Publicador de contenidos

Back to 2023_09_18_FYL_roncesvalles

Heritage and identity (76). The multiplied image of the Virgin of Roncesvalles


Published in

Diario de Navarra

Ricardo Fernández Gracia

Chair of Heritage and Art in Navarre

The great medieval Navarrese Marian icons suffered the consequences of the fashions, in many occasions with great mutilations, in order to appear taller, pretending to be standing instead of seated. In general, they became dressed images, with aprons, cloaks, crowns, rostrums, scepters and rich jewelry. In some cases, the changes were profound, while in others, as in the Irache or Ujué images, lined with silver, they barely affected the sculptures. The Virgin of Roncesvalles had a rostrillo, mantles -although she had them for special moments, such as one made of gold cloth inventoried in 1587- and a very rich jewelry box. In principle, a cultured chapter, far from popular tastes, could have helped to preserve the Gothic icon.

Her cult, of deep medieval roots, grew in the centuries of the Modern Age, thanks to the extension of her legend and prodigies that, outside Navarre, were spread, among others, by Father Villafañe in his successful Compendio de las milagrosas y devotas imágenes (1740). The Virgin of Roncesvalles received great veneration from numerous devotees of the land and also from outstanding personalities, such as the viceroy Francisco Hurtado de Mendoza, Marquis of Almazán, who affirmed "that he had seen most of the images of Our Lady that appeared in Spain and many in France, Italy and Germany, having been ambassador in those kingdoms, lands and provinces, but none of such grace, and that moved so much devotion and veneration". When he left the viceroyalty of Navarre, in 1588, he took with him a brocade mantle to place in the reliquary of his palace in Almazán. Another great devotee of the Marian simulacrum was Don Bernardo de Rojas y Sandoval, bishop of Pamplona and later archbishop of Toledo. When he left the see of San Fermín in 1594, he spent three days in the collegiate church dedicating special cults to her.

Copies of gothic sculpture

Navarra preserves some late medieval sculptures that follow the subject of the Virgin of Roncesvalles, a work from the second quarter of the 14th century. They have been studied by Clara Fernández-Ladreda. These are the sculptures of Janáriz, Turrillas, the small size of the treasure of Roncesvalles, Olaz-Subiza, Epároz and Urroz de Santesteban. The aforementioned author fixes its chronology shortly after the middle of the 14th century. The carvings of Enériz and Arrigorría, as copies of the image of Olaz-Subiza and which are indirectly linked to the titular of the collegiate church, are evidently later works. In any case, this is a rich collection of Marian imagery that followed a prototype of consolidated devotion in Navarre at that time.

The collegiate church of Roncesvalles had, as is well known, numerous encomiendas. Copies of the titular image were made for some of the latter. This is what Father Roque Alberto Faci says in his work on images in Aragon (1739). After noting that there were several in Spain, quotation specifically two: that of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fair Love of his name in the town of Alcolea de Cinca, where it had a confraternity and that of the convent of San Eloy in Lisbon, where it was taken by Doña Leonor de Aragón, daughter of Fernando I of Aragón, married to the infante Don Duarte of Portugal in 1428.

The Gothic icon was copied in different parts of the collegiate church, both in sculpture and painting until well into the nineteenth century, especially in the source of the Virgin and in the chapel of the prior.

17th century drawings

A couple of drawings of the image have been preserved, exceptionally, in two manuscripts of the chapter's file . The first is dated 1617 and is part of the history written by Juan de Huarte, a learned canon and sub-prior between 1609 and 1625. It is in pen and ink, with colored gouaches and contains three coats of arms. A translated Latin registration says: "These three insignia are more resplendent than the scepters of the kings, because they represent the trophies of the holy faith and the sacred laws". We gave an account of it in a article in this same newspaper of October 2, 2020.

The second drawing with the image of the Virgin, copying her original, but converting the Gothic characteristics of the folding into more classical models, is found in the manuscript of Juan de Burges y Elizondo, a canon who in the second quarter of the 17th century wrote the history of Roncesvalles, together with a biography of Dr. Navarro. The drawing corresponds to the famous source of the angels, the place of the apparition of the Virgin and it is necessary to put it in relation with the legend of the same one that was enriched with new elements with the passage of time. It was also reproduced in the aforementioned article .

Two seiscoist trompe l'oeil in Tudela and Villava

There is no doubt that the Virgin of Roncesvalles must have had several paintings on canvas, with all the details for its identification, in what we call trompe l'oeil, as they were pieces requested by her great devotees since they inspired the same respect and piety as in her altarpieces and chapels. With trompel'oeil (trompe l'oeil) they tried to intensify the reality, so that its contemplation would not leave a shadow of doubt, that is to say, that one would not even suspect that one was being deceived. The usual trompe l'oeil is presented in a framework or box that makes the viewer believe that there is something real enclosed.

It does not seem that they arrived in issue this subject of paintings of the titular of the collegiate church to the Marian image that had more, which was the one of the Puy of Estella. We have been able to locate a couple in Tudela and Villava. Both belong to the second third of the seventeenth century and seem to know one of the engravings that were made of the image around 1670, to which we will refer later. The Virgin, following the original model and without false dresses, appears under a half point, with some crimson draperies, highlighting its decorative pedestal that disappeared in 1804, when a new silver one was made. Among the jewels that adorn it, the belt and a necklace from which hangs a precious breast rose, which is still preserved in the treasury of the collegiate church. The bouquet of naturalistic flowers in her hand is very colorful. Two lamps, with three candles on each side at the top and the green crosses of the Order of Roncesvalles at the bottom complete the graphic and iconographic speech . In the case of Villava, a registration identifies the image and its presence in the town is not strange if we remember that Charles III gave the board of trustees of his church to the collegiate church in 1406 and that the canons had a farmhouse in the town, where the prior Marín de Rodezno died in 1680, who had a splendid collection of paintings by Titian, Ribera and Alonso Cano. The painting of Tudela, deposited in the Town Hall and coming from the Hospital de Nuestra Señora de Gracia, may have belonged to or been linked to the dean of Tudela and prior of Roncesvalles, Don Gil de Echauri (†1667).

Excellent baroque engravings and first photograph

We know of a woodcut and two intaglio prints. The first, although with degree scroll of Roncesvalles, is a copy of a Renaissance woodcut. It was used as an image of the collegiate church in various memorials and lawsuits throughout the 17th century.

Regarding the latter, its purpose was devotional. As in other sanctuaries, the engraving was printed on paper for distribution in the collegiate church itself and at fairs on the occasion of the Virgin's feast in September, as well as on silks and taffetas to meet the most important commitments of the chapter, such as viceroys, benefactors, donors and high ecclesiastics.

The first intaglio, whose plate has been preserved, must have been made around 1670, possibly on the initiative of the learned canon Don Juan Burges (†1679). Its author signed with initials that could correspond to Nicolás Pinson, but it is also possible that, due to the characteristics of the piece, they correspond to an unidentified silversmith. The composition presents a base with scenes of the apparition with the deer and the singing angels before the source and of the pilgrims attacked by the wolves that come to the hospital, a central part with the Virgin in her niche with the curtains drawn and two lateral scenes with authorities and pilgrims who, in a gesture of veneration, pray before the image. In an upper frieze and in a landscape with its church appears the image of the Salvator mundi. Above the two scenes in the central area of the composition there are two crosses of Roncesvalles, one in the old style and the other as it was used in the 17th century.

The patron of the second print, the most widely disseminated in past centuries, was Don Juan de Goyeneche, from Baztan and a great protagonist of the Hora of Navarre in the 18th century, who was closely related to Roncesvalles, representing his interests in the encomiendas of Castile and Portugal. He was also a procurator of the chapter in Madrid between 1694 and 1703. The collegiate church responded to Goyeneche's attentions on numerous occasions, as in 1694, when he provided wood from Mount Egulbati for the house he was going to build in Pamplona. He must have commissioned the plate around 1685 when the engraver of the Roncesvalles plate, Juan Francisco Leonardo (Dunkirk, 1633-Nuremberg, 1687), worked on another matrix with the map for the Executoria del Valle del Baztán.

An anonymous lithograph of discreet quality, of great rarity, made in the second half of the 19th century, copied Juan Francisco Leonardo's print, with some variations. In the lower group , the first and third quarters of the coat of arms of Don Martín de Azpilcueta are missing, the hospital is represented as a house with stairs and a rural appearance, and the source is only highlighted by a huge column. At the top, a figurine of a shepherd is incorporated and the landscape has been greatly simplified. In the frontispiece of the work Zaragoza, su historia, descripción, glorias y tradiciones desde los tiempos más remotos a nuestros días by Joaquín Tomeo y Benedicto (Zaragoza, Imprenta y bookshop de V. Andrés, 1859) we find a composition that technically is very close to the print of Roncesvalles, printed in two inks, ochre and black, the first with reserves corresponding to the illuminated parts of the image.

Among the first photographs is one that José Ignacio Riezu gave me, taken in the establishment of Charles Barnetche, active in Saint Jean de Pied de Port since 1864. It almost certainly belongs to 1880, since in a certificate of the town council of September 3 of that year "an account was given of the silk, paper and photographic prints of the Virgin that have recently been printed, and it was agreed that the silk prints would be sold at six reales de vellón each, and the paper and photographic prints at real de vellón each".

The numerous medals and their mints, so important in the diffusion of the cult of the image, are left for another occasion.