22 February 2008
The parish church of San Miguel de Larraga: Conformation of an artistic and devotional ensemble.
Ms. Asunción Domeño Martínez de Morentin.
Chairof Navarrese Heritage and Art
The monumental building of the parish church of San Miguel stands on the top of the hill overlooking the hamlet of the town. Although most of the church we can see today was built in the second half of the 16th century and a good part of the 17th century, the temple had an earlier origin, as is the case with a large number of religious buildings in Navarre. The appearance of the walls is what clearly marks the construction process that this building followed over the centuries. If we take a closer look at the changes in the stonework, decorative and structural elements, the building is like an open book.
At the change from the 12th to the 13th century, coinciding with a period of peace and prosperity in the town, undoubtedly increased by the privileges granted by Sancho el Sabio in 1193, the primitive church was built, a proto-Gothic church with a single nave whose length extended approximately to the current cylindrical pillars of Wayside Cross, where the semicircular or pentagonal chancel would have been located. The sections of the nave were probably covered with ribbed vaulting, as can be seen in the traces of the pointed arch that can be seen in the gable wall above the choir. The choir loft and the doorway that opens in the gable wall, which is still Romanesque in structure, also belong to this early construction period.
Remains of the medieval masonry in the pointed arch above the choir (left) and the doorway in the gable wall (right).
At the beginning of the 16th century, the church was extended with the addition of a series of open chapels on both sides of the nave, taking advantage of medieval Structuresas walls or buttresses. This century coincided in Navarre with a period of great splendour that resulted in intense building activity. Of all the chapels built during this construction phase, only the one dedicated to Santo Cristo, covered by a vault of terceletes, has survived. As evidence of these spaces, which have now disappeared, the traces of the pointed arches that formed part of the roofs remain.
Chapel of Santo Cristo (1st half of the 16th century)
There is no doubt that the 16th century was a time of boom for the town of Larraga, given that in the second half of this century a second enlargement of the church was carried out, from which the church would acquire its current physiognomy. The enlargement consisted of the construction, from 1571 onwards, of a new Wayside Cross, a chancel - for which it was necessary to demolish the original medieval main chapel - and a sacristy. The need to enlarge the worship spaces was due to several factors, such as the significant increase in population growth, the economic boom resulting from the political stability experienced during these years, religious fervour and the arrival of some stonemasons from Guipuzcoa, considered to be the best masters in the whole of the peninsula.
The remodelling of 1571, following the designs of the master Juan de Villarreal, was to give the building a new appearance; Juan de Villarreal is, as Dr. Mª José Tarifa points out, "one of the most outstanding figures" of the 16th-century Navarrese architectural scene. Tracista, master builder and overseer of the Bishopric of Pamplona, his long career reveals an evolution that began in the late Gothic period and led to a new language, that of the Renaissance, with which the extension of this church in Larraga was carried out, with cylindrical columns, semicircular arches and decorative motifs inspired by classical Rome - coffers, rosettes, friezes of triglyphs and metopes... -. positionThe material execution of the work was carried out first by the stonemason Anton de Anoeta and then, after his death, by Juan de Aguirre. The whole space breathes an air of classicism typical of Renaissance language, which can be seen in both the construction and decorative elements. The chevet resolves the transition from a square to a circular floor plan through the use of trumpets decorated with squares and rosettes; above them is a quarter-sphere vault with coffers, comparable to the shells of the churches of Lerín and Viana.
Parish Church of San Miguel de Larraga. Inside
In the 17th century, the nave of the church was in an advanced state of deterioration and threatened with ruin. Francisco de Larrañaga took charge of replacing the old pillars and roofs of the nave and the side chapels, which he arranged at the same height as those of Wayside Cross, as well as converting the side chapels into aisles. In this way, the church was definitively configured as it is today.
In the second half of the 18th century, the construction of a new tower began, possibly due to the advanced deterioration of the medieval tower, which was contracted by the master builder Antonio Barinaga, in accordance with the Riojan-Alava bell tower typology. The portico that protects the medieval doorway may have been built by the same builder.
Every religious building dedicated to worship is completed by its artistic decoration, that is to say, by the collection of movable goods, altarpieces, devotional images, canvases, etc., that cover the walls and spaces. The parish church of San Miguel de Larraga has been shaping its decoration over the centuries, at the same time as the building's construction process was taking shape.
averageOne of the most important works from the Middle Ages is preserved from the devotional and artistic point of view, the Santo Cristo del Socorro, a late Romanesque image from the 13th century, which follows the models of Romanesque imagery and is quite similar to other Crucifixions of the period, such as those of San Pedro de la Rúa in Estella and Zizur Mayor.
However, the most important part of the artistic decoration preserved, the altarpieces, were made during the Baroque period, throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Of all of them, the main altarpiece stands out, built from 1696 onwards by Fermín de Larráinzar, the main Pamplona architect of the time. The altarpiece, now much modified, was an early work by Larrainzar, according to designby Fermín de Ansorena. Its flat structure is enriched with a profuse decoration of plastic stems and curly leaves. positionThe sculpture was the work of Juan Bazcardo, with the exception of the carving of the patron saint, which comes from the previous altarpiece, and that of Saint Joseph with the Child.
In this way, over more than eight centuries, a building and a whole set of images took shape which, as well as ennobling and enriching the architecture, are a clear exponent of the piety of the time.
Santo Cristo del Socorro (13th century) and main altarpiece (18th century)