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Ricardo Fernández Gracia, director of the Chair of Heritage and Art of Navarre.

Saint Dominic of Guzman in Navarre

Wed, 10 Aug 2016 18:47:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

This year the Order of Preachers celebrates a jubilee year that recalls the publication of the Bulls promulgated by Honorius III eight hundred years ago, confirming the foundation of the Order in 1216 and 1217. The pontifical approval fulfilled the project of St. Dominic of Guzman (1170-1221) who, concerned about the problems of the world and the church of his time, felt the need to create an order whose members would be dedicated to preaching, contemplation, study and compassion, in order to help the men and women of his time..


The great convents in the foral geography


Pamplona, Tudela, Sangüesa and Estella had male foundations, while the only enclosure of Dominican nuns was in the capital of La Ribera.

The house of Pamplona suffered different vicissitudes since its foundation around 1230. The demolition of the primitive complex took place in 1514 and the construction of the Renaissance temple began immediately, laying the first stone in 1520 and concluding in 1568. The internship totality of its decoration has been preserved, with the Baroque organ, the Renaissance main altarpiece and many other Baroque altarpieces, among which stand out those of Marian devotions linked to the order, such as the Rosary or the Virgin of Nieva. The great cloister from the end of the 17th century is today, after numerous uses, part of the department of Education of the Government of Navarre.

The medieval convent of Estella has been more fortunate, which, in the opinion of Professor Martínez de Aguirre, is not only the most important work of Navarre's medieval mendicant architecture, but also the most important Dominican convent in the Iberian panorama of the 13th century. Don José Goñi Gaztambide was in charge of its historical development. The construction of the church, located on the north side of the complex, is linked to Teobaldo II, the monarch who had made the foundation possible in 1259, through documentary evidence and coats of arms with the arms of Navarre-Champaign.

The convent of Sangüesa had its origin in the establishment of the Dominicans outside the walls to the north around 1221, in front of the palace-castle. The convent, demolished for strategic reasons during the wars of Charles II against Aragon, was rebuilt inside the walls in 1381 and disappeared after the exclaustration of 1835, leaving hardly any visible remains. Its main altarpiece has presided over the parish church of Navascués since 1822. It was made at the expense of the Legaria family because of their great devotion to the Virgin of the Rosary and Santo Domingo. Its realization ran to position of Pedro Onofre Coll, between 1723 and 1724.

The house of Tudela was founded in 1517, when the regiment of the city gave land in the Morería to build the convent, it was erected under the munificence of the dean Don Pedro Villalón in 1575 and was already finished in 1541. Its rich decoration of altarpieces from the 15th century, in which Miguel de Magallón and Jerónimo Cosida worked, disappeared almost completely in the 19th century. In his church there were important funerary sets, like the Renaissance of Doña Catalina de Figueroa, a native of Alcalá de Henares and wife of Don Álvaro Pérez de Veraiz, who died in the capital of the Ribera in 1571, or that of Don Tomás Pasquier and Doña Jacinta de Ecay next to the praying sculptures made by Gaspar Ramos (1633).

The arrival of the Dominican Sisters to the capital of La Ribera took place in 1622, by the hand of a wealthy widow who had joined the order, named Catalina de Huidobro. In 1689 the church was inaugurated, which still conserves its decoration, in which the great main altarpiece stands out, the work of Francisco Gurrea, which contains canvases by Vicente Berdusán.

In more recent times, the presence of the charism of the Order in Navarre must be referred to the Dominican schools, remembering that since ancient times the beaterio on Jarauta Street in Pamplona was dedicated to the Education as a boarding school and that in 1798 the City Council of the city entrusted them with the direction of the first public school for girls to be opened in the capital of Navarre. Tudela, Villava and Pamplona are examples of the presence of the different branches of the Order in Navarrese society.


The holy founder and his identification

The artist and historian of the Order, Father Domingo Iturgaiz, dedicated several articles to the iconography of St. Dominic, programs of study . Together with the nimbus that identifies the saint as blessed, the habit is another sign of collective identity of the order founded by him: long white tunic up to the feet, girded by a strap, scapular of the same color, sash with a wide hood and black coral cape. It is usually accompanied by the book (intellectuality), model of building and the cross of double crossbar of the founders, sometimes this last one is finished off by the black and white flordelisado cross of the shield of the order. His own attribute is the little dog with a torch that alludes to the vision that his mother, Blessed Juana de Aza, had before St. Dominic was born. She dreamed that a little dog came out of her womb with a burning torch in its mouth. Unable to understand the meaning of her dream, she turned to the intercession of St. Dominic of Silos, understanding that her son was going to light the fire of Jesus Christ in the world through preaching. In gratitude, she named her son Dominic after the saint of Silos.

The rosary will also be a proper attribute in allusion to the legend that erroneously attributed its creation to him, although the saint gave the Marian devotion an evangelizing purpose, and it was the Dominican order the one that turned this particular devotion into a universal ecclesial prayer. Sometimes he also wears a lily alluding to his purity and a star on his forehead, reminiscent of the one that, according to legendary accounts, appeared on his face on the day of his baptism.

The highest quality sculptures in Navarre are the Renaissance altarpiece of the convent of Pamplona, and the Baroque ones of the convent of Estella, Falces, the altarpiece of San Fermín of the cathedral of Pamplona and the main altarpiece of the Poor Clares of Arizcun, paid for by Don Juan Bautista Iturralde in 1736. Other notable carvings are found in Puente la Reina, Larumbe, Sangüesa, Labiano, Imarcoain, Lerín, Gaztelu, Corella, Villafranca, Ablitas and Esquíroz. In general, it usually appears in altarpieces dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary, on benches, side streets or attics.


Outstanding scenes in its iconography

There are two or three themes in which the painters in general and the Navarrese canvases translate some passages of the saint's life into images: with the Virgin of the Rosary, the meeting with St. Francis of Assisi and the saint in Soriano. In the latter case, it is narrated

a miracle that took place in 1530 in the church of the convent of Soriano in Calabria, in the ancient kingdom of Naples. The apparition of the Virgin to a Dominican layman with the painted image of St. Dominic, "brought from heaven" takes place inside a church. The sacristan Lorenzo de Grottería appears kneeling before the "three ladies of sublime aspect": the Virgin, Saint Mary Magdalene and Saint Catherine of Alexandria, the latter holding the canvas of Saint Dominic of Guzmán. We find ourselves before the repeated baroque artifice of the "painting within the painting". In general, the baroque canvases copy a canvas painted by Juan Bautista Maíno for the convent of Santo Tomás in Madrid in 1629. The versions multiplied from an engraving made by Pedro Villafranca. The popularity of this iconography is reflected in numerous canvases by painters such as Francisco de Zurbarán, Juan del Castillo, Vicente Carducho, Pedro de Moya, Bartolomé Román, Diego Valentín Díaz, Antonio Pereda and Alonso Cano. Professor Echeverría Goñi has carefully studied the canvas of the Poor Clares of Estella with this topic, relating it to others existing in the region such as those of the convents of Santo Domingo in Pamplona, the Poor Clares of Olite and the Cistercians of Tulebras and the parishes of Cárcar, San Pedro de la Rua of Estella, from the old convent of Santo Domingo, and Urdaniz.

However, the presence of the saint next to the Virgin of the Rosary, handing her the rosary, is much more frequent, sometimes with the Dominican saint Catherine of Siena. When the two appear, sculptors and painters usually copy the engravings and woodcuts so abundant on the topic of the Virgin of the Rosary, accompanied by the two greats of the order of preachers. The Virgin, crowned and erect or seated, holds the Child Jesus in her arms and offers the rosary. In the lower part, kneeling, as donors, are Saint Dominic, with the habit of his order with a lily staff and accompanied by the book and the little dog, and Saint Catherine with the same habit and the lily staff. Thus we find them in canvases of the parishes of Aberin and Funes or in the Comendadoras of Puente la Reina.

The Virgin of the Rosary with the saint can be seen in a beautiful Mannerist panel by Juan de Lumbier in the parish of Arguedas, a relief from the altarpiece of San Pedro de la Rúa in Estella, and in canvases from different cloisters.

The topic of the embrace or meeting of St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi is based on the tradition, according to which St. Dominic saw in a dream that the wrath of God was going to send punishments on the world, but that the Blessed Virgin pointed out two men who with their works were going to intercede before God and calm him down. The one was Dominic and the other was a stranger, dressed almost like a beggar. And the next day, while he was praying in the temple, he saw the one dressed like a beggar arrive, and he was none other than St. Francis of Assisi. Dominic embraced him saying: "The two of us have to work very closely together, to achieve the Kingdom of God". A canvas by Berdusán of the Poor Clares of Olite and another of the Dominican Sisters of Tudela are a good example of this scene in the Baroque period. In a panel of the Renaissance altarpiece of Eguiarreta, work of Ramón de Oscáriz, the two saints appear in the meeting, in a couple that comes to signify and proclaim the relationship of the two mendicant orders.