5 April 2011

Easter Cycle 


The Holy Christ of Pamplona Cathedral
One of the devotional images of the Cathedral of Santa María la Real

María Concepción García Gainza.
Chair of Navarrese Heritage and Art

Juan de Anchieta was an itinerant sculptor in the second half of the 16th century. Born in Azpeitia in 1538 and trained in Medina de Rioseco (1551) with Antonio Martínez, he became a resident of La Navarrería in 1577, where he first rented some houses in this quarter of the cathedral where sculptors lived, and made Pamplona the centre of his art and finally, in 1585, he bought a house in La Navarrería, where he set up his workshop.

Anchieta was already well known for his work on the altarpiece in Briviesca (Burgos), which made the Cathedral want to acquire a work by his hand in which "the art of the new or modern", according to the documents the sculptor brought with him, "miguelangelismo", could be seen. He maintained close relations with the Cathedral and with the bishops of the seat of Pamplona, who would give him important commissions, D. Antonio Manrique for the Royal Monastery of Las Huelgas and D. Pedro de la source for the altarpiece, the high altar of the cathedral of Burgos and the bench of the Moneo altarpiece.

A Renaissance sculptor, he mastered the classical orders, the nude, the human body and proportions, probably through Juan de Arfe, Varia, Seville, 1585. He was also familiar with Anatomy through Valverde de Hamusco's treatise Historia de la composición del cuerpo humano. Rome 1556, illustrated by Gaspar Becerra. The movement in action of his figures is an expression of the spirit.

The two works, the Holy Christ and Saint Jerome, which were venerated in the Barbazana chapel in the cathedral cloister coinciding with his settlement in Pamplona, date from around 1577-1578.
These sculptures are documented and located:
Thus it appears in the certificate of the chapter session held on 23 November 1646 in which the prior Dr. Miquel Cruzat communicated that a devotee wished submit to the chapter 1000 ducats in money so that with its revenues the necessary oil could be bought for a lamp that he wished to place in the Barbazan chapel "in front of the Holy Christ".

Further and more precise information is provided by an Inventory of the cathedral sacristy dated 26 January 1651, made in the presence of the prior Cruzat himself, which specifies: "Ittem un San Jerónimo de bulto, que esta en la capilla de la Barbacana, juntamente con un Santo Cristo crucificado. They are the work of Ancheta (Goñi Gaztambide, Historia de los obispos de Pamplona, Siglo XVIII, Tomo VI, 1987, p. 200).
Other information comes from Anchieta's collaborators such as Blas de Arbizu and Pedro de Contreras, who appear as witnesses in a testimonial test in 1579 and help to establish the dates and the amount of money received by the sculptor.
Blas de Arbizu declares that "in the mother church of this city he did a certain work (Anchieta) and for his work they gave him 100 ducats".

Another witness, Pedro de Contreras, corroborates this information, as he says he knows that Anchieta has some censales in Pamplona that "the mother church gave him for a certain work he did there".
These two works exhibited in the Barbazana chapel in full view of everyone must have caused admiration in the cathedral chapter, whose dignitaries influenced the parishes of board of trustees to commission the sculptor for the main altarpieces of their churches, thus becoming his main clientele.

Anchieta is a sculptor of Crucifixions and can be considered a specialist in this iconography. In total he is the author of a dozen crucifixes, none as exceptional as the one in the cathedral, although the Christ of the Miserere in Santa María de Tafalla should be highlighted.

The Santo Cristo de la Catedral must have been commissioned by the chapter to Juan de Anchieta, who was a true specialist in this type of image, subject , which, given its difficulties, allowed the sculptor to show off: it was a nude body hanging on the cross, dead, executed with decorum, as it was both a human and a divine body.

Anchieta responded to this difficulty and through the nude he managed to express profound religious sentiments as few sculptors did. It has been an object of worship in the cathedral since its first installation in the Barbazana chapel in the cloister and in its subsequent locations in the transept and the sacramental chapel. It is undoubtedly one of the most important religious images of the Hispanic Counter-Reformation.

Crucifixion by Juan de Anchieta

Crucifixion by Juan de Anchieta. Pamplona Cathedral

The lecture took place in Pamplona Cathedral itself.

The lecture took place in Pamplona Cathedral itself, in front of the image of the crucified Christ of Anchieta.