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Heritage and identity (85). The missing altarpiece of San Joaquín de Ujué and the heart of Carlos II.


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Diario de Navarra

Ricardo Fernández Gracia

Chair of Heritage and Art in Navarre

plenary session of the Executive Council In the seventeenth century, a Carmelite layman from Añorbe, Brother Juan de Jesús San Joaquín (1590-1669), whose life became popular not only during his lifetime, but also shortly after his death, when his biography with hagiographical overtones was printed in 1684. Among the numerous events that he narrates, everything referring to the extension of the cult of Saint Joachim stands out, a task that the aforementioned religious took very seriously. The name of Joaquín was popularized, in a special way, in those children that were born of marriages with problems to obtain succession.

The author of the book we are quoting, Father José de la Madre de Dios, writes at length about the first case of this name in Navarre, "and probably in all of Spain, where since then the Joaquins have multiplied. This was in the year 1636". The protagonist of the fact was the marriage formed by Don Juan de Aguirre, oidor of the Royal committee of Navarre and Doña Dionisia de Álava y Santamaría, his niece, who married after entrusting the matter to Saint Joaquín, through the Carmelite layman. It was not this case the most famous, but another one, son of the counts of Oropesa, viceroys of Navarre, to whom the name of Manuel Joaquín was imposed, in Pamplona, the day of Kings of the year 1644, and whose birth was perpetuated by Antonio de Solís in a work titled Eurídice and Orfeo.

The Jesuit Juan Bautista León, in two volumes dedicated to the cult of St. Joaquín (Orihuela, 1700-1701), also tells us of other events that took place in the chapel of the Discalced Carmelites of Pamplona, in Tarazona, Toro, Valencia, Jumilla, Monóvar, Villena, Avila, Bilbao, Játiva and Sicily, and of the popularization of the cult of the saint and the dedication of temples and altarpieces from the chapel in the Discalced Carmelites of Pamplona. In Navarra, some of the hermitages under his patronage, start precisely from the figure of Brother Juan.

In the 18th century

The XVIII century witnessed how the brotherhood of San Joaquín, established in the Discalced Carmelites of Pamplona, in 1722, propitiated very special cults to him. From 1750 dates the renovation of its chapel, with a beautiful set of plasterwork, work projected by the tracista of the order fray José de los Santos.

Among the altarpieces dedicated to him in that century, we should mention those of Marcilla, the basilica of San Gregorio Ostiense (Silvestre de Soria, 1768), Comendadoras de Puente la Reina (Nicolás Pejón, 1768) and the one we are dealing with, of the same chronology. Coincidence or causality? Undoubtedly something was moving and its influence is noticeable in these remarkable Navarrese sets. Their images are also abundant, highlighting those of the academic period, in plenary session of the Executive Council XVIII century: Azpilcueta, Errazu, Goizueta, Falces, Sesma and San Gregorio Ostiense, the latter, work of the sculptor Roberto Michel A .

The altarpiece of Ujué and its author

This complete altarpiece of Ujué is known to us thanks to an excellent photograph of the collection of Juan Mora Insa (1880-1954), preserved in the file Provincial Historical Archive of Zaragoza. It was commissioned by Francisco Gorráiz y Oronoz, who served as prior of the sanctuary between 1736 and 1777. position This personage was a man concerned about the image of the sanctuary, who enhanced it with various works, such as the great organ, now disappeared, whose case was made by Miguel de Zufía, while the instrument itself was made by the Italian organ builder Francisco Basconi. He was also responsible for the stone Stations of the Cross, made by the stonemason Bernardo Echeverría, in 1772, in the area surrounding the Basilica of San Miguel. Likewise, he established a foundation to endow maidens and in 1770, in a lawsuit with the prosecutor of the Royal committee , about the permission to ask for alms for the ornamentation and maintenance of the church of Ujué.

The contract for the execution of the altarpiece must have been signed, at the end of the sixties, with Miguel de Zufía. The amount of the adjustment was 1,320 reales, without the round sculptures. The recognition of the piece, once completed, was made by the sculptor Francisco Nicolás Pejón on August 30, 1772, who came from Sangüesa where he worked on the main altarpiece of the parish of Santiago at that time. Pejón estimated the improvements -adorns on the pedestal and niches- at 228 reales, which were paid to Zufía, in addition to 9 pesetas for the master's children and servants, as thanks on the day the piece was mounted. The stonemason Juan José Leoz made three pillars for its installation.

Miguel de Zufía y Villanueva was born in Larraga in 1719, he married the daughter of the master José Labastida from Tudela, which makes us suspect that he would have made his apprenticeship with the latter. In the middle of the 18th century he settled in Caparroso, where several of his children were born. He was denounced, in 1757, along with other artisans who lived in Caparroso by Gregorio Ortiz before the brotherhood of carpenters of Olite for not being examined. He was the author, among other works, of the altarpiece of the Virgen del Soto de Caparroso (1758-1759) commissioned by Don Antonio de Menaut y Terés, the collaterals of the Santo Cristo and the Virgen del Rosario de Cáseda (1774-1777) and the organ cases of Ujué and Larraga in 1775. By 1770 he was already living in Olite, where he continued to live for some time. Precisely, a declaration of the same, dated at the end of April of 1775, when he said he was 56 years old, to purpose of the enlistment of three of his sons -Miguel, Francisco and Manuel, shows that, although from 1765 he lived in Olite, in May of 1773 he moved with his family to Cáseda to make the altarpiece of the Santo Cristo. When he finished and delivered it, in 1774, he was commissioned to make the Rosary altarpiece, on condition that he would reside in the town. He was in Cáseda with all his family for reasons of work, therefore, accidentally and they intended to return to Olite, as soon as the commission was finished.

He had a son, with whom he should not be confused: Miguel de Zufía y Labastida (Caparroso, 1748 - Cascante, 1829) who married Josefa García in Larraga in 1775 and was very long-lived.

The interest of the altarpiece of San Joaquín de Ujué is multiple. In the first place, for its own design, since it departs from the usual in that decade, departing from the typical rococo model to lean towards a design of subject Borrominesque in its plan with classical columns, as occurs in other groups of the time, such as the altarpiece of the Virgen de la Barda de Fitero, today dedicated to the Cristo de la Columna (Christ of the Column). The protagonism is given to its moving mixtilinear lines, which required a great knowledge and internship of drawing and assembly.

The sculptures of the altarpiece and the polychrome of the ensemble

Another highlight of the piece was its imagery, with three large sculptures made by the master in vogue in Pamplona in those decades, who was none other than Manuel Martín de Ontañón, who charged 400 reales, noted in the accounts of 1772-1773 for those of St. Anthony of Padua and St. Raymond Nonnatus. Fortunately, that of the patron is preserved in the Diocesan Museum of Pamplona, along with some meager parts of the altarpiece. In Ujué this image of Saint Joaquín was known as "the one with the falling tights", due to the disposition of these garments on his legs.

It was paid for by the aforementioned prior Don Francisco Gorráiz and executed by the same sculptor. It cost 35 pesos, noting in the accounts that it was for his devotion to the saint. Manuel Martín de Ontañón was of Cantabrian origin and to him we owe, among other works, the pendentives of the chapel of the Virgen del Camino, some sculptures of the main altarpiece of Santesteban, a Saint Joseph for the cathedral of Pamplona and the choir stalls of Ujué. The rest of the images that appear in the photo of the altarpiece correspond to other periods. The largest one, a Saint Michael, is from the second third of the 16th century and none of them originally belonged to the altarpiece.

The polychromy of the whole ensemble was entrusted to the master gilder of Tafalla Manuel Rey, who belonged to a famous family of gilders and painters. He was Domingo's son and worked extensively in the third quarter of the 18th century, continuously on several altarpieces and on the organ case of Miranda de Arga.

The heart of Charles II in the attic

As is well known, during the Age average, there was a widespread belief that the bodies of those buried inside the churches benefited more from the liturgical services that were celebrated in them and, therefore, reached divine forgiveness sooner. That is why the tombs closer to the altar had more value than those farther away. Prominent personages left orders, by testamentary means, to send their viscera to the sanctuaries of their devotion, such as sample the heart of Carlos II in Ujué. As is known, the monarch, following the tradition of the Capetos, ordered that his body be eviscerated and that his entrails be deposited in different sanctuaries. His heart arrived at the sanctuary in January 1387. In 1404, Charles III had an oak box made to preserve the viscera.

The heart of King Carlos II was behind the attic of the altarpiece that occupies us. Father Jacinto Clavería stated in his 1919 study of the sanctuary: "Above the altar of San Joaquín there is a niche in the wall with its little iron door, on which is written in golden letters: Here lies the heart of Don Carlos II, King of Navarre. Year 1386". He then describes the chest with its registration. The photograph that we present sample the attic of the altarpiece with the text referred by Clavería, but with a slightly different content, written in golden capital letters and with the following distribution in its lines, developing the abbreviations: "HERE LIES THE / HEART OF / KING D. CARLOS / SECOND OF NAVARRA / DIED THE YEAR OF / 1386". The text is enclosed in a large cartouche with a royal crown on top and rocailles around it.

The altarpiece was attached to the wall on the Gospel side, covering the north door of the sanctuary. It was dismantled during the intervention in the sanctuary in the middle of the last century. The trace of its presence is in the iron gate, which coincides with the niche of the stone wall, where the heart of Charles II was, behind the attic of the altarpiece.