17 June 2008

Global Seminars & Invited Speaker Series


The chapel of San Fermín: architecture and worship

Mr. José Luis Molins Mugueta.
Municipal Archivist of Pamplona

An allusion to the antiquity of the cult of San Fermín in France - during the reign of Charles the Bald and through different testimonies from the 9th century - and the documentary references accredited in Navarre to the veneration of his relics, brought from Amiens in the Middle Ages averageand at different times in the 16th century, gave way to the detailed exhibitionon the history and the architectural and artistic analysis of the Chapel of San Fermín, erected in the parish church of San Lorenzo in Pamplona.

The works were carried out between 1696 and 1717, following the plans of Santiago Raón, Martín de Zaldúa and Fr. Juan de Alegría, within the conceptions of the Baroque, both in the structural-spatial and ornamental aspects. It seemed appropriate to establish a comparative analysis with the Chapel of Nuestra Señora del Camino, built between 1756 and 1776 in the nearby church of San Cernin, due to the significant coincidences. A description was made of the original throne and altar, the work of the Mallorcan Pedro Onofre, which, located under the dome, was the centrepiece of the interior space. Both a painting by Pedro Antonio Rada, dated 1756, and a well-known engraving by Lamarca, whose plate was opened for devotion in 1765, were useful in this regard.

Exterior view of the Chapel of San Fermín

Exterior view of the Chapel of San Fermín, 1696-1717

Information was given on the financing of the works, specifying the role played by the Town Council, either by contributing its own funds or by stimulating and channelling the alms and benefits from the devotees of the Saint. This important municipal role at the time justified the "Regimiento" holding the right of board of trusteesover the chapel. Precisely because this royalty was disputed, between 1758 and 1786 the municipality renounced its exercise and brought lawsuits against the Obrería de San Lorenzo, in the ecclesiastical and civil jurisdictions. And what is most interesting from the architectural point of view, the construction of a new church dedicated to the Patron Saint was considered, on land that was then part of the Taconera and is today known as Paseo de Sarasate. This circumstance explains why plans and elevations - several of which are signed by Juan Lorenzo Catalán - of a church Exempt, which was never built, are preserved at the Municipal fileand could be contributed to the lecture.

In 1795, the orange averageand lantern of the Sanferminera chapel collapsed. Only once peace had been restored with the French government of the Convention was it possible to think of undertaking the necessary reconstruction, while at the same time adapting the interior decoration of the building to the new academic taste, generically known as neoclassical, as opposed to the baroque style it had offered up to that time. The appropriate competition was held and projects were submitted by Fernando Martínez Corcín, Diego Díaz de Valle, Juan José Armendáriz and Santos Ángel de Ochandátegui, all of them architects who had contributed to the introduction of academicism in Navarre. The plans signed and dated by Ochendátegui on 13 December 1797 were chosen. The work, following the designs of this man from Durango, a man trusted by Ventura Rodríguez, lasted between 1800 and 1805 and gave the interior of the chapel the classical, sober and refined appearance that is characteristic of it today.

projectof reconstruction of the chapel of San Fermín, 1797

S. A. Ochandotegui, projectfor the reconstruction of the chapel of San Fermín, 1797 (fileMunicipal de Pamplona)

The dissertationended with the obligatory reference letterto the throne that currently houses the reliquary image of San Fermín: designed by the sculptor Francisco Sabando, it was inaugurated in July 1819.

 Shrine of San Fermín

Francisco Sabando, Templete de San Fermín, 1819