Leaving Navas de Bureba, and in the direction of Pancorbo and Logroño, without leaving the outskirts of Montes Obarenes, the village of Soto de Bureba is located. To reach it, it is necessary to take the detour at Quintanilla Cabe Soto and follow the road for three or four kilometers. It is worth doing, of course, because in your parish church -not to be confused with a previous one, which is in a dilapidated state-, we will have the opportunity to contemplate one of the most extraordinary and amazing portals in the province: the cover of the church of Saint Andrew
We could place the construction of this church, at the beginning or middle of the XII century, as it appears in an inscription, dated in 1176, that also contains the name of its authors - Pedro Ega and Juan Miguélez-, although perhaps its origin is much earlier, rising in the place where previously had been some previous temple or monastery, idea that can come suggested by the contemplation of some reused remains that can be appreciated, especially in the area of the apse.
Viewed as a whole, the church of San Andrés offers a curious aspect and it should not be ruled out, either, that it would have constituted in those nebulous times a kind of church-fortress, given the pioneering activity and in constant confrontation with the Muslims, characteristic of area. Before this, there is evidence of the Roman presence in the surrounding area, as shown not only by some ruins, but also by the numerous tombstones discovered in nearby plots (1), very similar, everything being said as a compilation, to those other discovered in different places of the Peninsula, as in the church of San Vicente de Serrapio, in the Asturian council of Aller, which rises in what was once a temple dedicated to Jupiter.
There is constancy, as well, and this may be a relevant fact, of the existence, in the vicinity of the hill called the Fence, of a small hermitage or sanctuary dedicated to Nª Sª de la Peña; an advocation that, certainly, can be linked to the cults towards the Black Virgins or, in short, to the ancestral figure of the Great Mother Goddess, comparable, in essence, with other sanctuaries of the same advocation, located in the provinces of Zaragoza , Guadalajara and Segovia (2).
The cover, seen its complexity, seems independent of the rest of the set, and encourages to fantasize, introducing the viewer into a sovereignly fantastic world, which houses a spiritual philosophy, which are not lacking, skillfully disguised in the classical mythological meanings, references, In my view, they approach to hypothesize with the idea of other currents of thought -common, on the other hand, to the beliefs of the time- such as astrology -possibly, the one most mentioned by specialists- magic, and of course, that hermetic discipline, which is alchemy.
References made for the cultivated eye, and at the same time, evangelizing for the vulgar eye, as a frightening warning of condemnation for all those who do not deny the beliefs and myths that we could consider as residues of the Old Religion.
Among the figurations, there is no doubt that, due to originality and rarity, the figure of the unicorn attracts attention. A unicorn that, by the unusual placement of its horn - under the chin, and not crowning its forehead, as is usually the most traditional version - seems to want to point us to the earth; or rather, let us share in those wouivres, or that particular telism of the place, which has its antithesis in the numerous snakes and dragons that are seen in this twilight world, anthropologically fantastic.
On the other hand, and hidden in the doorway, an incomplete sea dragon suggests to us, for the saddle that can be seen on its back - it may not be that, but for a damaged wing - perhaps the disappeared figure of an apocalyptic rider or meridian, very similar, in its form, to that other figure that is located in the tympanum of the sepulveda church of Nª Sª de la Peña.
The aquatic couple, mermaid and mermaid, another rarity similar to the unicorn - and possibly, unique figures in much of the Romanesque, not only Burgos, but also peninsular - whose true intention, in the mind of the medieval artist, was not only that pernicious interpretation that usually have associated generally, but, perhaps, a possible memory of those universal myths of the creation, where the sea, of some way, had similar protagonism that the cults to the Mother Earth.
In short, there are so many references, so many details and symbols that can be found on this wonderful cover of Soto de Bureba, that the best recommendation is none other than to venture one day there, and enjoy with the unipersonal pleasure that it has the contemplation of an authentic work of Art and the individual interpretation that each one has to consider well. Of course, always from the point of view, that in the end, everything is opinions and opinions, everything is contestable and debatable.
Notes, References and Bibliography:
(1) In 1916, a neighbor of Quintanaélez discovered one, which was acquired by the Archaeological Museum of the College of Oña, and said, verbatim: To the gods Manes, Primula and Lascina put this memory to Gemelina, his daughter, of age five years. Goodbye. Be light earth.
(2) Calatayud, Brihuega and Sepúlveda, respectively.
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/2012/05/soto-de-bureba-iglesia-de-san-andres. html
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[Martial, latin poet]