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Ricardo Fernández Gracia, Director of the Chair of Navarrese Heritage and Art.

Heritage and identity (42). Santa Bárbara, when it thunders and more

Fri, 04 Dec 2020 09:41:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

The Golden Legend recounts the life of St. Barbara and makes her the daughter of the satrap Dióscuro, who locked her in a tower with two windows. However, a priest posing as a doctor instructed and baptized the young girl, who pierced a third window to show her faith in the Trinity. Threatened by her father with the sword, she managed to flee, taking refuge in a rock that miraculously opened for her. She was denounced by a shepherd whose sheep turned into locusts, and once imprisoned, she refused to abjure and marry a pagan. She was subjected to torments: burnings, rack, whipped with iron combs and walked naked through the city when an angel covered her. Finally, her father, on a mountain, cut off her head, being immediately struck by lightning, leaving not even her ashes. 

Its patronages are abundant. She is invoked against lightning and fire, storms, thunder and lightning, sudden death and by artillerymen since the 15th century -cannons launch lightning-, artificers, arquebusiers, bombers, bell-ringers, miners and stonemasons. Schoolchildren and students worshipped him for having studied the truths of the faith when he was young, stonemasons for the aforementioned tower and farmers for the plagues of locusts. His feast is celebrated on December 4.

Hermitages, confraternities, reliquaries and images

In Navarre she has a parish of her patronage (Bariain) and was the patron of forty-five hermitages and numerous confraternities, among them that of the merchants in Pamplona and those established in the convent of San Francisco in the capital of Navarre -later in San Agustín-, San Cernin in the same city of the guanteros, Corella since 1546, Monteagudo since 1713 and Monreal since before 1726. Of this last one it is affirmed in the report of brotherhoods of 1772, conserved in the National Historical file : "there is founded in its parish brotherhood of Santa Barbara, whose image is placed in its basilica, located in the eminence of the mount called Higa de Alaiz, which was built for the reason of the frequency and ravages of the storms".

The issue of silver reliquaries of the saint, belonging to different chronologies and styles, testify to her cult in past times. The oldest is kept in the Augustinian Recollect Nuns of Pamplona and belongs to the last years of the 15th century. Among the localities that keep them are Maya, Garisoain, Huarte-Pamplona, Muruarte de Reta, Añorbe and San Saturnino de Pamplona.

In her representations, she dresses timelessly with tunic and velvet cloak, as a virgin she has her hair in sight, she holds the tower with a door and three windows. She carries the palm, attribute of the martyrs, as a symbol of the victory over death that reaches eternal life, it is also of virtue according to what Psalm 91, 13 sings: "the just will prosper like the palm tree". It can also be accompanied by his father trampled at his feet, a chalice (Faith), a cannon or a cannonball.

A long list of sculptures throughout the Comunidad Foral bear witness to its cult. Some of them are the head of altarpieces and there is no lack of Renaissance and Baroque paintings. Among the altarpieces, those of Aguilar de Codés, Abaigar and, above all, the one in the ambulatory of the cathedral of Pamplona, work of Fermín de Larráinzar, c. 1712-14, in which 11,000 reales were used from the inheritance of Don León de Garro. Its gilding was entrusted by the chapter to Pedro de Ecay in 1714 and by that date the niche and the image of the patron saint were still pending.

Most of them are Renaissance carvings, both from the second third, generally very expressive, and Romanesque, highlighting those of Huarte-Araquil and Vidaurreta, delicate works of Fray Juan de Beauves and the Romanesque of the altarpiece of Ilundáin. In Arguedas a bust-reliquary of the saint is conserved in the parish and figure in the facade of the sanctuary of the Yugo.

In the chapter on 16th century painting we preserve panels such as those of the main altarpiece of Santa María de Olite (Pedro Aponte, 1529), as well as others where she is paired with other martyr saints, as in the altarpiece of Burlada, today in the Museum of Navarre, (Juan del Bosque, 1529) or Eguiarreta (begun by Menaut de Oscáriz in 1551).

Regarding the fully baroque sculptures, we will highlight those of Corella, Los Arcos and Azpilcueta. The first one is in the main altarpiece of the parish of San Miguel, a work directed between 1718 and 1722 by Juan Antonio Gutiérrez. The reason for being there is because it has Shrine of Our Lady of Fair Love in Corella and was of great devotion at that time. La de los Arcos is venerated in the altarpiece of San Gregorio Ostiense and Las Ánimas and was documented by Víctor Pastor as the work of Francisco Sainz de Baraona in 1720. The sculpture of Azpilcueta presides over the altarpiece and is a work signed by the sculptor Luis Salvador Carmona in 1752, the same date as other sculptures in the parish. About the impression that these magnificent works caused, a letter of December 5, 1752, written by Don Antonio Gastón de Iriarte to his brother-in-law the Bishop of Michoacán Don Martín de Elizacoechea, patron of the reconstruction of the parish and of the endowment of its main images, tells us: "After having been in Madrid from six to seven months, I returned to my home and by May of this year, having spent the winter and spring in that Court in the company of my brother and children beautifully and very distracted with the bustle of so many people and novelties that occur every day in the Court, without having experienced the least novelty in my health, I had at the same time the pleasure and pleasure of seeing how the saints were working for the church of Azpilcueta under the direction of my brother, who I assure Your Illustriousness that they are very good and according to the intelligent ones very appreciable and liking them they wait to come, that besides that in the Kingdom there will be few similar ones, since today they work in Madrid of the best".

For its scenography stands out the martyrdom of the saint of the attic of the main altarpiece of Urzainqui, work of the Aragonese Francisco Nicolás Pejón, contracted in 1753 for the amount of 1,000 pesos, with the imagery included. The gilding of the whole set was made by Andrés Mata in 1768.

In the cloister of the Dominican Sisters of Tudela two canvases of the saint were preserved. The first is dated 1662 by Vicente Berdusán, in one of his first signed and dated works. In the painting we can observe some of his own characteristics, such as the discoid crown, the carmine, the blurred parts and the programs of study of golden lights that are typical of the painter. In the choir another canvas of larger dimensions and full body was kept. Its chronology dates from the first third of the XVII century. 

An exceptional engraving at the Carmelite nuns of San José

To the presence of Mother Leonor de la Misericordia (Ayanz y Beaumont, 1551-1620), in the Carmelites of Pamplona, was due the arrival of outstanding books and a rich collection of engravings from the late sixteenth century and the beginning of the next century. Father Gracián, confessor of Saint Teresa, described Leonor as follows: "Inwardly she was a seraph of condition and soul, and outwardly an angel of face and good grace. She had skill rare in writing, painting, knowing Latin and in the other labors and exercises of women, accompanying with manly prudence"

The set of engraved prints in his collection was possible thanks to the correspondence he maintained, among others, with Domingo de Jesús María, (Calatayud, 1559-Vienna, 1630) who went to Italy in 1604, occupying the generalate of the Italian Congregation in 1617; Mother Inés de Jesús (Tapia), cousin of St. Teresa and prioress of Medina del Campo and Palencia; don Guillén de San Clemente, ambassador of Spain in Prague from 1581 until his death in 1606; bishop of Tarazona and confessor of Medina del Campo and Palencia; Don Guillén de San Clemente, ambassador of Spain in Prague from 1581 until his death in 1606; the bishop of Tarazona and confessor of Saint Teresa, Fray Diego de Yepes; Mother Ana de San Bartolomé, prioress of Brussels and Antwerp and Father Gracián de la Madre de Dios, confessor of Saint Teresa.

The print of Saint Barbara belongs to a series edited by Jean Sadeler, with drawings by Martin de Vos, entitled Speculum Pudicitiae. Contemplatio sanctarum castarumque virginum, made by the aforementioned masters, of which copies are preserved in Brussels, Cambridge, Milan, Munich, Paris and Vienna. Some of Martin de Vos' drawings are dated between 1584 and 1585. 

In the print of the collection, Saint Barbara is represented standing, with royal crown, tunic, mantle, and carrying a palm. At her feet numerous books, allusive to pagan science and a sword and in the background a tower, mannerist version of the old fortresses, with the three windows on its front of Trinitarian significance. In the background is represented the passage of his decapitation in the cima of a mountain by his own father. Martin de Vos appears as the draftsman and Sadeler as the publisher of this beautiful copy. The textual support in this case reminds us: "When Barbara confesses the power of the Holy Trinity, she piously gives the neck to the cruel one to cut it".

Printed with their joys in Mañeru and Pamplona

Santa Bárbara had Shrine of Our Lady of Fair Love in Mañeru and her devotees must have been the ones who commissioned a print with the typical outline of the joys, which was published in Estella in the printing house of the Widow of Zunzarren. The caption "Viuda de Zunzarren e Hijo", evokes a long family of printers. Javier Zunzarren was succeeded around 1867 by his widow and son Melchor, who were active between 1867 and 1878, the period in which we should place the printed gozos. Melchor was active at least between 1878 and 1900.

The saint dresses, in the xylographic block that illustrates her joys, timelessly with tunic and velvet cloak. As a virgin, her hair is visible and she holds the tower with a door and its three windows that iconographically identify her by alluding with the issue to her adoration of the Holy Trinity in that building where she had been locked up by her father to keep her from Christian proselytism. She also holds the generic attribute of the martyrs, the palm, in this case with three crowns alluding to victory, truth and triumph. As it is known, the palm is an attribute of the martyrs, as a symbol of the victory over death that reaches eternal life, it is also of virtue according to what Psalm 91, 13 sings: "the just shall prosper like the palm tree". The lyrics of the verses of the joys go through her life's journey: example as a Christian, prison, her father's contumacy, avenged and reduced by lightning and martyrdom. She ends by asking for his protection against lightning and in "any affliction".

The popularity of her cult is evidenced by another print of gozos, without accredited specialization of the place of worship of the saint, published in Pamplona by Jesús García in the second quarter of the twentieth century. They reproduce the refrain and verses of the novenarios dedicated to Saint Barbara, with all the details of her life and martyrdom.

The Pamplona Merchants and Traders Guild

In Pamplona there were two confraternities dedicated to the saint, one of the merchants and the other of the artillerymen in the convent of San Francisco. The first was founded in 1599 in the Parish of San Saturnino and moved in 1606 to the church of the Hospital. They celebrated their feast with all magnificence and the attendance of the music chapel of the cathedral.

His engraved print is known from a Summary of Indulgences printed in Pamplona, which lists the spiritual graces granted by Pope Clement XI in 1709 and which Ana Azcona located in the account book of the brotherhood of Santa Barbara. 

The small engraving of Saint Barbara is the work of Juan de la Cruz, a silversmith of Aragonese origin who settled in the capital of Navarre in the second third of the 18th century. A careful examination of the accounts of the Pamplona merchants' brotherhood allowed us to date it in 1750, together with the print in which it appears as the header. The date in which it was made must be put in context with the evolution of the brotherhood itself which, according to Ana Azcona, lived in atony in the first half of the 18th century, but from 1749, after the customs reorganization, it acquired a great dynamism with numerous managements in favor of the mercantile interests of its members.

A registration identifies the saint and the name of the engraver. Saint Barbara dresses timelessly with tunic and velvet cloak, as a virgin she has her hair visible and appears with her attributes mentioned in other images.