Avila, Art and Mystery: the church of San Pedro

Juan Carlos Menendez @juancar347May 2019 · 6 min read


'Like tears of melancholy falling into abandonment ...' (1)

It is neither trivial nor disproportionate, that curious sense of familiarity - as we contemplate its main cover as we go through the arch of one of the old medieval gates - that this church of San Pedro is provoking in the visitor or in the curious or even in the historian, or simply interested in Art in general that, prior to his visit to the Teresian capital of Avila, has made another one to that remarkable, pure and simple Machadoian head of Extremadura which is the capital of Soria, which languishes by seeing infinite parsimony the flowing waters of the old Duero to this part of the Montes de Santa Ana and the Animas, and reminiscent of that old, immeasurable glory, of frank kinship and skilful Poitevian hands, which is the church of Santo Domingo -originally, of Santo Tomé-, which, in the words of Gaya Nuño, would gather the richest, homogeneous and harmonious decorative distribution of the Peninsula.

It is true, however, saving the insurmountable, that if we exclude the decorative austerity -not so, that formidable and Cistercian rosette in the form of a wheel that shares the same role in both temples-, and we are, at least objectives, we will not be sparing homogeneity nor harmony to a temple that, like that one, and in spite of the oblivion and the attacks with taste by the demolition and the compromise of characteristic partitions of certain times, was anchor of histories and personages, whose coats at a time appeared in the glorifying ecstasy of a History matron of the nobility and today file subscription, dust and cobwebs whose pages did not always deserve the golden of glory.

Possibly contemporary - it is estimated around the year 1100 the construction of the temple of Avila and it is known that in the year 1170 King Alfonso VIII married with the princess Leonor de Inglatera, in the Soriano of Santo Domingo, both seem to respond to a pattern of different execution - at least in terms of technique and structure - of those other hands that raised a good part of the city's temples, highlighting, not as a minor detail and, perhaps, as a glimpse of austere elegance, the sculptural disproportion that they make abundance, in those other cases -such as, for example, the basilica church of San Vicente- an authentic pandemonium of meanings and meanings, especially for a spectator -the modern one-, too far from those mythical archetypes, valid in that which is often considered as the dark Middle Ages.

This foliaceous austerity, which seems to be the predominant and exclusive factor in the capitals of the three portals that still have the temple of San Pedro, seem to want to send the viewer towards that kind of austere religiosity -recovered, in part, by Císter-, that characterized that exodus towards the Nature of communities that from the 4th century onwards - for something they took part, the so-called First Fathers of the Church - were gradually being recycled again to the fold, being, probably the most outstanding, those that frustrated the desires of retirement and solitude of San Fructuoso, in that singular Valley of the Silencio berciano.

Now, this does not mean, in any way, that foliacea is an exclusivity and that other elements, less abundant, lack interest.
As has been said, a glance at the main doorway, oriented towards the west - perhaps pointing to that symbolic finis terrae from which its anonymous constructors emerged - is enough to discover certain elements, not all arranged in their original place, which suggest, at least, Some attention by the viewer.

Obviously, these elements refer to those that are located both inside and outside the magnificent rosette. Some of the heads that are appreciated, seem to correspond to another place; maybe they will be part of the roof tile or maybe, just maybe, maybe a series of illustrated corbels that were originally above the rose window.

In the central hemispheres of the latter, two figures - feminine on the left and angelic on the right - suggest an allusion to the Annunciation. Above the virginal figure, a head, possibly of bovid, reminds us of something more than an astrological allusion: that common currency, as important as gold, that the cattle had for countless generations.

Above the angel -presumably Gabriel, messenger-, a human face observes us with an apparently amused expression, but showing some ears in a wink in which the stonemason, it is possible that intentionally, he wanted to demand our attention towards that voice of the stones that, apparently silent, become generously eloquent when attention is duly paid.

This, without going any further, should claim us to contemplate the rosette better and to realize the faces of the characters that remain in the four cardinal points of the wheel. The Wheel of Fortune, where the character on the top appears smiling, satisfied with his luck that keeps him on top of the world, but knowing, that everything, in the background is a fool and his position today, can be the ruin of tomorrow, as surely the character would have indicated to us that, surely, originally it had to occupy the inferior place and today, unfortunately, disappeared.

Something that, on the other hand, should have very present the inmates that are known to come out of this temple to face sentence and even, the illustrious personages who rest in the sarcophagi of their interior, knowing, also, that in the end, the terrible executioner of the fate of the Wheel, the Lady of the Scythe, equal to all.

Of the head it emphasizes the main apse and the two small absidiolos, corresponding to the traditional chapels of the Epistle and the Gospel. On the capitals of the windows, apart from the foliaceous motifs, motifs common to all construction of this type are seen, generally related to the concepts of sin and pride, which in the form of mythological references, show taps, harpies and sirens of two tails

There are also Celtic interlaced and double spirals and by the shape of some of their foliaceous motifs-leaves-you can see curious coincidences with similar motifs in some Asturian Romanesque temples, which could mean a separate study.

Notes, References and Bibliography:

(1) Gustav Meyrinck: 'The Golem', Alianza Editorial, S.A., Madrid, 2016, page 89.

NOTICE: Originally published in my ROMANIC blog, ENIGMAS DEL ROMÁNICO ESPAÑOL. Both the text and the accompanying photographs are my exclusive intellectual property. The original entry, where you can check the authorship of juancar347, can be found at the following address: https://juancar347-romanica.blogspot.com/2016/12/avila-iglesia-de-san-pedro.html

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Original content by @juancar347

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[Martial, latin poet]

Ars vtinam more Animvm qve effingere. Posses pulchrior in ter. Ris nvlla tabella foret.
Arte Ojala pudieras representar. el carácter y el espíritu. No habría sobre la tierra. Imagen más bella

mariposas-1 (1).jpg

@Tximeleta tiene nuevos retos.
Toca la imagen y participa.
Diviértete y disfruta.

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