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Misplaced jewelry (6). The sumptuary arts


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Diario de Navarra

Ignacio Miguéliz Valcarlos |

University of Navarra Museum

Contrary to what happens with other arts, silverware and ornaments are easy to transport and generally are not assigned to a specific place in the church, with specific measurements and needs. Thanks to this, they can be moved and moved from place to place without having to be adapted to their new destinations, both in the past and in recent times, so that today we find pieces of silverware and ornaments in places for which they were not intended.

Wars and disentailment in the 19th century

Some of the works that we see today in a different place from where they were originally intended were already moved during the turbulent 19th century, mainly due to the wars against the French and the Carlist wars, and above all due to the ecclesiastical confiscations. During the former, silver was needed from the churches to defray war expenses, and, at the request of the Government, the Hispanic bishoprics authorized taking the silver out of their churches to be melted down and collect cash. The condition was that if any individual or institution was interested in a piece, it would be sold and thus saved from being melted down. This is probably the reason for the presence of two custodians of American origin in Pamplona. The first, preserved in the church of San Saturnino, was carved in Potosí, now Bolivia, then belonging to the Viceroyalty of Peru and sent in 1734 by Pedro Navarro to his cousin, a priest in Santa María de Olite, where it arrived in 1745. Subsequently, and in the framework of one of these conflicts, it was bought by the parish priest of San Saturnino, Melchor de Irisarri, who after his death bequeathed it to the parish. While the second, of Mexican origin and conserved in the chapel of San Fermín, was given by Juan Martín Astiz y Garriz to the church of Gazólaz in 1757, from where it was sold at an undetermined date between 1815 and 1854. The confiscations suffered by the church in the 19th century meant the loss and transfer of many of these pieces, especially in the case of the large monasteries. Well known is the case of the chest of Leire, currently preserved in the Museum of Navarre, to which other pieces should be added, such as the Virgin of Irache, richly covered with silver plates, which was transferred to the church of Dicastillo in 1844, or a robe of Leire, taken to Mendigorría by a nephew of Fray Pedro Soto, monk of the monastery, although it has now returned to the monastery.

The Monuments Commission and Government intervention

The interest in these objects as artistic pieces and their consideration as cultural assets, motivated the Government to legislate for the safeguarding of these objects and to keep an eye on the sale or condition of those objects that could have an artistic historical interest, thanks to which many of these pieces were added to the collections of the Museum of Navarre. In 1970, the chalice donated by Charles III to Ujué, a splendid piece of 14th century Navarrese gold and silver work, was received from file of Navarre. The terno of Saint Nicholas of Pamplona, part of which is preserved in the church of Liédena, was given to the Government by the family of the antiquarian José Garísoain. And more recently, from the sale of movable goods from the palace of the Counts of Guenduláin at Christie's in London, several works of silver and ornaments, both religious and civil.

Safeguarding of disused objects

Finally, we cannot forget how the bishopric of Pamplona has exercised the work of custody and safeguarding of these pieces, collecting many of them in the storeroom and Diocesan Museum, objects that had fallen into disuse in their parishes of origin or that came from closed temples. Some of these pieces are exhibited in the Museum or kept in its deposits, such as the chalice of Los Arcos, the monstrance of Ilurdoz, the cross of Berriozar, the terno of Gazólaz or the chasuble of Codés, while others are destined to newly created parishes, where they are brought back to life. In the case of the pieces belonging to the closed monasteries, some of the works have traveled with the last nuns to their new destinations, while others have remained in place when the enclosure has been occupied by another community.