May 14, 2010


Talking stones and images after the restoration of the Valtierra parish church

Ms. Mª Josefa Tarifa Castilla. University of Navarra

The parish church of Santa María de Valtierra is one of the most monumental of the Ribera undertaken in the 16th century, mainly due to the significant increase in population in this century, which led to the construction of a new temple of larger dimensions to accommodate the growing parishioners, which was erected on the previous medieval one after the failed attempt by the residents of the town to obtain from the monarch Charles I the land on which the mosque was located after the expulsion of the Muslims in May 1516. 

The building was constructed by the Guipuzcoan villa workers Pedro de Huarte and Juan Pérez de Rotache between 1532 and 1548, beginning with the space of the chevet and the Wayside Cross, in which they used stone for the foundations and brick for the rest of the building, as is typical of the middle valley of the Ebro. Of the medieval construction, only the bell tower located at the foot was preserved, in which Pedro de Leceta intervened in 1550 in order to provide it with a new bell tower. In the decade of the 60's of the XVI century the son of Juan Perez de Rotache, Iñigo, concluded one of the pulpits of the church of masonry and intervened in the vault of one of the niche chapels due to its bad state of conservation. In 1604, when the vicar of the Diocese of Pamplona, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction on which the parish of Valtierra depended, attempted to take the board of trustees church away from the residents of the town, they were forced to rebuild the tower, reinforcing the walls, raising its height and endowing it with a new bell tower and spire, from agreement to the design provided by the overseer of the ecclesiastical works of Pamplona, Francisco Palear Fratín, work that Domingo de Múxica undertook between 1605-1606. Subsequently, the church was endowed with a new baroque bell tower in the 18th century, a century in which the façade and the choir loft at the foot of the church were also built.

The cathedral-like church has a single nave of three bays, with connected chapels between buttresses, a pentagonal chancel, a two-bay sacristy attached to the side of the Gospel and a choir loft at the base, covered with exceptional star-shaped ribbed vaults of different sizes design. The corbels and capitals from which the ribs of the ribbed covering start were embellished with exceptional plaster high reliefs, executed between the 40s and 60s of the 16th century, in which the new Renaissance language of fantastic Mannerism has been assimilated, thanks to a program facilitated by a cult mentor and the skillful hands of the artisans who undertook them. These reliefs contain a varied iconography, in some cases vegetal, formed by garlands of fruits, but the most historical, showing figures of child angels, cherub heads, busts, female characters, Atlanteans, animals and monstrous figures, of diverse compositions and of undoubtedly symbolic character, which demonstrate the knowledge and the assimilation by their creators of the treatise of Sebastiano Serlio and of the French and Flemish engravings inspired by Fontainebleau.

Parish Church of Santa Mª de Valtierra (1532-1548) after restoration

Parish Church of Santa Mª de Valtierra (1532-1548) after restoration