ROMANESQUE CHURCHES OF NORTHERN SPAIN
PART 1: Itineraries with Aguilar de Campóo (Palencia) as a base
There are four churches in this itinerary. The first and the fourth lie directly south of Aguilar de Campóo while the other two are to the southwest. The four of them can be visited in a day.
The first church is that of El Salvador in Pozancos which has a most amusing and unique scene of a woman slapping the face of a suitor. It also has an interesting font. The next church of San Andrés in Revilla de Collazos has some of the best sculpted capitals of the Ascent of Alexander and of Pax Dei et Treuga Domini (the Peace and Truce of God). The third church of San Pelayo Martir in Arenillas de San Pelayo has an almost three-dimensionally carved archivolt of eighteen figures. Amongst them there are scenes depicting a ‘Trial by Ordeal’ and workers minting coins.
On the return journey you can visit the church of San Julian and Santa Basilisa in Rebolledo de la Torre. Even though it is in the province of Burgos it is only a few kilometres south of Aguilar de Campóo. It has one of the most interesting historiated porticos in northern Spain. The portico is always open to visitors.
The key to the church is held by a person in the village.
The village of Pozancos is 9 kilometres south-southeast of Aguilar de Campóo ‘as the crow flies’. Take the N-611 out of Aguilar to the A-67. Head south on the A-67 for 6.5 kilometres and then exit on to the PP-6213 towards Santa María de Mave which will be reached in 1.5 kilometres. Then follow the PP-6210 east for a further 4.4 kilometres to Pozancos. The church of El Salvador is in the village and is surrounded by modern buildings with the exception of its south side which faces on to a small plaza. Its GPS coordinates are 42°42'50.96" North, 4°13'38.21" West and it is at an altitude of 925 metres.
García Guinea found reference to the origins of the village of Pozancos dating back to 999 AD. By 1186 the monastery of Santa María la Real in Aguilar de Campóo owned properties in Pozancos. By the mid-14th century, according to the chronicle Libro Becerro de las Behetrias, the village had been abandoned except for one solitary person who was not linked to the monastery. Now it has about thirty inhabitants.
On a south presbytery capital of the church there is a most amusing and unique scene depicting a standing couple with the woman slapping the man on the face. El Salvador also has a good Mudéjar pulpit and an intriguing Romanesque font decorated with unusual symbols.
The original church had a single nave and a round apse. The entrance is on the south side. Later, another nave and a square apse were added to the north side; a rectangular sacristy was added to the south together with a porch over which a granary was built – it has recently been removed. The porch rests on three wooden brackets decorated with Baroque motives and columns. The projecting doorway had its own roof which was dismantled when the granary was built. The rectangular belfry is accessed by a spiral staircase housed in a hexagonal tower on the southwest side.
1. South façade.
Though overall the church was built with good sandstone ashlars, the lower part of the tower, the sacristy and the north wall are built of calcareous rough stones. Bricks and tufa were used in the more recent additions.
The short straight south presbytery and the apse are lower than the nave and rest on a shallow plinth. The north presbytery disappeared when the north nave was added. They are divided horizontally into three sections by two billet stringcourses, one below the windows and the other over the windows. The apse is divided vertically into three sections by two engaged columns and has a central window. Two billet imposts divide it horizontally into two sections – one is under the window the other forms a dripstone. The roof rests on a rope cornice supported by corbels.
South Presbytery Window
The south presbytery has a loophole window (photo 2) with an arch of rope and concave moulding with six balls in the concave moulding. It is surrounded by a tympanum and two archivolts.
2. South presbytery loophole window.
The tympanum is carved with two men on foot, fighting (photo 3). The man on the left is bearded and holds a kite-shaped shield and a sword. The man on the right has short curly hair, wears a loose tunic, and holds a round shield and a sharp pointed wooden stick. This was an event in which God would grant success to the righteous in a duel – a trial by ordeal. These were duels on foot, the combatants having shields made of leather and wicker to soften the blows of the wooden clubs they fought with. This was the usual way in which villagers could settle cases where the accused lacked any other way of proving his or her innocence. Usually these duels were to do with the honour of the lady.
3. South presbytery window tympanum.
The exterior archivolt has two roll mouldings resting on jambs. The inner archivolt has roll and concave moulding with balls in the concave section; it rests on abaci and capitals. The left capital has Daniel standing in the centre with a lion on either side; each lion faces downwards and has its paws placed on the astragal. The right capital has a most amusing and unique scene with a standing couple (photo 4). The man holds out his left arm on which is perched a hawk or falcon indicating he is a wealthy person who seeks a pleasurable life, as symbolised by the falcon. He holds the lady by her waist with his right arm. She smooths her hair with her left hand, a gesture denoting she is not a virtuous woman. But she rejects his advances by slapping him the face.
4. Right capital of south presbytery window.
One could take this representation as a scene of rape or violation, especially considering that the tympanum seems to show a trial by ordeal. Furthermore, Daniel in the opposite capital was often depicted in churches where justice was administered through trials by ordeal which took place in front of the church. I am indebted to Fernando García Gil for drawing my attention to the possible meaning of this window.
All the figures in both capitals are frontally depicted and naively carved.
Apse Loophole Window
The apse loophole window is surrounded by two archivolts. The outer one is level with the wall and has plain voussoirs and rests on jambs. The inner archivolt has two concaves on either side of a wide roll moulding; its concave parts are decorated with balls. It rests on abaci and capitals. The left capital has an eagle displaying its wings. The right capital has central stylised tree, a ball as a volute, and a deeply carved flower on the right side.
South Presbytery and Apse Corbel Table
1: Much damaged standing man most probably holding a musical instrument.
2: Only the corbel remains – the image has disappeared.
3: A pig facing downwards.
4: A damaged corbel of a man holding an agricultural tool.
5: South column capital. Two mounted knights, wearing coats of mail, fighting. Their lances are piercing their shields.
6: A priapic man holding his penis, which has now disappeared.
7: A damaged corbel, possibly of a seated woman.
8: A blind musician holding a damaged instrument being led by a child holding what appears to be a begging bowl (photo 5).
9: A devil with flame-like hair and claws as his feet (photo 5).
10: A miser with his money-bag hanging around his neck (photo 5).
5. Apse corbels 8, 9, and 10.
South Wall Corbel Table
1: A lion facing upwards.
2: A man holding a pickaxe.
3: Several palm leaves, hollowed underneath.
5: A feline lying on its side.
6: A couple tied by their neck.
7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15: New corbels, carved in the shape of a ship’s brow.
10: Stems and acanthus leaves, carved three dimensionally.
13: A damaged corbel showing a seated woman with a devil by her right side, his clawed feet and scaly body clearly visible.
The entrance has an undecorated post-and-lintel door surrounded by four deeply splayed archivolts and a dripstone decorated with undulating stems and leaves resting on a continuous impost. The inner archivolt has shallow leaf decoration. The next two archivolts have roll and concave mouldings while the outer has plane voussoirs.
Left side capitals (from the outside to the inside)
1: Adam and Eve standing on either side of a tree with the snake curled around it. Eve holds one hand over her breasts and the other over her genitals. Adam holds a leaf over his genitals.
2: A seated man on each side with three lions, one in the centre and one at each corner. The men have their hands in the lions’ mouths, a sign that they are taking an oath. The ‘mouth of the truth’ was often a lion, into which the accused introduced their hands to prove their innocence. Apparently, this method was used to determine who was a thief, a crook, or a swindler so as to be able to warn other pilgrims. The same scene is found in several churches along the route to Compostela.
3: Confronted griffins caught in beaded ribbons. The griffin (the body and hindquarters of a horse and the wings and head of an eagle) is a symbol of constant vigil over a sacred space.
4: A stylised tree with curled over leaves.
6. Entrance left side capitals.
Right side capitals (from inside to outside)
1: Stylised leaves.
2: Confronted lions.
3: A basilisk on the left confronts a griffin on the right. In medieval art the basilisk was a symbol of Satan and the griffin sometimes represented the constant vigil over a sacred space.
4: Confronted harpies, a bearded male on the right.
A large arch was built between the two naves in 1678 (the date is recorded on the keystone), making them part of a single church with a nave and a north aisle. The north aisle has two bays with a square apse and the south nave has two bays, a square presbytery, and a round apse.
The 13th century Romanesque font has a damaged bowl. It depicts a fight between a lion and a dragon and also has crosses inscribed within circles and a variety of geometrical designs.
7. Font - a lion fighting a dragon and geometrical designs.
Enciclopedia del Románico en Palencia, Fundación Santa María La Real, 2002, Volumen 1, pp. 387-392.
Románico Guías: Todo el Románico de Palencia, Fundación Santa María La Real, 2006, pp. 73-76.
Los Penitentes de Semana Santa, Fernando García Gil, romanicodigital.blog.co.uk, 13 Abril 2017.
El Caballero en la escultura Romanica de Castilla y Leon, Margarita Ruiz Maldonado, Salamanca 1986 pp. 47, 107-108.
Revilla de Collazos, Palencia
Revilla de Collazos is situated in the Boedo valley, 26 kilometres southwest of Aguilar de Campóo ‘as the crow flies’. The church is on a hillock at the northern edge of the village. Take the A-67 south from Aguilar de Campóo. After 13 kilometres, take the P-223 west towards Prádones de Ojeda. Stay on the P-223 for 18.8 kilometres to Báscones de Ojeda where you turn south on to the P-233. After 4.5 kilometres on the P-233 you will reach Revilla de Collazos. The GPS coordinates of the church of San Andrés are 42°37'49.4" North, 4°30'12.86" West, and it is at an altitude of 930 metres.
The fabric of the church clearly indicates that it was built in two stages. The apse and presbytery are part of the original building and are the built with excellent sandstone ashlars in carefully arranged rows bound with a thin layer of mortar. At a later date a chapel was added to the south wall which came to be used as a baptistery and a sacristy. Work carried out during the 17th and 18th centuries affected the nave and the belfry tower. A sacristy, porch, and storage rooms were built at this time. Two of the apse windows were blocked up when a baroque altarpiece was placed in the apse.
Stylistically, the capitals in San Andrés are linked to the first workshop of the church of the monastery of Aguilar de Campóo and also with the capital of the miser in the church of San Julián y Santa Basilisa in Rebolledo de la Torre (Burgos). The carved faces are very similar.
The font is Gothic.
The apse is divided vertically into three sections by buttresses which are almost two-thirds of the height of the wall. They serve as bases for engaged columns that reach up to the corbel table. The apse is also divided horizontally into two sections by a billet-decorated string course which runs just below the windows.
Only the south splayed loophole window survives. It is framed by a roll and cavetto archivolt and it is surrounded by a dripstone decorated with large fleshy curled acanthus leaves and buds curled into spirals reminiscent of the dripstones in the Palencia churches of San Pelayo Martir in Arenillas de San Pelayo, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Perazancas de Ojeda, and Santa Cecilia in Vallespinoso de Aguilar. This is a design used in many of the buildings dating from the end of the 12th century.
The left capital has two confronted bearded centaurs entwined in stems with fleshy leaves. They have a certain similarity with those in San Julián y Santa Basilisa in Rebolledo de la Torre. The right capital has two rows of acanthus. The abaci are decorated with fleshy, undulating, deeply undercut acanthus leaves with their tips turned over. In the one on the right the leaves are spewed out from a central mask. This is a motif used frequently in northern Palencia.
The only Romanesque remains are the apse, the triumphal arch with its very interesting capitals, and the south wall. The apse has two imposts; one at the point where the wall meets the vault which continued throughout the nave which is concave; the other below the level of the window has a roll and concave moulding. In front of the altar there is a freestanding column in the shape of a statue.
1. The apse and triumphal arch.
The triumphal arch has an intrados carved with Islamic-style decoration.
The north capital of the arch has the Ascent of Alexander. At the centre, Alexander sits on a rope tied to the necks of two griffins. He holds two poles at the ends of which there is a piece of meat. Each of the griffins turns its head in a vain effort to reach the meat. According to legend, Alexander ascended to heaven carried by two hungry griffins that were chasing two pieces of meat which Alexander had placed at the end of two poles to tempt the birds. The meaning of the scene is quite ambiguous. On the one hand, Alexander is the perfect hero and governor and his ascension could be taken as a pre-figuration of Christ. On the other, he exemplifies one of the most condemned vices in the Middle Ages, that of arrogance.
2. The Ascent of Alexander (as is and edited).
The south capital is carved with two mounted knights engaged in combat. They wear full coats of mail with conical helmets and each holds a long shield. Only the lance of the knight on the left is evident. In the centre, a woman holds the two horses by their reins. She represents the Church and Pax Dei et Treuga Domini (the Peace and Truce of God). God’s Truce was a medieval European truce that applied spiritual sanctions in order to limit the violence of private wars in feudal society. This is one of the best-preserved capitals of this theme. The same scene appears in the churches of San Juan Bautista in Villavega de Aguilar (Palencia), Santa María in Fuenteúrbel (Burgos), and Santa María in Retortillo (Cantabria).
3. Two mounted knights in combat and Pax Dei et Treuga (as is and edited).
Enciclopedia del Románico en Palencia, Fundación Santa María La Real, 2002, Volumen 2, pp. 849-55.
Románico Guías: Todo el Románico de Palencia, Fundación Santa María La Real, 2006, p. 161
SAN PELAYO MARTIR
Arenillas de San Pelayo, Palencia
Arenillas de San Pelayo is 36 kilometres southwest of Aguilar de Campóo ‘as the crow flies’. Take the N-611 south out of Aguilar to the A-67. Drive south on the A-67 for 21 kilometres and then take the P-227 south for 1.7 kilometres towards Herrera de Pisuerga to a junction with the P-230. Drive west on the P-230 for 23 kilometres to a junction with the P-237, just after Villaeles de Valdavia. Drive north for 2 kilometres on the P-237 to Arenillas de San Pelayo. The church of San Pelayo Martir is on the southern edge of the village. Its GPS coordinates are 42°34'48.65" North, 4°35'35.77" West and it is at an altitude of 890 metres.
In 1132 several members of the Muñoz de Saldaña family donated money for the foundation of the monastery of Arenillas de San Pelayo. Like many other monasteries founded by private donations, Arenillas was not attached to any specific order which was not unusual in Castile at that time. In 1159 Diego Muñoz granted the monastery income from a number of villages in the neighbourhood. The monastery became part of the Premonstratensian Order in 1168. It had always depended on donations for its survival which meant it only had a small number of monks; it slowly declined till it became just the parish church.
The church has a nave, two aisles, three apses and a straight presbytery. The entrance is situated in the second bay of the north aisle. The chapter house, which is below ground level, was rediscovered in the 1960s; it occupies the entire width of the west of the church. The apses are built in brick but all the surfaces have been rendered, as have all the walls of the church.
1. North elevation.
The central apse has one row of decorative arches with a row of rectangles above it. They serve to enliven the wall. The lower arcade is made up of an interior blind arch around a simulated loophole window framed by a larger one. Two of the arches are higher than the others; there was a third on the south side but this has now been replaced by a large window. The upper decoration consists of a rectangular frame around a false loophole window. The effect of light and shade falling on the flat and concave surfaces never fails to draw attention. The roof is supported on a concave cornice decorated with balls; it rests on plain concave corbels.
The south apse still has some un-rendered Mudejar decoration which consists of a frieze of two rows of saw-tooth brickwork separated by a band of brick headers (photo 2). It is surmounted by what appears to be a shallow blind arcade but is, in fact, a band formed by the ends of terracotta curved tiles. It is simple but very attractive. Mudejar was the name given to those Muslims who remained in the territories that had been reconquered by the Christians and who helped build churches using their own attractive brick decoration. The Mudejar style is evident in Toledo, Huesca, Guadalajara and other parts of Spain.
2. South apse Mudejar decoration.
The section of the wall housing the splayed entrance and the bell-cote projects outwards from the rest of the north wall. The arched doorway is made up plain voussoirs and is surrounded by seven archivolts which rest on a continuous impost, capitals, and columns. All the columns fit into stepped corners. There are three monolithic columns and four jambs with slender segmented columns that fit into their chamfered corners. The first and fifth archivolts are billet; the fourth, sixth and seventh have roll moulding; and the third has acanthus leaves with tangential buds.
3. North entrance.
The second archivolt has eighteen radially-placed figures that are almost three-dimensional. The scenes depict events that used to take place in front of the church. Starting from the left, they are:
1-3: The first three figures represent a ‘Trial by Ordeal’ (ordalia) in which God would grant success to the righteous. This trial usually took place to defend someone’s honour. In this case it would seem to be the honour of a lady (1) who has her hands raised to her cheeks in a gesture of suffering, not about the men but about her honour. The next two figures are two men duelling to defend her honour. The first (2) holds a wicker shield and the second (3) holds a wooden club above his head. Similar scenes can be seen in the churches of Santiago de Carrión de los Condes (Palencia) and Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Perazancas (Palencia).
4. Figures 2 & 3 – two men duelling.
4-7: The next four figures represent scenes of merriment that used to take place in front of a church: a much damaged contortionist followed by three musicians.
8: By the clothes he wears, this is a wealthy person reading from a book.
9: This is probably a stuffed ragdoll, wearing a dress that can be seen under its legs. There was a custom in Spain to throw ragdolls up in the air for fun during a festival before Lent called the ‘burial of the sardine’. Goya did a series of paintings depicting this scene.
10: What appears to be a nun reading from a large open book. At this time the only local women able to read would have been nuns.
11: A bearded man holding an item which has now disappeared. He could be the mayor or an elder of the village. A duel always involved witnesses, godfathers, and a judge who was very often represented touching his beard and holding a stick as a symbol of his power. He has a great aura of authority about him.
12: A scribe with a tablet on his lap on which are placed his ink pot and a book. He holds a quill in his right hand and something in his left, possibly a cloth. In a village or little town there was always a need for a scribe to draw up documents on behalf of merchants.
The last five figures are connected with the minting of coins. This was a theme favoured by Burgundian masons who worked in Santiago and Carrión de los Condes; they were influential in this region.
13: A minter placing coins in a bag.
14-17: Minters with anvils in the process of making the coins.
18: A blacksmith working the bellows.
5. Figures 15 to 18 – minters with anvils and a blacksmith working the bellows.
The entrance doorway is similar to those of Perazancas and Carrión de los Condes. Iconographically, the carvings follow the themes of Santiago de Carrión de los Condes, Perazancas, Moarves de Ojeda and Piasca. The masons responsible for the entrance carvings in Arenillas must have been familiar with the sculptures in these other churches.
However, the lack of fluidity in the pleats of the clothes shows that the masons here were less-skilled. It is apparent that there were two masons working on this entrance, one having carved the fourth and fifth voussoirs and most of the capitals – his figures are characterised by a slight grin, protruding eyes, and spirally placed pleats – and the other having executed the rest.
Capitals on the left side (from left to right):
The abacus above these capitals is decorated with an undulating stem and acanthus leaves. The abacus above the second capital has a ‘Green Man’ spewing vegetation from his mouth.
1-5: These capitals have three rows of acanthus leaves with pine cones under their tips.
6: On the right side of this capital there is a couple with their hand placed inside a lion’s mouth. This portrays a scene known as ‘Mouth of Truth’ which was represented by an animal mask, often a lion, into which the accused introduced their hands to prove their innocence. Apparently this method was used to determine who was a thief, a crook, or a swindler so as to be able to warn other pilgrims.
6. The ‘Mouth of Truth’.
On the left side of the capital, the same couple appear to be watching a man being swallowed upside-down by a lion. This is likely to be a person who failed the ‘Mouth of Truth’ test.
7: On the left of the capital there is a bearded man wearing what appears to be a breast plate and, on the right, there are a man and a woman. I believe that the bearded man on the left could be a squire who had donated money for the foundation of a monastery and that here he is introducing his son, who is tonsured as a monk, and his daughter, who seems to be wearing a nun’s habit, to the community. He may well have founded both a monastery and a nunnery. It must also be remembered that it was customary for noble families to give at least one of their children into the service of the Church.
Capitals on the right side (from left to right)
The first four capitals on the right side are historiated but are so weathered that it is not possible to determine who the people represent. Probably the main figure in the first four capitals is Christ because he sits with his knees apart, symbol of a person who is there to help. Christ Pantocrator is often depicted with his knees apart because he came to serve. On the other hand, a king always has his knees together because he is the one who commands and the people serve him. The same is true in the case of a judge.
The fourth capital could be the Wedding at Cana because Christ is in the centre and on the right there is a person holding a jug.
The last three capitals on the right, also much damaged, are decorated with large acanthus leaves.
The three apses are all that remain from the Romanesque period. The central apse has a triumphal arch resting on two capitals. The one on the left has two fierce, snarling confronted lions with a background of large acanthus leaves with perforated veins. The capital on the right has three fleshy acanthus leaves, also with perforated veins. The collars of the columns of both capitals have a row of perforations.
The wide straight presbytery has a niche on either side in which there is a tomb. The one on the left is a lady from the Muñoz de Saldaña family and the one on the right a man from the Castro family.
The two side apses have an impost which runs all along the wall at the level where the dome meets the wall. The impost is decorated with a network of rhomboids. The south apse now houses a 13th century Romanesque font which sits on a raised 1m square plinth. It is conical; its top diameter is 1m and it is 54cm tall. Its outer surface is decorated with a band formed by interlaced elliptical shapes having an acanthus leaf at their centre. In the upper part of the font there is a row of raised rosettes.
Enciclopedia del Románico en Palencia, Fundación Santa María La Real, Volumen 2, pp. 924- 934
Garcia Gil, Fernando, Piasca: el rastro de un beso, 25 May 2015, Amigos del Románico website
Románico Guías, Palencia 2006, Fundación Santa María La Real, pp. 185-7
Nuño González, Jaime, ‘De la cuna a la sepultura: el discurso de la vida en la época románica’, pp.9-60 in Los Protagonistas de la obra románica, Fundación Santa Maria la Real, 2004
Blanchet, Adrien, La Monnaie et l’Eglise: Relation d’établissements religieux avec des émissions monétaires
SAN JULIAN AND SANTA BASILISA
Rebolledo de la Torre, Burgos
Rebolledo de la Torre is a small village 11.8 kilometres south of Aguilar de Campóo ‘as the crow flies’. Take the N-611 south out of Aguilar to the A-67. Drive south on the A-67 for 6.5 kilometres and then rejoin the N-611 at Puebla de San Vicente. Continue south on the N-611 for 4.2 kilometres and then turn left (east) on to the Carretera Rebolledo. After 5.7 kilometres on this road you will reach Rebolledo de la Torre. The church of San Julian and Santa Basilisa is on the northern edge of the village at 42°41'25.6" North, 4°13'39" West and it is at an altitude of 955 metres. The name of Rebolledo de la Torre derives from the once abundant Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica or rebollar in Spanish) some of which can still be seen in the hills behind the church and the tower (torre) that stands in the middle of the village.
San Julian and Santa Basilisa has one of the most accomplished and best preserved porticos in Castile which had a funerary as well as a civic function. It was in this portico that the local council met. It is 17m long by 4.5m wide – it is unusually tall for this kind of structure as can be seen by height of the wall above the arches.
1. South elevation.
Arcaded galleries, such as the portico at San Julian and Santa Basilisa, served as cemeteries till the reign of Carlos III (r. 1759-88) when, for health reasons, he ordered that public cemeteries be built outside the town. For civic purposes, they served as places where village councils met, where weddings took place, where ‘Trials by Ordeal’ (ordalías) were carried out, and where people sat on the low arcade walls to play games such as one known as quirkat, where the game board was engraved into the surface of the stone – an example can be seen at the church of San Bautista in Moarves de Ojeda, Palencia (see Part 1, Itinerary 3). In addition, those who were not permitted to enter the church – such as women who had not surpassed forty days after giving birth or those not baptised – would assemble in these arcaded galleries to follow the service.
These galleries were ideal places to display, through the images depicted on their capitals, the temptations and daily struggles that the Christian soul had to overcome. The more horrific the depictions of the monsters, the more vivid the feeling of anguish they created for the viewer. It was hoped that this would help strengthen their determination to overcome sin. It is for this reason that many of the capitals are dedicated to imaginary fights amongst hybrid monsters representing evil. There was always another theme depicted – that of the noble knight ready to defend the common people against humans or beasts who threatened the established order of society. Feudalism and monasticism were increasing and it was therefore important to show that the feudal knights were ready to stand against any threat.
In Rebolledo the entrance to the portico shows the fights between monsters. On the right side of the entrance, capital 10 depicts a Christian knight as defender of the faith, an allusion to the Reconquest while, on capital 11, the knight is single-handedly fighting a beast which has bitten his shield. On the last capital of the gallery (capital 13), Samson is shown subjugating the lion of Timnah, a reminder to the faithful of the need to overcome their primitive passions. The human protagonists of these symbolic battles against hybrid beasts, which symbolised temptation, were finally settled after death when the soul was being judged as shown in capital 5 where the condemned are sent to Hell and the just enter Paradise.
On the south side, the gallery has ten arches and a slightly pointed entrance. The arches rest on capitals and eight twin monolithic columns, which share one capital, and five single columns. The arches are surmounted by a continuous dripstone which has varied decoration. The roof of the portico rests on a cornice decorated with tetra-petals within crossed-over beaded ribbons. It is supported by thirty-two corbels and on the west by three pairs of slender columns, their finely carved capitals forming part of the corbel table. The west and south walls meet forming a bevelled angle at the corner in front of which there is a column on top of which is a glouton supporting a corner corbel.
2. West and south corner with its glouton.
PORTICO WEST WINDOW
Exterior: It is a tall narrow-arched window. There is a thin monolithic column in the middle, at the top of which is a glouton (an animal mask representing a guzzler) which is an integral part of the tympanum above the window. The tympanum has a decorative band of undulating stems and leaves. The window is surrounded by an archivolt, decorated with acanthus leaves with their tips turned over, which rests on two capitals, the left one having two rows of acanthus and on the right, two confronted lions. There is a dripstone decorated with undulating stems and fleshy, spirally curved acanthus.
There is a somewhat haphazard text spread around the impost and arch of the window and on a stone next to it which identifies the date of the portico and the name of the sculptor. It is written in late Latin mixed with the Castilian of the time and it is therefore not easy to read. It says: “I, Abbot Domingo, and my fellow brethren Pelayo repopulated this Vallejo valley in 1224 (1189 AD) with Christian people. At first Vallejo was under the governorship of Q Gonzalo Pelaez. On 22 December 1224 (1189), Master Juan de Piasca made the portico.”
Interior: The window is highly decorated on the interior. It is splayed and has twin arches resting on two columns which end in a pendant in the centre. The window is surrounded by a rectangular monolithic frame (ajimez) which is elaborately decorated. It has a five-storeyed tower at each side of the frame which may symbolise the Heavenly Jerusalem, a tree in the centre, and the naked figures of Adam on the left and Eve on the right, both of whom are in the spandrels leaning against the arches. Adam holds a fig leaf over his genitals and clasps his throat with his right hand in a conventional gesture of anguish and desperation after having eaten the forbidden fruit. There is a band of acanthus at the top and bottom of the frame, the latter serves as the abaci of the arches.
3. Interior of portico west window.
PORTICO ARCADE CAPITALS (from left to right)
1: An engaged capital covered with a row of fleshy acanthus leaves with their ends turned over and with volutes above them. The abacus is floriated.
2: It has two rows of fleshy acanthus leaves with their ends turned over as in capital 1 but in the upper row of the west side of this capital there is a peacock with its head turned back to eat a fruit. Each side of the abacus has a pair of rampant griffins back-to-back; their tails end in a leaf and their heads come together forming the corners.
3: It depicts the death and judgement of a miser. On the east side is the miser, recognizable because he has a large coin in his mouth. He lies dead in his bed with his eyes closed, his thin right arm and hand lying on top of the heavy bed covers, indicated by parallel pleats. Under the bed are two lions. In the left corner, at the head of the bed, kneels his wife who is touching the side of her face with her right hand in a gesture of pain and sorrow. The miser’s soul, in the shape of a naked small person, has come out of his body and is suspended above him. To the left, a lion drags the soul by a heavy chain around its neck while a devil on the right grasps it by its arm.
4. Death of a miser (capital 3).
On the west side of the capital, the naked miser stands with his hands held high. He has long hair and a beard and has a large bag of money hanging from a chain around his neck. To the left, a frightening devil, his hair standing on end flame-like, his mouth open with glee, holds the miser by his arm. To the right of the miser is a damaged man; only the folds of his tunic are visible. Behind him is another man holding a club over his shoulder; he seems to be sitting. The abacus is decorated with fleshy stems and leaves of cardoon. The capital rests on a pair of columns.
4: It has two pairs of confronted rampant griffins linked by a beaded ribbon. Their heads are turned backwards so that they can eat the seeds from the foliage in the background. Their wings are carefully delineated.
5. Rampant griffins (capital 4).
At the centre of the north side there is a mask from which leaves emerge; below it, a bird is pecking at seeds. The abacus has a row of birds. A very similar capital is to be found in Santa Cecilia de Vallespinoso de Aguilar (Palencia) on the right side of the triumphal arch. The capital rests on a pair of columns.
5: It has a depiction of the weighing of the souls. On the left of the east side there is a much damaged Archangel Michael and, on the right, a naked devil with flame-like hair. In the upper centre, there is an upside-down naked soul who is holding onto the scales. Below is another naked soul who is being weighed. The devil is attempting to pull the scales towards the side of the condemned. On the north side of the capital there are several rows of acanthus and behind St Michael, on the south side, is a saved soul entering Paradise. The abacus is decorated with fleshy undulating stems and acanthus leaves.
6: It has an elegant row of folded palmettes, crossed over at their bases. The abacus is decorated with undulating stems with palmettes.
7: The same as capital 6 but it is not finished on the north side.
8: This is a foliated capital. It has a vase at each corner from which spread fleshy, beaded stems ending in acanthus leaves, most of which are folded over forming the volutes. There is a small animal mask on the west side. The abacus is decorated with pairs of acanthus emerging from animal masks. The single column is fluted diagonally and decorated with leaves and stems in the space between the flutes.
9: It is decorated with vertically placed acanthus leaves. The capital rests on a pair of columns. It has a plain abacus, bevelled underneath.
10: It has two mounted knights engaged in combat. Both wear long suits of mail, full-face visors and hold lances. The knight on the left holds a round shield, identifying him as a Muslim, while the one on the right has a kite-shaped shield identifying him a Christian; his lance has penetrated the back of the head of his opponent.
6. Two mounted knights engaged in combat (capital 10).
11: On the south side of this capital, there are two couples confronting rearing griffins. The griffins’ heads form the volutes and` their front paws are locked together. The griffins are ensnared in beaded stems. On the right of the north side of the capital, a standing knight, wearing a coat of mail and holding a sword and kite-like shield, is fighting off a ferocious dragon which has bitten his shield. A similar scene can be seen in the interior of the tympanum of Santa María in Yermo (Cantabria), at the entrance to the church of Santa Cecilia in Vallespinoso de Aguilar (Palencia), and on the south side of the cloister of Santillana del Mar (Cantabria). The abacus consists of undulating stems and acanthus leaves.
12: On the east and south sides of the capital, a lion is being attacked by a griffin. Forming the north-east corner is a pair of confronted harpies whose tails end in snakes which are biting into two stems ending in a large lotus-like leaf. The abacus has entwined leaves and stems.
13: This is an engaged capital carved with a scene of Samson prizing open the jaws of the lion of Timnah. Samson is on the front of the capital, his long hair gathered by ribbons and his cape willowing out behind him. He is riding on the back of the lion and both his hands are in its mouth. His left leg is extended between the forelegs of the lion and with his right leg he is pushing back denoting the effort he is making to prize open the lion’s mouth. The lion has a thick curly mane and its paws rest on the rim of the capital. On the right there is a seated man holding the lion’s tail. On the left of the column there is a bird with leaves sprouting from its mouth. The corners of the capital do not have volutes; instead there are two flattened palmettes hanging from an architectural frieze. The abacus has tetra-petals within interlocked beaded ribbons.
The detail of the man holding the lion’s tail is linked to a similar scene in the capitals of several triumphal arches – Villaherreros, Villaespinoso, Ceruza, Dehesa de Romanos, Prádanos de Ojeda and in the capital at the entrance of the church in Moarves de Ojeda. The abacus, which is decorated with leaves within beaded crossed-over ribbons, is similar to those to be found in Piasca and Aguilar. It seems very likely that the master mason Juan de Piasca had learned his trade in Piasca because of the similarities in the sculpture found in Rebolledo and Piasca. He and his team were also involved in other buildings in Palencia and Cantabria where we can see the same resemblance – Vallespinoso, Collazo de Boedo, Santa Maria de Becerril, Quintanillas – just to mention a few.
PORTICO ENTRANCE CAPITALS
The section of the wall housing the portico entrance projects outwards from the rest of the portico wall. The portico entrance is directly in front of the church entrance. It has a plain, slightly pointed arch surrounded by two archivolts and a dripstone decorated with undulating stems and acanthus leaves. They rest on a running impost decorated on the left with undulating stems and acanthus leaves and on the right with beaded stems which cross over four-petalled flowers. The interior archivolt is decorated with two young acanthus leaves lashed together, enclosed by their own stem which, in turn, entwine with the adjoining ones. It rests on a single column on each side. The exterior archivolt has a concave moulding with a fillet and a flat surface behind it. It rests on twin columns on either side.
Left side of the doorway: The outer capital has two bearded, long haired centaurs fighting one another. The one on the left holds a round shield, the one on the right a bow. The background has an overall raised leafy decoration. The inner capital has two confronted, rearing griffins.
Right side of the doorway: The inner capital has two lions with a conjoined head that replaces the volute. The outer capital has a harpy on the left with the rest of the capital being taken up by rearing griffins.
PORTICO CORBEL TABLE
Rather than describe all thirty-two of the portico’s corbels, I have confined myself to the seven over the entrance. They are, left to right:
1: Seated figure holding a rope.
2: Male hooded harpy.
7. Male hooded harpy (corbel 2).
3: Female hooded harpy.
4: Stylized acanthus.
5: Musician playing the viola.
6: Female contortionist with flame-like hair.
7: Musician playing a harp (salterio).
8. Musician playing a harp (corbel 7).
The portico south façade corbel table has three capitals – the one at the western end depicts the Sacrifice of Isaac; the central one is floriated and the south-east one has interlaced stems emanating from the mouths of three animal masks.
The church has a font with in an inscription on its rim dating it to 1195.
Enciclopedia del Románico en Burgos, Fundación Santa María La Real, Volumen I, pp.443- 456.
Románico Guías, Burgos 2006, Fundación Santa María La Real, p.58.
Salgado Pontoja, José Arturo, Porticos románicos en las tierras de Castilla, Fundación Santa María La Real, 2014