May 5, 2010



Santa María la Real of Sangüesa (Navarre)

Ms. Clara Fernández-Ladreda.
University of Navarra

The present church of Santa María la Real de Sangüesa began to be built as a result of the donation of an existing palace in that place to the order of San Juan by Alfonso I the Battler. It was built in four phases. 

The first covers from 1140 to 1170 approximately. The chevet and the immediate section of the S wall of the body of the naves were built during this period. The three semicircular apses, which make up the chevet, show a marked influence of the cathedral of Pamplona, perceptible in the presence of the interior arches and the oculi. The supports are pilasters with a column attached to each front and the roof is a pointed barrel vault and oven. 

The sculptural decoration was done at position by two successive workshops. The first was the one directed by the master from Uncastillo, who made the capitals of the lower part, which present vegetal, animal and historical motifs, among which a Flight into Egypt and a Beheading of St. John the Baptist stand out. The second workshop headed by Leodegario made the baskets of the upper part of the central apse -very much destroyed- and a couple of capitals more, reused in the pillars of the body of the naves; he also made the lower part of the doorway.

The second stage coincides with the last third of the XII century, when the perimeter walls of the nave and aisles were built. The supports used are paired columns without pilasters. position The sculpture was the work of the so-called workshop of San Juan de la Peña, which carved two capitals, one decorated with harpies and the other with lions devouring a goat, which remain in situ, and two others that have been transferred to the Museum of Navarre. He also executed the frieze of the upper part of the doorway and some sculptures in the spandrels.

In the third phase, in the first third of the 13th century, the four central pillars were erected and the vaults were turned over, with the exception of the dome of the section preceding the central apse. The supports are pillars with paired columns attached to the fronts and small columns in the angles, adapted to the subject vaulting used, quadripartite ribbed. The workshop corresponding to this stage, of a very popular character, carved a series of capitals with plant, animal and human motifs, very schematic. It also made the modillions that support the eaves of the doorway, except for one that is from the Peña workshop. 

In the fourth and last stage, which coincides with the Gothic period, at the end of the 13th century and first half of the 14th century, the dome of the section before the central apse with its tower and spire was built.

As for the doorway, the lower zone -more or less up to the frieze- is due to Leodegario and his workshop. It is a very innovative work, due to the fact that, even though it is Romanesque, it is influenced by the doorways of early French Gothic, Saint Denis, Chartres and its derivatives, from which it has taken novel features, such as the statue-columns, the pointed arch and the figures arranged longitudinally in the archivolts, as well as a series of iconographic elements.

The door itself revolves around the themes of the Redemption and the Last Judgment. To the first correspond the capitals with scenes of the Infancy of Christ - Annunciation and presentation in the Temple - alluding to the Incarnation, the beginning of the Redemption, and the column statues of the three Marys, which make reference letter to the Resurrection, manifestation of the redemptive triumph of Christ. The second, the column statues of St. Peter, St. Paul and Judas, the capital of the Judgment of Solomon -prefiguration of the Last Judgment- and the tympanum and archivolts, in which the Judgment itself is depicted, the first example of Judgment fully developed in a Hispanic tympanum, possibly taken from St. Denis.
The spandrels present a great variety of themes, distributed without order or concert, probably because, although most of the pieces are the work of the workshop of Leodegario, they must have been assembled or reassembled later by the workshop of San Juan de la Peña, which executed some for fill in, among them the warrior slaying the dragon -presumably Sigurd-. Among them are the Annunciation-Coronation, which follows a very novel formula with Gabriel kneeling, the Virgin seated and a little angel placing a crown on her, and the parable of the foolish and wise Virgins, a new allusion to the Judgment that is the first case of this iconography on a Hispanic façade, also inspired by Saint Denis.

In the upper zone there is a frieze distributed in two floors, due to the workshop of San Juan de la Peña. It represents the Second Coming of Christ accompanied by the Tetramorphos, escorted by angels and the Apostleship, in short, the heavenly court.

church of Santa Maria

After Professor Fernández-Ladrera's lecture , those attending the course went to the church of Santa María to see the façade in situ.