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Exiled Navarre heritage (2). Stained glass windows from the cathedral of Pamplona to Omaha (Nebraska).


Published in

Diario de Navarra

María Concepción García Gaínza

Professor of art history

In a article published in this same medium on October 15, 2013, we gave an account of the presence of some stained glass windows of the Cathedral of Pamplona that, after being alienated in 1917, ended up in the collection of the magnate William Randolf Hearst in 1931 and, finally, ended up in the Cathedral of St. Cecilia in Omaha. On this occasion we will take an updated look at the novel journey of the pieces.

The stained glass windows of Pamplona

he circumstances that occurred for the sale of the stained glass windows and their release to the market are known. According to the study of Jesus Omeñaca, the stained glass windows that occupy us were the work of Juan Carlos Bionde. In fact, he finished the set in the early seventeenth century, as a documented work Mercedes Chocarro has shown that some windows were earlier. Thus, under the patronage of Juan Rena, the glazier Francisco Morel did in 1534 the Magi. Currently, according to Nieto Alcaide, only four original windows are preserved in the cathedral in the central nave showing a traditional iconography of saints like St. Lucia, St. John the Baptist and St. Catherine and St. Michael, the Virgin and St. Barbara plus the Annunciation and the Flagellation. The rest of the stained glass windows were sold because they were in poor condition due to the successive explosions of the gunpowder mill located under the wall northwest of the cathedral and the siege of Pamplona in the War of Independence.

The poor condition of the stained glass windows led the Chapter in 1917 to apply for the diocesan architect Angel Goicoechea a recognition of the same, who found ruinous state of the windows of the North side and Wayside Cross and had proceeded to dismantle and deposit them on the floor of the cloister where they were recognized by members of the Commission of Monuments of Navarra, at the request of Goicoechea. The documentation published by Emilio Quintanilla about this inspection visit , is of great interest because they found the stained glass windows as well as in poor condition without the artistic value that was thought to have suffered in the mid-eighteenth century "arrangements so poorly made, taking advantage of pieces of other windows of different eras and styles that it was impossible to attempt restoration ...". Goicoechea responded to the question about the state of the stained glass windows on the south side that their state of deterioration was similar to those exposed in the cloister and that it was proposed to dismantle them. Given the negative evaluation , it was decided to sell some of the deteriorated stained glass and thus, with the money obtained, to pay for new windows of the Maumejean House.

In the famous collection of William Randolf Hearst

The stained glass windows were acquired in 1931 to the Parisian antique dealer Demotte who had a store in New York, by the tycoon William Randolf Hearst. In the collection of the latter remained until, from 1938 the pieces of the same were dispersed in other collections and museums. The stained glass of Pamplona were auctioned in 1941 in the house Gimbel Bros of New York at a price of $ 489, significantly lower than they had been acquired.

The figure of William Randolph Hearst is well known as a communication magnate in North America in the first decades of the twentieth century who unsuccessfully tried a political degree program as mayor of New York and governor of the state. He was a compulsive collector of antiques with which he crammed his mansions converted into real art containers. His overflowing and complex personality was masterfully reflected by Orson Welles in the film Citizen Kane, released during Hearst's lifetime. His facet as a collector and the fact that a very high issue of works from his collection belong to the Spanish cultural heritage has been brought to light thanks to the book by José Miguel Merino de Cáceres and María José Martínez Ruiz with the degree scroll "La destrucción del Patrimonio artístico español. W. R. Hearst. The great hoarder" (Chair, 2012). Thanks to this book and the admirable work of documentation and tracking of the pieces on both sides of the Atlantic for years, we have been able to understand, with feeling, the complex history of destruction of countless cultural assets among which are entire medieval monasteries, Romanesque cloisters, Mudejar ceilings, tapestries, armor, choir stalls, furniture and, among them, a Gothic Virgin and some stained glass windows from the cathedral of Pamplona.

In the Cathedral of Omaha (Nebraska)

Merino de Cáceres and Martínez Ruiz believe that the state of the stained glass windows should not have been so deteriorated when Hearst paid for each of them, in New York, $ 1,500 and showed the good technique that can be seen in the photograph of a holy bishop and St. Mary Magdalene that is preserved in the file Hearst titled as "stained glass from the cathedral of Pamplona". The rest of the stained glass windows represented St. Augustine and a Saint and St. Christopher and St. Barbara.

The fate of three of them we knew thanks to Dr. Cristina Lopez del Burgo who told me its location in the cathedral of Omaha (Nebraska) and provided their photographs. They are installed in the chapel of Our Lady of Nebraska and a tourist text reports that these are stained glass windows of the cathedral of Pamplona that were acquired in New York from the Hearst collection and were bequest of an inhabitant of Omaha, a city that incidentally had something to do with the Hearst newspaper empire. They depict St. Mary Magdalene, St. Barbara and St. Christopher, three saints whose iconography matches those noted in the Hearst Archives. He also adds that the stained glass windows are seen day and night miles away from the Omaha Cathedral. The Magdalene, the best preserved, matches the one reproduced in the archival photograph although it has lost the base and is the best in quality. The model of the window with a central vase and vase corresponds to the outline of those preserved in the cathedral of Pamplona. More touches sample the Santa Barbara with the tower both in the face and in the pointed top of the window and the same happens with the San Cristobal, but it should be remembered that these windows have undergone successive restorations from the eighteenth century onwards. All in all, they retain their value and general appearance of the 16th century stained glass. It is curious to note that in the cathedral of Pamplona there are three stained glass windows that reproduce these three saints whose iconography probably wanted to be preserved. It is unknown where the three remaining stained glass windows of the Hearst collection ended up, but it is known that each artistic work has its own history and follows a pathway marked by the decisions of men.