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Heritage and identity (77). The missing royal tribune of Santa María de Olite


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Diario de Navarra

Ricardo Fernández Gracia

Chair of Heritage and Art in Navarre

The interiors of the temples, like other enclosures of different architectural typologies, have transformed their appearance, furnishings and lighting concept throughout the different historical periods. Styles and fashions, not to mention favorable economic circumstances, have made possible important changes, of which we can follow the trail, in the best cases, aided by photography, and in many others thanks to documentation.

When we have photographs, we are usually surprised to see spaces with hardly any benches and kneelers for which their owners paid a fee, with bricked or boxed in floors, with altarpieces quite disfigured by dust and deterioration due to the passage of centuries, to which we must add a number of elements that were added to their decoration, often with little luck and success.

The parish church of Santa María de Olite had key moments that marked the appearance of its interior. One was undoubtedly the construction of its main altarpiece, around 1525-1530, painted by the Aragonese Pedro de Aponte, with a rich iconographic program. Since then, the chevet of the temple had this impressive piece of liturgical furniture that is at the same time a visual, ritual and spiritual piece in the interior space of the complex.

Another great stage was marked by the great reforms, carried out from the sixties of the 18th century, with the general whitewashing, the construction of tribunes that were accessed from the royal palace, the colorful pulpits, the construction of the chapel of Christ and the organ.

The whitewashing of the entire interior was carried out between 1763 and 1764 and was at position of the mason Manuel Espinosa, who was paid in 1764. The latter traveled to Caparroso at the beginning of the work, in 1763, to call the whitewashers, undoubtedly the team of the Italian Pedro Bardini or Baldini, who in that year was working on the whitewashing and coloring of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fair Love of the Virgen del Soto and later documented in other temples, such as the basilica of Luquin (1784). Baldini also became position of the cleaning of altarpieces, as in the parish of Falces in 1772. The stained glass windows and the floor of the parish of Olite suffered some damage that had to be repaired.

Among the pieces of movable art that were renovated were the access gate at Santa Engracia, the pulpit loudspeakers and the organ. The rich guardavoces were carved by José Ortiz, a master from Tudela, who worked in Olite at that time for the churches of the Franciscans and the Antonians. For both loudspeakers Ortiz was paid 400 reales. However, the following year, in 1763, Miguel de Zufía, architect and sculptor from Larraga, who lived in Olite, proceeded to add decorative carving and Structures, for which he charged 386 reales, which indicates the importance and volume of what was added. Both guardavoces were gilded by the painter Andrés de Lavega in 1764.

Immediately, the work of the chapel of the Santo Cristo de la Buena Muerte was undertaken, with a central plant designed in Madrid in 1767. The work was completed in 1773, and the chapel was blessed and inaugurated with special festivities, including a great sermon and a solemn Te Deum. Its material execution was carried out by the bricklayer Manuel Espinosa, the stonemason Juan de Les and the carpenter Miguel Zufía at position .

Regarding the organ, it is a slightly later work, although it can be framed in that same period of extensive reforms. Its case was made between 1784 and 1785 by Leoncio Gómez, master of Alfaro, and gilded by José del Rey. The instrument itself was made at position by the Larraga organ builder Diego Gómez.

The double rostrum of 1763, in the light of a historical photograph of 1915.

Santa María de Olite had from medieval times a tribune -apparently double- for the attendance of the monarchs and the court. A very interesting stereoscopic photograph, positive on glass, taken in 1915 by Francisco Xavier Parés, of the Centre Excursionista de Catalunya by F. Xavier Parés (Centre Excursionista de Catalunya, CEC), around 1915, is the best testimony we have about that piece of furniture, which also appears, with less prominence, in another photo of the Marquis of Santa María del Villar, a little later. The snapshot shows the covered main altarpiece and other details that speak of the degradation of the temple's movable heritage, a little more than a century ago.

Other temples also had them for their patrons, generally nobles -Clarisas de Arizcun, Concepcionistas de Tafalla-, for the civil authorities -the regiment of Pamplona in San Saturnino- or the parish boards and workers, and even the religious superiors in their temples. It was a sign of pre-eminence and distinction in the estamental society.

With the Olitense temple so renovated, the parochial board of trustees thought of eliminating the old tribunes, but they were not of his skill, since they belonged to the patrimony of the king. In order to make arrangements in Pamplona, the parochial vicar went to Pamplona, with great interest, to present a written request to the Court of the Chamber of Comptos, manager of the royal patrimony. The content of the memorial clarifies the intentions of the patrons of the parish. It begins with the argument that the church was included in the royal palace and "because of its age it is very dark and unbleached, and wishing to put it with the possible decency the patrons have determined to bleach it ... and give it the lights that the status will allow". The narrative continued with the account that the palace has a tribune in the church with two divisions, one for the lords and the other for the relatives and that due to its state "it causes much ugliness, because it is made of earth and very old, so that those who enter the said church are surprised by the bad appearance of the tribune". Almost certainly, it would be a work of plasterwork, most likely medieval, and its state of deterioration and wear made them qualify it as made of earth.

Immediately, an account was given of how different members of the Chamber of Comptos had visited it, requesting that, in order to give more light to the church, the existing one be removed and another one be put up with "the decency and beauty corresponding to the church" at the expense of the royal treasury. The reply of March 30 of that same year of 1773 determined to undertake the necessary work, making "the works and repairs that they contain with all the necessary perfection and beauty, adjusting all their cost to the greater benefit of the royal treasury".

The condition was made by the master sculptor and architect Miguel Zufía, leaving the masonry part under the responsibility of Manuel Espinosa. It is dated April 13, 1762. The project contemplated the suppression of the two old tribunes and their full replacement, including the pavement of both with eight coral pine timbers. Much emphasis is placed on the flight of the balcony of agreement with a profile that had been previously drawn, on technical aspects of the carpentry and its assembly. The placement of the balusters and the lattices with their frames, the nails to be used, the thickness of the different parts, are aspects that are insisted on a lot. The pilasters should have their carved pendants and the partition wall dividing the two tribunes should be plastered, as well as the walls, leaving the interior well shaped and uncluttered.

The contract for the execution was signed on the aforementioned date, April 1762, between those in charge of the Chamber of Comptos and the aforementioned Miguel Zufía, master architect and carpenter, and Manuel Espinosa, master mason, who lived in Olite. In everything they would be subject to the conditions and would charge for the work the amount of 800 reales, always with the requirement that the tribunes were recognized by a master of recognized expertise. The deadline of submission would finish on the day of San Fermín that same year.

The recognition of the piece ran to position of the master builder Manuel Olóriz, who worked assiduously for the institutions of the Kingdom, approving the order. In the document, dated at the end of September 1763, he noted that the partition wall between the two tribunes, foreseen in the conditions, had not been executed by order of the Court of the Chamber of Comptos. On the contrary, some improvements were made, specifically the enhancement of the floor or pavement and the balusters. The assessment of the total cost, carried out by the aforementioned Olóriz, amounted to a little more than 1,034 reales.

The gilding and polychromy of the tribunes was arranged with the master of Tafalla Manuel del Rey, on September 15, 1765. They were previously recognized by the gilders Antonio Galán and Andrés de Lavega. The person in charge of signing the document on behalf of the Chamber of Comptos was the Patrimonial with Francisco Argáiz Velaz de Medrano. Among the conditions required were: the cleanliness of the whole, its rigging, burnished gilding in certain parts and green paint for others on the outside, while the inside would be painted white. For the balusters, oil blue was chosen, the pilasters would be marbled and the buttons and cobs would be gilded. In the two ovals the "arms of this Kingdom" would be represented, although it seems that in the end it was chosen those of the Spanish monarchy, with those of Castile and Aragon and those of Navarre in the escutcheon. On the lower plaster base was to be painted "a showy ornament". The payment was to be made in installments and in the granting of the deed the amount of 70 pesos of the 110 that, in principle, had been budgeted, was paid to the Pamplona painter Pedro Antonio de Rada as guarantor.

Shortly after signing the contract, the painter Andrés de Lavega, a resident of Olite, tried to win the work by making a reduction of 10 pesos, although the Court of Comptos did not admit the proposal, after making sure through various people, among them the prestigious painter Pedro de Rada, that Manuel del Rey was a well-known person skill and that the expense was proportionate.

In 1946, José Ramón Martínez Erro refers to the now disappeared tribune in his monograph on Olite, with these words: "This beautiful church had a beautiful Royal Box inside, of which the window still remainstoday.It was connected by means of a gallery to the church of San Jorge (the palace chapel), and was occupied by the Kings of Navarre in the great religious solemnities that were celebrated in this church".

The work and its creators: Miguel Zufía and Manuel del Rey

The panzudas tribunes are adapted to the moving and theatrical model widespread in the eighteenth century in Navarra, including those of the Company of Mary of Tudela, the disappeared of the Poor Clares of the same city, or those of the chapel of the Virgen del Camino in the capital of Navarra. As in other sets of board of trustees, its function had much to do with the image of the power of those who held it, to be able to attend to religious functions from the same or simply to mark distance through their coats of arms and other signs of distinction.

The author of the tribunes, Miguel de Zufía y Villanueva, was born in Larraga in 1719, and married the daughter of the Tudela master José Labastida, which makes us suspect that he might not have apprenticed with the latter. In no case should he be confused with his son Miguel Zufía y Labastida (1748-1829), also a sculptor. He worked in Caparroso, Ujué, Olite, Larraga and Cáseda.

Manuel del Rey belonged to a family of gilders from Tafalla, he was the son of Domingo del Rey and brother of Juan José del Rey. He was married to Andresa Munárriz and was very active in different towns of Navarra average in the second half of the 18th century: Sangüesa, Miranda de Arga, Tafalla, Ujué, Olite ...etc.