27 May 2010


A church for the apostle St. James in Pamplona: the convent of Dominicans

Ms. Mª Josefa Tarifa Castilla.
University of Navarra

The church of Santiago was one of the most important buildings undertaken in Pamplona in the 16th century. The Dominican convent that we know today was not the first monastery that the friars built in the city, as in the early decades of the 13th century, when they arrived in the city, they originally received a small Shrine of Our Lady of Fair Lovein honour of St. James, located on the land now occupied by the Palacio de la Diputación, where a brotherhood was based to attend to and welcome pilgrims on their way to Compostela as they passed through the city. The Romanesque monastic complex dedicated to St. James was erected on this site, the existence of which is certain in 1242, the year in which a Provincial Chapter was held in the convent.

The Dominicans lived in this convent until 1514, when they were expropriated in order to build a castle on the site, and in exchange they were given a site called "el barranco" located at one end of the city, a complex terrain for building on a slope. In 1516, the stonemason Pedro de Echaburu, a native of Vergara, and Pedro de Malpaso, overseer of royal works, drew up the plans with which to build the church, following the models of Dominican temples built in those years, a church with a Latin cross plan with chapels between buttresses communicating with each other, which was covered with star-shaped ribbed vaults. The first stone was laid in 1520, although the need to create a platform on which to build the church to bridge the difference in level meant that the foundation work took a long time. For this reason, the church was undertaken by the son of the aforementioned stonemason, Pedro de Echaburu II and Juan de Osés between 1534 and 1543, and the first phase of construction of the church and convent was completed in 1568. Throughout the second half of the 16th century, the different parts of the convent complex were completed, with the cloister being erected between 1688 and 1703 with the participation of the stonemason Francisco Ungareta and thanks in large part to the donations of Juan Ventura Arizcun y Beaumont, Baron of Beorlegui. The stone façade was erected in the second half of the 18th century, presided over by sculptures of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Vincent Ferrer and the patron saint, Saint James the Apostle in the pilgrim version.

The lecturetook place in the church of Santiago of the Dominican convent in Pamplona.

The lecturetook place in the church of Santiago of the Dominican convent in Pamplona, and was attended by around 150 people.

Tarifa then went on to study the main altarpiece, made between 1570-1573 by the French artists Pierres Picart and Friar Juan de Beauves, although the poor state of conservation in which it was found in the mid-18th century led to the contracting of a new one in 1783 from agreementin the baroque style of the time, in which part of the masonry and sculptural pieces of the previous Renaissance altarpiece were used. The polychromy and gilding of the piece was carried out by José Beges, a resident of Logroño, and Juan José del Rey, who belongs to an important family of gilders from Navarre who live in Tafalla. Thanks to the power point projection, it was possible to clearly appreciate the details of the decoration sculpted in the masonry, as well as the different iconographic scenes of the altarpiece, such as the episodes of the Passion, saints such as San Fermín or María Magdalena and those of the Dominican order, as well as two passages of the patron saint, Saint James the Apostle, of rare iconography, very local, the Apparition of St. James to a pilgrim on his way to Santiago de Compostela on his way through Pamplona, offering him his donkey so that he could continue his pilgrimage, and his Apparition to the same pilgrim on his arrival at Compostela, that is, one of the 22 miracles included in the "Codex Calixtinus" or "Liber Sancti Jacobi", the first guideon the pilgrimage to Compostela written by Pope Callixtus around 1160.

High Altarpiece of Santiago

High Altarpiece of Santiago
Pierres Picart and Friar Juan de Beauves (1570-1573)
Polychromy and gilding: José Begés and Juan José del Rey


Finally, the attendees had the opportunity to tour the chapels of the temple to appreciate first hand the different altarpieces, paintings and sculptures that embellish these spaces, of different dedications and patrons, starting with the area of the feet, from the left side with the chapel of San Vicente Ferrer, the Virgin of Nieva, St. Thomas Aquinas, arm of the with the altarpiece of St. Ignatius and the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, to continue on the right side with the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, the Virgin of Nieva, Saint Thomas Aquinas, the arm of the Wayside Crosswith the altarpiece of Saint Ignatius and the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, to continue on the right side with the chapel of the Virgin of Fatima, the arm of the Wayside Crosswith the altarpiece of Saint Joseph, the chapel of Saint Peter of Verona and the chapel of Saint Dominic in Soriano.

A moment of the visitguided tour of the chapels of the church of Santiago.

visitA moment of the guided tour of the chapels of the church of Santiago, in front of the canvas of the "Apotheosis of Saint Thomas Aquinas" (1674), by Vicente Berdusán.

dataIn order to make visitmore didactic for the participants, the lecturer composed a diptych which she handed out to those present, with some historical information about the foundation of the convent, its construction, the main altarpiece, the devotions and patrons of the different chapels, as well as the floor plan of the church with the location of the different artistic pieces it houses and the layout of the main altarpiece with its iconography.

Educational materials