The piece of the month of August 2015


Mª Josefa Tarifa Castilla
University of Zaragoza


The church of the primitive convent that the Order of Friars Minor founded in Cascante on their arrival in 1586, now the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Victoria, has been presided over since the first quarter of the 17th century by a high altarpiece about which we knew nothing until recently. The enquiry of the documentation kept in different Navarrese archives has enabled us to find out about the different artists who took part in its creation, as well as the contract for its execution.

As established in the convent's founding deed, the board of trustees of the main chapel had been reserved for the local regiment, which, in addition to bearing the costs of the construction of the building, completed around 1605, was also responsible for the ornamentation of the presbytery, position . In July 1621, the committee Real de Navarra granted permission to the town of Cascantina to spend 200 ducats of its income on the construction of the main altarpiece, although before auctioning the work, they were to be made aware of the different models presented for this purpose.

The work was auctioned at the town hall on 22nd August of the same year, and different masters of architecture and painting, the best who worked in the area of the Ribera de Navarra and the district of Tarazona, came to the town, presenting up to six different designs with which to undertake this piece. The councillors commissioned the artist Juan de Lumbier (born in Pamplona, 1578-†1626), one of the most outstanding Navarrese painters of the last third of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th, who was based in Tudela, the architect Francisco del Pontón and Juan de Biniés, a sculptor resident in Tudela, to choose the most suitable one from among all the designs presented.

The masters selected the two designs they considered most appropriate and least costly to make the project a reality, one on parchment signed by Jerónimo de Estaragán, a master active in La Ribera who worked in the 1630s-1640s making classicist altarpieces, and the other drawn on paper by Juan de Irigoyen y Macaya, to which were added the capitulas for the execution of the altarpiece. According to these, the artist who was awarded the piece of furniture was to execute it according to one of the two pre-selected designs, in which, in addition to the tabernacle, the representation of Saint Francis of Paola, the Virgin of Our Lady of Victory, Saint Francis of Assisi with the wounds, Saint Dominic, Saint John the Baptist, Saint John the Evangelist and a crucified Christ in the attic would be present.

Pine wood "from Ebro, of good quality and dry" was to be used for its execution, while the paint covering it was to be oil and gilded, the entire architecture of the altarpiece being covered in smooth, well-burnished gold. deadline The master who finished it off was to complete it within four years, being paid 50 ducats a year until the total amount for which he was contracted was paid off, the work being recognised after its completion by masters appointed by both parties who would corroborate or not its execution according to the chapters and design chosen for the purpose, agreement . Various masters bid at the auction, such as Juan de Berganzo (doc. 1601-1625), an assembler from Tarazona, the painter Juan de Lumbier, Juan de Gurrea, an assembler from Tudela and founder of a workshop of important retablists in Tudela in the first decades of the 17th century, and Juan de Gessa from Cascantino, although the work was finally awarded to Bernardo del Bosque, from Tarazona, for 720 ducats.

This amount tripled the initial budget allowed to the Cascantino regiment, so that in September 1621 the public prosecutor advised reforming the design "removing from it some things that are not of very great consideration". On 11 December of the same year, the Royal committee granted the appropriate licence to undertake the main altarpiece, on which only 300 ducats could be spent from the municipal revenues. Another of the masters who also participated in the making of the altarpiece was Juan de Gurrea, specifically in the masonry or architecture of the furniture, at least from the month of April 1623, for which he received 50 ducats the following year.

High altarpiece. Church of Nuestra Señora de la Victoria de Cascante

High altarpiece. Church of Nuestra Señora de la Victoria de Cascante


The altarpiece, with a straight floor plan, sits on a masonry plinth, occupying the central canvas of the polygonal apse. It is divided into two sections of three sections, framed by columns with moulded bases, wreathed shafts and composite capitals. The side boxes of the first section are topped by a curved pediment, while those on the upper level have a triangular pediment, with the central section having a semicircular arch on pilasters. This second level is superimposed on a separating frieze that culminates at the ends with a curved pediment and pyramidal finials. The attic, which consists of a single central aisle lined with fluted columns with a curved split pediment, is connected to the lower floor by curved finials. Later, the Baroque tabernacle was added, which occupies the lower section of the central street, made up of a pedestal and a body of decorated columns, housing the tabernacle inside.

If the architecture of the altarpiece received polychromy it was late, at the end of the 19th century or beginning of the 20th century, without having been previously stuccoed. A painting of subject plastic that imitated marble in green and red colours, combined with the gilding of the bases and capitals, as can be seen in some photographs from before the 1990s. This was the appearance of the altarpiece until 1996, when it underwent a major intervention under the direction of the then Museum of Navarre restorer, Ángel Marcos, who removed the previous paint, stuccoing and water gilding, and then polychroming and fine tempera painting and sgraffito work imitating fantastic decorative motifs in Renaissance style.

With regard to the iconography of the altarpiece, the indications given in the 1621 conditions were not followed to the letter, as most of the saints mentioned in the contract were not finally depicted in it. Furthermore, the paintings on the altarpiece today may not be the original ones, as photographs taken before 1996 show that the side streets of the first section were occupied by the sculptures of the Sacred Heart on the left and Saint Joseph on the right, as the paintings intended for these spaces had been removed.


Photograph of the main altarpiece prior to the 1990s when work was carried out on the altarpiece.

Photograph of the main altarpiece prior to the 1990s when work was carried out on the altarpiece.

Today, the left box of the first body contains a painting of the Holy Trinity, depicting God the Father seated, holding with both hands the cross on which Christ is nailed, accompanied by the dove of the Holy Spirit, while the one on the right-hand side sample shows Saint Joseph with the Child, both standing, with the young patriarch holding Jesus by the hand.

Holy Trinity St. Joseph with Child

Holy Trinity and St. Joseph with the Child

group On the right side of the second section of the altarpiece is a canvas of a martyred saint standing with a sword stuck through his heart, holding the palm of martyrdom in his left hand, while with his right hand he points to the lamb depicted at the top with the Latin registration In sanguine Agni, which we have identified with Pedro Arbués, inquisitor of Aragon, who was murdered in 1485 by a group of Judeo-converts while kneeling in prayer before the main altar of the Seo in Saragossa. The other painting on the right side sample is of Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622), bishop of Geneva, a great defender of Catholic doctrine in the face of the Protestant Reformation in France, canonised in 1665 by Pope Alexander VII.

Contemporary to the architecture of the altarpiece are the sculptures that occupy the central street. On one side is the carving of the Virgin of Our Lady of Victory, with 18th century polychromy. Mary, standing with her legs against each other, gazes straight ahead, supporting Jesus on her left arm, leaning on her hip, while holding the palm of victory with her right. The child, with a tender gaze and curly black hair, is dressed in a long-sleeved tunic that reaches down to his knees, showing his legs in a complex pose that gives the figure movement. He extends his right arm forward while holding the ball with his left, assisted by his mother.

Our Lady of Victory

Our Lady of Victory

Above this sculptural group , the image of Christ crucified was placed in the attic, which the authors of the Monumental Catalogue of Navarre link to the style of Juan de Biniés. A dead Christ, with a naked body of imposing muscular mass that seems to have been inspired by classical statuary. The sculpture is set against a painting with a landscape of stormy clouds, with mountains in the background and constructions in the foreground executed in great detail, such as a central building, articulated by buttresses and topped by a dome of orange average , for the execution of which the painter was inspired by engravings of the period.



-GARCÍA GAINZA, M.C., HEREDIA MORENO, C., RIVAS CARMONA, J. and ORBE SIVATTE, M., Catálogo Monumental de Navarra, I. Merindad de Tudela, Pamplona, Institución Príncipe de Viana, 1980, pp. 51-52.
-FERNÁNDEZ framework, J.I., "Nuestra Señora de la Victoria. Cascante", Temas de Cultura Popular, no. 348, Pamplona, Diputación Foral de Navarra.
-TARIFA CASTILLA, M.J., El Convento de Nuestra Señora de la Victoria de Cascante, Cascante, association Cultural Amigos de Cascante "VICUS" and Government of Navarre, 2014, pp. 113-125.