the far shore stood the immense church and surrounding complex of the priory of Notre-Dame de la Charité-sur-Loire.

There, a semi-derelict eighth century monastery had been donated to Cluny in 1059. The new priory was established with the primary intention of being a major halt on the Compostelan pilgrimage. This objective was achieved with evident rapidity when the site, which had never fully recovered from being destroyed by Saracens in 743, quickly developed into one of the most important monastic centres in Western Europe.

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By 1070 it was designated by the name Caritate which conveys the sense of the function it performed in receiving pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela.

The greater part of these pilgrims had come from the shrine of Mary Magdalene and were headed towards Spain by way of Limoges.

Two hundred monks performed the liturgy and La Charité had jurisdiction over fifty dependent priories across Europe, further extending the power and influence of the great abbey of Cluny over the region and generally over the Limoges Road to Spain. Over one hundred churches in Burgundy and the surrounding regions were also dependencies of La Charité.

La-Ch-Int-2The priory church was was the longest structure after Cluny itself and in its second building campaign during the first quarter of the twelfth century was intentionally modelled after the mother church at Cluny.

It had five radiating chapels and a nave measuring one hundred and fifteen metres in length.

A profusion of sculpture marked it out as one of the highest achievements of Romanesque stone carving.

Deep cut relief sculptures of apostles and prophets were set in niches which line the exterior of the nave, the crossing tower and the chevet.

La-Ch-Ext-4-WPThe western end of the church was flanked by two towers. The façade featured five porches each with a sculpted tympana, of which only two now survive. The central tympanum would most likely have been a depiction of Christ in Majesty.

La Charité was dedicated to the Virgin and in keeping with its status as a Marian shrine, each tympanum was paired with lintel scenes of the Incarnation.

Of the two remaining sculptures, one presents a singular Ascension scene with the Virgin gesturing towards Christ in a mandorla and the archangels Michael and Gabriel in attendance, an image of the Mother of God as intercessor. The lintel beneath shows the Annunciation and the Nativity.

La-Ch-Trans-5-WPThe other surviving tympanum relief is of the Transfiguration above a lintel of the Adoration of the Magi and the Presentation in the Temple.

In 1132, Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny had introduced the feast of the Transfiguration into the Cluniac monastic calendar and it was about this time that the porch sculpture at La Charité was done.

The subject of the Transfiguration for a large scale west porch relief was unique to La Charité with the exception of the Santiago de Compostela. It reflects on the pilgrimage to the shrine of the Apostle James since this Biblical episode wherein Jesus assumed His divine form in the presence of His three closest disciples, Peter, John and James, was also a commentary on the primal importance of the Galician saint.

N.B. This is a revised version of an earlier post

Biblio: A Propos du tympana de la Vierge à Notre-Dame de la Charité-sur-Loire, Yves Christe, Cahiers de Civilisation Medièvale 9. 34 1966

Platerias-Santiago-2The iconographic programme of the three great portal reliefs at Compostela were intended as a combined expression of the full significance of the Apostolic shrine situated on the edge of the world.

The reason for this was engraved above the western entrance in a massive sculpted relief of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. The Jacobus describes the emplacement there of the large scale depiction of the theophanic vision described in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

According to the early Church Father John Chrysostom, the three disciples present at the Transfiguration, Peter, John and James were chosen because they were superior to the others. James, specifically because he had accepted the challenge of martyrdom.

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The Expulsion from Paradise of the north transept portal and the scenes of Christ’s Temptation and Passion over the Puerta de las Platerias would be completed by the great scene of the Transfiguration above the western entrance, covering the whole of Christian eschatological history.

The Transfiguration, rather than being simply an episode from the life of Christ would be a theophanic vision which was a prefiguration and typological equivalent of the Apocalypse, in keeping with its siting at the western end of the cathedral.

In Romanesque symbolism it was the west that was associated with Death and Resurrection and the use of the Transfiguration in this setting would have been eminently significant, placing the Apostle, whose shrine was located there, at the epicentre of an Apocalyptic image.

The north and south transept portal reliefs were preludes to the ultimate meaning of the shrine at Compostela: the presence of the relics of a saint whose intercessory power was second to none in its potential to restore man from the fatal consequences of the Fall.

The fifth book of the Jacobus, the Pilgrim’s Guide, gives us an extensive description of the cathedral at Compostela at the time of its composition. The author confirms that on the western façade, “We should notice on the top, the Transfiguration of the Lord as it occurred on the Tabor Mountain, and which is sculpted in marvellous workmanship”.

In the last quarter of the twelfth century, however, the west entrance to the cathedral was completed with a different programme, the Portico de la Gloria.

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It has been suggested that the west façade as described in the Guide was merely planned. This is an interpretation which is reinforced by the extremely scant description and absence of detail provided by the author concerning the front of the pilgrimage church.

Those completed reliefs intended for the Transfiguration were relocated to the south transept portal, even prior to the writing of the Guide. Most striking of these is a marble relief of Saint James and the surrounding inscription “Hic in monte Ihesum miratur glorificatum”, backs up the notion that it was intended for the western end programme.

Elsewhere on the frontispiece of the Platerias Portal and carved in the same marble and style as the relief of the apostle is an image of diminutive figure emerging from an enclosed space. Rather strikingly he bears a pair of horns on his head, leading to speculation that he was intended to represent some satanic or demonic force.

Platerias-Moses-1-WP-In the context of a possible Transfiguration scene this figure would more likely represent Moses who was present at the vision on mount Tabor standing beside Christ with the prophet Elijah.

Moses was commonly depicted as horned, an attribute which arose from Jerome’s Vulgate version of the Bible, which had taken the Hebrew text to imply horns emanating from his head rather than rays of light.

Also in the same marble and sculptural style, another relief from the presumed Transfiguration scene is to be found on the Platerias frontispiece: Abraham rising from his tomb with the inscription “Transfiguratio Ihesu surgit Abraham de tumuli”.

From these remnants, it is evident that the proposed Transfiguration scene was to have been very different from the traditional iconography seen in the Byzantine mosaics at Ravenna and Sinai and other sites.

That formula had been used at La Charité-sur-Loire where Christ in a mandorla is flanked by Moses and Elias, The Law and the Prophets with the three apostles crouched at the sides.

The figure of James at the Puerta de las Platerias is upright with Gospel in hand, an image of the Evangeliser of Spain fulfilling his Apostolic Mission.

Platerias-Abraham-1-WPThe presence of Abraham locates the Transfiguration among the whole body of Biblical theophanic visions, essentially treating them as one. Abraham’s vision on the plains of Mamre in Genesis is linked to Jesus in John’s gospel.

Furthermore, by presenting the image of Abraham’s resurrection, as well as Moses’, this Transfiguration scene has been relocated to the Second Coming.

As the liturgical sermon attributed to Pope Calixtus II in the Jacobus puts it of James’ vision, it was “The Resurrection that you saw symbolically on Mount Tabor”.

 Biblio: Santiago de Compostela in the time of Diego Gelmirez, Barbara Abou-El-Haj, Gesta XXXVI/2 1997 Reading Romanesque Sculpture: The Iconography and Reception of the South Portal Sculpture at Santiago de Compostela, Karen Rose Mathews, Gesta XXXIX/1 2000 The Romanesque Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela: A Reassessment, Christabel Watson, BAR International Series 1979-2009 The Codex Calixtinus as an Art-Historical Source, S Moralejo in John Williams / Alison Stones The Codex Calixtinus and the Shrine of St. James 1992 Manuel Castiñeiras: Didacus Gelmirez, Patron of the arts. Compostela’s long journey: From the periphery to the centre of Romanesque art. Compostela and Europe : the story of Diego Gelmírez.Milano : Skira, c2010. Topographie Sacrée, Liturgie Pascale et Reliques dans les grands centres de pèlerinage: Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle, Saint-Isidore-de-Léon et Saint-Étienne-de-Ribas-de-Sil, Manuel Antonio Castiñeiras González, Les Cahiers de Saint-Michel de Cuxa, XXXIV, 2003 The Basilica in Compostela and the way of Saint James, John Williams, Compostela and Europe : the story of Diego Gelmírez.Milano : Skira, c2010.

The iconography of the reliefs on the double tympana of the Puerta de las Plateriás at Compostela was intended as a direct thematic extension from the scenes of the Expulsion from Paradise on the north portal. Platerias-Temp-3-WPWhere the former represented the victory of Satan in the form of the Serpent in the Garden, the Plateriás reliefs show Christ triumphing over Satan and Death

Discarding the elements added when it was decided to enlarge the space from its original lunette form, it is apparent that the subject of the left hand tympanum is the Temptation of the Lord

Depicted is the narrative in the gospels of Matthew and Luke where Jesus has gone into the wilderness for forty days and nights.

Platerias-Tempt-3-WPThere, he meets Satan who offers him three temptations; one to assuage his hunger by turning stone to bread, a second whereby he should jump from the pinnacle of the temple and depend on angels to rescue his fall and a third where he is offered all the kingdoms of the world in return for prostrating himself before Satan.

In a gesture which can be seen in Byzantine mosaics, Christ is turned towards his left where two winged demons, hands clasped in supplication implore him to surrender himself before Satan.

A tree stands between Christ and the demons alluding to the Tree of Knowledge, through which the serpent Satan is entwined. An image of Christ in dialogue with Satan, Christ’s gesture with his right hand is a visual representation of his words “Get thee behind me Satan”.

Platerias-Tempt-Demon-1-WPOn either side of the Christ figure angels are ministering, which according to Matthew’s Gospel they did after Satan had left, defeated. The angel immediately above is emerging from clouds waving a thurible just in front of the serpent’s head.

The angel behind Christ appears to be holding aloft items which may be liturgical appurtenances, corresponding to the thurible held by the first angel.

Elsewhere on the tympanum of the Temptation are reliefs carved by the Master of the Porta Francigena which were included when the design was enlarged.

Platerias-Temptation-2These include a slab with three ape-headed demons and notable a seated woman cradling a skull on her lap.

The author of the description of the cathedral in the Book of Saint James, makes much of this, referring to it as an image of a woman taken in adultery. The writer however has shown himself to be unreliable elsewhere in his readings of the sculptural imagery.

The Woman Bearing the Skull would seem to have been intended for the north portal where as Eve, the Mother of Death, the image would have complemented the others from the Genesis cycle.

Biblio: Santiago de Compostela in the time of Diego Gelmirez, Barbara Abou-El-Haj, Gesta XXXVI/2 1997

Reading Romanesque Sculpture: The Iconography and Reception of the South Portal Sculpture at Santiago de Compostela, Karen Rose Mathews, Gesta XXXIX/1 2000

The Romanesque Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela: A Reassessment, Christabel Watson, BAR International Series 1979-2009

The Codex Calixtinus as an Art-Historical Source, S Moralejo in John Williams / Alison Stones The Codex Calixtinus and the Shrine of St. James 1992

Manuel Castiñeiras: Didacus Gelmirez, Patron of the arts. Compostela’s long journey: From the periphery to the centre of Romanesque art. Compostela and Europe : the story of Diego Gelmírez.Milano : Skira, c2010.

Topographie Sacrée, Liturgie Pascale et Reliques dans les grands centres de pèlerinage: Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle, Saint-Isidore-de-Léon et Saint-Étienne-de-Ribas-de-Sil, Manuel Antonio Castiñeiras González, Les Cahiers de Saint-Michel de Cuxa, XXXIV, 2003

The Basilica in Compostela and the way of Saint James, John Williams, Compostela and Europe : the story of Diego Gelmírez.Milano : Skira, c2010.

 

Thematically, the portal reliefs of the south transept entrance of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela follow directly from those of the Porta Francigena. Platerias-LS-2-WPEach of its two doorways has a stone carved tympanum relief sculpture, one of the Temptation of the Lord and the other of the Instruments of the Passion.

The original design for the twin reliefs at the Puerta de las Plateriás were for relatively small lunettes. However this plan was immediately revised and each lunette was enlarged into a more substantial tympanum. In the process the coherence of the iconographic programme was affected detrimentally.

The original reliefs were carried out by the same sculptor or workshop responsible for the capitals in the church and cloister at Conques. Platerias-Temptation-TympThe same hand has been attributed to several capitals in the eastern end of the cathedral at Compostela and subsequently, to the celebrated Last Judgment tympanum at Conques abbey.

On the left hand tympanum the theme of these initial carved reliefs was of the Instruments of the Passion. These featured the Coronation of the Crown of Thorns, the Scourge, the Nails of the Crucifixion and the Pillar of the Flagellation. The Cross itself is included, borne significantly not by Christ but by Simon the Cyrenean, since the subject was not the Passion but its Instruments. These scenes were to be surmounted by the Adoration of the Magi.

Platerias-Flagellation-2The Incarnation was represented by the Epiphany and the Instruments of the Passion, which were known as the Weapons of Christ symbolised the Triumph over Death.

This programme, although still recognizable, was never realized in its original form when the decision was taken to amplify the spaces over the doorways. Additional reliefs were required for the enlarged space and some elements were repositioned. This is the case with the Adoration of the Magi, which was moved from an intended position towards the right in order to accommodate the new reliefs which were carved by the same sculptor responsible for the Porta Francigena.

An angel bearing a nailed crown was placed to the right of the Virgin and on the first register, the Instruments of the Passion now included additional reliefs of the Arrest of Christ and the Curing of the Blind Man. Platerias-Betrayal-2Above the Three Magi, a horizontal angel with star admonished Mary and Joseph to avoid Herod’s men.

The Plateriás entrance led directly to the chapel of Saint John the Baptist, inside the southern transept, which functioned as the cathedral’s baptistery and the theme of baptism was intentionally invoked in the tympanum’s sculptures by the Instruments of the Passion, an allusion to the blood of Christ washing the sins of humanity.

Biblio: Santiago de Compostela in the time of Diego Gelmirez, Barbara Abou-El-Haj, Gesta XXXVI/2 1997

Reading Romanesque Sculpture: The Iconography and Reception of the South Portal Sculpture at Santiago de Compostela, Karen Rose Mathews, Gesta XXXIX/1 2000

The Romanesque Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela: A Reassessment, Christabel Watson, BAR International Series 1979-2009

The Codex Calixtinus as an Art-Historical Source, S Moralejo in John Williams / Alison Stones The Codex Calixtinus and the Shrine of St. James 1992

Manuel Castiñeiras: Didacus Gelmirez, Patron of the arts. Compostela’s long journey: From the periphery to the centre of Romanesque art. Compostela and Europe : the story of Diego Gelmírez.Milano : Skira, c2010.

Topographie Sacrée, Liturgie Pascale et Reliques dans les grands centres de pèlerinage: Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle, Saint-Isidore-de-Léon et Saint-Étienne-de-Ribas-de-Sil, Manuel Antonio Castiñeiras González, Les Cahiers de Saint-Michel de Cuxa, XXXIV, 2003

The Basilica in Compostela and the way of Saint James, John Williams, Compostela and Europe : the story of Diego Gelmírez.Milano : Skira, c2010.

The name of Platerías given to the south transept entrance of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is generally considered to refer to the silversmiths whose stalls proliferated on the square below, selling trinkets to pilgrims. Platerias-LS-WPThe basilica was an integral part of the urban topography of the town of Compostela and the two arms of its transepts connected the pilgrimage with the city as though it were a street.

Accordingly, there have been suggestions that the name Plateriás derives from the Latin word “platea”, meaning a public way and which by the medieval period had come to indicate a location where judicial ceremonies were performed. This was indeed the function of the space immediately in front of the south transept doors.

At the end of the eleventh century large scale sculptural ensembles began to be introduced over the doorways of Romanesque churches. In a practice long abandoned since the end of Antiquity, such images placed within the hemicycle formed between the lintel and arch over a doorway and known as a tympanum were now being revived.

St-Sernin-Miegeville-WP-1Controversy still exists with regard to the dating of these first large Romanesque programmes. Saint Sernin de Toulouse begun in 1070 at the eastern end, did not feature a carved portal relief at the south transept entrance. However by the time construction reached a second portal further west along the nave, a large scale relief was included. The tympanum of the Ascension of the Porte de Miegeville is a brilliantly accomplished work of sculpture and architecture with a fully realised iconographic programme. It is generally considered to have been created in the first half of the first decade of the twelfth century.

Platerias-GV-2-WPIn contrast, the double reliefs of the Puerta de las Plateriás believed to date from 1101, seem far less successful. It may be that the deficiencies of the tympana are due to poor planning and craft and that the technical problems of fitting sculpted stone slabs into the inherently problematic area afforded by a tympanum had not been fully considered. The result is a seemingly confused arrangement of differing styles and materials lacking any obvious coherent thematic significance.

Furthermore, the apparent confusion of the sculptural arrangements cannot be ascribed to the depredations of long centuries, since the description provided in the Pilgrim’s Guide is remarkably true to what remains to this day.

This is because major revisions had already been effected within the first decade of the initial work.

Biblio: Santiago de Compostela in the time of Diego Gelmirez, Barbara Abou-El-Haj, Gesta XXXVI/2 1997

Reading Romanesque Sculpture: The Iconography and Reception of the South Portal Sculpture at Santiago de Compostela, Karen Rose Mathews, Gesta XXXIX/1 2000

The Romanesque Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela: A Reassessment, Christabel Watson, BAR International Series 1979-2009

The Codex Calixtinus as an Art-Historical Source, S Moralejo in John Williams / Alison Stones The Codex Calixtinus and the Shrine of St. James 1992

Manuel Castiñeiras: Didacus Gelmirez, Patron of the arts. Compostela’s long journey: From the periphery to the centre of Romanesque art. Compostela and Europe : the story of Diego Gelmírez.Milano : Skira, c2010.

Topographie Sacrée, Liturgie Pascale et Reliques dans les grands centres de pèlerinage: Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle, Saint-Isidore-de-Léon et Saint-Étienne-de-Ribas-de-Sil, Manuel Antonio Castiñeiras González, Les Cahiers de Saint-Michel de Cuxa, XXXIV, 2003

The Basilica in Compostela and the way of Saint James, John Williams, Compostela and Europe : the story of Diego Gelmírez.Milano : Skira, c2010.

Platerias-MajestyAccording to the Pilgrim’s Guide, the cathedral of Compostela had three great portals.

Expressed through the iconography of the sculpture above their double doorways, they combined to present a history of the Christian redemption narrative through the medium of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

The north portal was the entrance known as the Porta Francigena, and is described as the one used by those arriving from France. This was the way pilgrims arrived at their destination.

At the great cathedral of Compostela, the pilgrims were greeted by an image of everything which their long journey had been intended to overcome. This was nothing less than the Fall of Man, presided over by a Christ in Majesty, hand raised in benediction.

On the square immediately in front of the portal was a large stone basin.

Francigena-Basin-1-WPIt was surmounted by four lions whose mouths acted as water spouts, continuously filling the basin. Intended for the refreshment of the pilgrims, the fountain symbolised, after the completion of their journey, the transformation of the Four French Roads  into the Four Rivers of Paradise.

The lions alluded to Christ the Redeemer providing the Water of Life and the ribbed exterior of the basin was shaped to resemble a scallop shell, transforming the whole fountain into a symbol of the theme of Resurrection.

Platerias-ExpulsionThe fountain was the centrepoint of an atrium or parvis and an intentional evocation of the Paradisus of Constantine’s basilica of St Peter’s in Rome. This reminder of Eden was the prelude to the carved Genesis cycle of the Fall of Man depicted above the entrance to the cathedral. As the first volume of the Jacobus declares, “Adam is considered the first pilgrim”.

The depiction of the Fall on the north portal supplied the context for pilgrims arriving at the Apostle’s shrine. Their journey was one necessitated by Original Sin and that, through the intercession of the saint whose mortal remains where held beyond the portal, they could obtain a return to Paradise.

Platerias-SagittariusThe Pilgrim’s Guide provides a description of the iconographic programme. Above the right doorway a series of reliefs showed the Creation of Adam and Eve, the Reprimand after Original Sin and the Expulsion. According to the Guide’s account, this scene is surrounded by a multiplicity of images, “and other creatures whose aspect and characteristics we cannot provide here due to their great number”.

Platerias-PiscesSurviving sculptural elements suggest that these included the Signs of the Zodiac and the Labours of the Months. Representing the passage of earthly time, they were a discourse on the consequences of the Fall.

Thus a Sagittarian Centaur shoots arrows and pierces the heart of a Siren representing Pisces, an allegory of the destructive nature of passion. A Crossbowman preparing his weapon is a symbol of Discord.

A man rides a rooster indicating lust. An Eve suckling the baby Cain recalls the words of Genesis, “In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children”.

Platerias-King-David-P

The scenes of the Fall are counterpointed by Old Testament figures who were considered prefigurations of Christ. Abraham and the Sacrifice of Isaac and King David the Musician. This promise of future redemption was made explicit in a depiction of the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin which was located above the left doorway.

Maps of the world which were included in the illuminated manuscripts of Beatus’ Commentary on the Apocalypse featured depictions of Paradise. It was represented by the Four Rivers, the Pishon, Gihon, Hiddekel and Euphrates which the Book of Genesis mentions as emanating from Eden. The Beatus maps depicted the Apostles in those places where they had fulfilled their mission. The Beatus copy from the cathedral of El Burgo de Osma of 1086, features only two, Peter in Rome and James at Compostela.

The Porta Francigena was destroyed in 1757-8, however many of the reliefs found their way onto the Puerta de las Platerias, where they can be seen today.

Biblio: Santiago de Compostela in the time of Diego Gelmirez, Barbara Abou-El-Haj, Gesta XXXVI/2 1997

Reading Romanesque Sculpture: The Iconography and Reception of the South Portal Sculpture at Santiago de Compostela, Karen Rose Mathews, Gesta XXXIX/1 2000

The Romanesque Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela: A Reassessment, Christabel Watson, BAR International Series 1979-2009

The Codex Calixtinus as an Art-Historical Source, S Moralejo in John Williams / Alison Stones The Codex Calixtinus and the Shrine of St. James 1992

Manuel Castiñeiras: Didacus Gelmirez, Patron of the arts. Compostela’s long journey: From the periphery to the centre of Romanesque art. Compostela and Europe : the story of Diego Gelmírez.Milano : Skira, c2010.

Topographie Sacrée, Liturgie Pascale et Reliques dans les grands centres de pèlerinage: Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle, Saint-Isidore-de-Léon et Saint-Étienne-de-Ribas-de-Sil, Manuel Antonio Castiñeiras González, Les Cahiers de Saint-Michel de Cuxa, XXXIV, 2003

The Basilica in Compostela and the way of Saint James, John Williams, Compostela and Europe : the story of Diego Gelmírez.Milano : Skira, c2010.