One of the indisputable gems, and at the same time the main attraction, of this Merindean area known as Valderredible is, without a doubt, the Collegiate Church of Santa María, located within the municipality of San Martín de Elines, very close to the Palencia border .
It is part, in union with San Pedro de Cervatos, Castañeda and Santillana del Mar, of the monumental group of splendid collegiate churches that are located in the Autonomous Community of Cantabria, which, with the exception of the latter one of Santillana, I had the opportunity to know more about or less fortunate, last August.
Declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 1931, it emphasizes, in my opinion, and in an important place, the perfect communion of its structural forms, with the primordial characteristics of the environment in which it is based.
To the point of forming an image less than perfect, having as background a spectacular fill, composed of mountains, forests and valleys, which have as a common denominator a vegetable exuberance that, although characteristic of the northern peninsular area, sometimes borders on the loftiest of lusts.
Lust, on the other hand, well understood, that is experienced in front of the sequential symbolism of the endless series of corbels that are located in its structure, and that attract, irremissibly look and attention, like the song of the sirens -to mention the classics - attracted perdition to sailors who imprudently sailed near the rocks where they lived.
Being part, then, of a natural poem, it surprises, nevertheless, the scarce documentation that has survived to our days, although it is supposed that the church -dated, approximately, in 1102- is one of the oldest in Cantabria.
The same does not happen, however, with the cloister, which should be placed, in the opinion of experts, in the sixteenth century, which can be said that, simulating its flowery ornamentation to those typical Cordoban courtyards full of flowers colors, contains a remarkable collection of medieval elements -sarcófagos, in its great majority and the occasional baptismal font belonging to churches of surrounding villages, probably depopulated- interesting not only for the mysterious identity of the bodies - presumably important - which they housed -especially that of the supposed pilgrim knight-, but also, for the richness and ornamental quality contained in these, as well as for the finding, in several others, of crosses of the type called as a kick or pate, which could - eye , I'm just saying, they could suggest the final destiny of some other member of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon: the Templars.
In this regard, it would be interesting to add that, in front of the Collegiate, a building with traces of a certain antiquity is located, which also bears a cross that is kicked in the facade, and that may well have been, in times, a hospedería annexed to the temple.
It also emphasizes -well it is precise at this point- the presence, in one of the columns that make up the entrance arch to the church, of a characteristic mark of the brotherhoods compañeriles: the pentalfa or five-pointed star. Mark, on the other hand - and that each draw their own conclusions, blaming it on chance or causality - which is located in many churches attributed to the aforementioned gentlemen. The theme is not wasted, because, leaving aside its primitive Mudejar factory, of which there is hardly any trace, who had the necessary means to settle in the key points of a Path that, apart from spirituality, soon became one of the most prosperous commercial roads of the Peninsula ?.
Without a doubt, the military orders. And among these, of course, we must highlight the most powerful of all: the Order of the Temple. Order that, as we well know, protected and used certain stonemasons guilds -when not, of their own members-, some of which went underground when it was definitively dissolved.
It is not an elucubración, although a feeling, that once located inside the church -and taking advantage of the timely tip of Syr- comment that the possible presence of a mysterious Magister Muri is observed, which, among other places, left its fecit particular in the Segovian Priory of San Frutos: Dom Michael.
Its presence is evident, above all, in a curious capital, which shows a character around whose neck a serpent seems to curl up. But there is still more, because, comparatively speaking, and as the experts define in the eyes one of the fundamental characteristics to recognize the work of the so-called master of Agüero and San Juan de la Peña, that same characteristic can be applied to this master Dom Michael - of possible Irish ancestry, as he ventured to suggest in certain Romanesque circles, in relatively recent research papers, published in 2007? - that, apart from this characteristic or possible visual imprint, he also left the mark of his teacher in another capital of the apse, located behind the altar: the spiral.
Other noteworthy elements, and therefore interesting to comment, are those artistic representations that, although evolving along different periods, maintain an interesting constant in terms of being carriers of certain symbolic elements of special relevance: the Marian images.
The Marian figure that stands out in this Collegiate is that of the Virgin of Elines. It is, in fact, a copy of the original that maintains, in its form, the characteristics of those Romanesque originals that the tradition, curiously but arguably, attributes to the evangelist Saint Luke.
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/2010/09/san-martin-de-elines-cantabria.html
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Original content by @juancar347
[Martial, latin poet]