November 11, 2010


Heritage, Art and Architecture

roundtableTangible and intangible heritage in enclosures

Ms. María Concepción García Gainza.
University of Navarra

Dealing with cloisters is an extremely attractive topic for most people because it is a hidden, unknown and mysterious world, to which we have only had access to a few lucky ones, who for professional or other reasons subject, always with the due licence of the episcopal vicar of monasteries of nuns, have penetrated inside.

Behind the closed walls of these great convent complexes are kept, in addition to prayer and spirituality, a rich artistic heritage and a rich intangible heritage. It can be said that the cloisters also keep the past time, as if they were closed containers, the time of their foundation that will mark the convent forever, the figures of the founders, the founding Child Jesus, the image of the Virgin of the foundation, the memory of the founding nuns and their origin and origin of a certain convent; the benefactors and their legacies and the great feasts of the order. Yes, it is about a time miraculously stopped that the nuns live in the present and that they constantly maintain with the cult and mime to their images, with customs and own and exclusive rites of their community in each convent.

To enter one of these cloisters as we have done many times while we were making the Monumental Catalog of Navarre was a kind of immersion in a world stopped between the cloisters, full of created, the capitular conference room , the Library Services, with the portraits of the founders and the choirs, the church and the sacristy with the sculptural images, the silver, the ornaments and the jewels given to the images. In all this patrimony that the nuns showed us while they told us the history of this canvas or sculpture or called our attention to a particular piece, there are paintings and images of outstanding artists of the Madrid, Andalusian or Italian school, but also ivories, lacquers and corals from exotic places, true works of art that coexist with other merely devotional works that help the nuns in their meditations.

At the end of the day of work, when the Monumental Catalog team left the cloistered doors, we had the feeling of leaving a world of spirituality, life and happiness, a relic of another time, and returning to our rough and disoriented world in which we found it difficult to integrate ourselves again.

We have been able to enter many Castilian, Sevillian, Hispano-American and Navarrese closings these days throughout this course through the great specialists who are the lecturers who have intervened. But I believe that there are still questions that have been left open to the curiosity of the audience. Questions like the future of the great cloistered convents as the communities become less and less numerous and the logical search for a modern convent more adequate and comfortable for the current needs.

The problem occurs when the old convent complexes are abandoned with the dispersion of their heritage, since some works such as altarpieces do not have space in modern buildings where to be located. The difficult conservation of the tangible and intangible heritage, its knowledge and the cataloguing of both heritages exposed to loss constitutes another of the problems.
To answer these questions and others, the following will take part in this round table:
-Prof. Ramón Serrera Contreras, Full Professor of the University of Seville.
José Ignacio Hernández Redondo, Curator of the National Museum of high school San Gregorio de Valladolid.
-Javier Aizpún.
Prof. Ricardo Fernández Gracia, Director of the department of History of Art of the University of Navarra.
-Prof. María Concepción García Gainza, moderator.

D. F. Javier Aizpún dealt with the future of the cloistered convents and the problems of their artistic heritage transferred or dispersed in case of transfer of the Community.
They were transferred a few years ago:
-the Carmelites of Lesaca to Lizaso.
-Benedictine nuns from Lumbier to Alzuza
-Recollects from Tafalla to Pamplona (Itaroa)
-Benedictine nuns from Estella to another place in the city itself
-Salesas from Pamplona to Vitoria
-Clarisas from Fitero to Tudela, Medina del Pomar and Belorado.
-Capuchinas from Tudela to Caspe.

Question to José Ignacio Redondo:
-On the new functions assigned to conventual architecture which are hotels, museums, institutional headquarters, etc.

Question to Prof. Ramón Serrera Contreras:
Feminine cloisters, if there is any explanation for the fact that the great cloisters, both in Spain and in Spanish America, are feminine, as can be seen from degree scroll of this course. The importance that the disentailment had on male monasteries and convents in the loss of their patrimonies was pointed out in this point.

A question to Prof. Ricardo Fernández Gracia:
No one better suited than he, who knows deeply several cloisters and who has a special sensitivity and taste for this topic, to explain what is the intangible heritage of the convents. He emphasized the importance of cataloguing this intangible heritage with a view to its conservation.
The roundtable concluded with several questions from the audience.

From left to right: Ricardo Fernández Gracia, Ramón Serrera Contreras, Mª Concepción García Gainza, Javier Aizpún and José Ignacio Hernández Redondo.

From left to right: Ricardo Fernández Gracia, Ramón Serrera Contreras, Mª Concepción García Gainza, Javier Aizpún and José Ignacio Hernández Redondo.