22 March 2006

Global Seminars & Invited Speaker Series


"Astonishment of the eyes and of reason". Exceptionality of the Pamplona hieroglyphs

Dr. Javier Azanza López



In his talk, Professor Javier Azanza referred to the elements that formed part of the funeral decorations of the royal funerals held in Pamplona Cathedral during the Modern Age. The most outstanding feature was the catafalque, a gigantic wooden structure whose height reached as high as the cathedral vaults. The entire structure was covered in black cloth and cloths, lit by hundreds of candles and candlesticks, and decorated with hieroglyphs designed for the occasion, which gave the funeral machine an ideological content.

Hieroglyphs were visual riddles that, by combining text and image, conveyed a message to the viewer, who had to use his or her wits to try to decipher the final meaning. Developed by notable jurists and theologians of the time who were versed in emblematic literature, the Pamplona hieroglyphs insisted on a triple message that linked references to the destructive power of death, the virtues of the monarch that ensured eternal life, and the dynastic legitimacy guaranteed in the figure of the successor to the throne.

In addition to the above, there was also a set of hieroglyphs that symbolised the deep sorrow that the death of the monarch had caused his subjects from Pamplona and Navarre. To this end, the mentors made use of the characteristic signs of identity of the city and the kingdom, such as the lion and the Five Wounds, which are part of the coat of arms of Pamplona, its walled enclosure, the river Arga in the form of a venerable old man, and the chains of Navarre.

The case of Pamplona is exceptional in that the original hieroglyphs commissioned by the City Council for the eighteenth-century funerals of Felipe V, Bárbara de Braganza, Isabel de Farnesio and Carlos III have been preserved. There are a total of 101 compositions made on cardboard paper in the form of large cards with an average size of 60 x 45 cm. Kept at the Municipal file , they have undergone a process of restoration and digitalisation that guarantees their conservation and has made it possible to study them in the context of Pamplona's funeral ceremonies at position by professors Molins and Azanza.

The Pamplona hieroglyphs, the latter insisted, constitute one of the greatest values of the archival-documental heritage of Navarre, comparable only in the field of ephemeral art to the polychrome hieroglyphs of the funeral pyre of Santa Prisca de Taxco, in Mexico, and to the two series of Florentine hieroglyphs commissioned by the Medicis for the funeral of Philip II and Margaret of Austria in the city on the River Arno.