ROMANESQUE CHURCHES OF NORTHERN SPAIN. PART 1: Itineraries with Aguilar de Campóo (Palencia) as a base. Itinerary 2

Itinerary 2

The three churches in this itinerary are northwest of Aguilar de Campóo and all can be visited in a morning or an afternoon. San Cornelio y San Cipriano at Revilla de Santullán has an elaborately carved entrance with one of the few examples where the sculptor has depicted himself. The other two churches are included because of their interesting frescoes by the ‘Master of San Felices’ who was active during the second half of the 15th century in Aguilar de Campóo and the surrounding area.

Revilla de Santullán, Palencia
Revilla de Santullán is 11 kilometres due north of Aguilar de Campóo ‘as the crow flies’. Take the P-220 north from Aguilar for 13 kilometres to the centre of Porquera de Santullán and then turn left on to the P-2123. After driving a further 600 metres you will reach Revilla de Santullán. The church of San Cornelio y Cipriano is at the southern end of the village. Its GPS coordinates are 42°53'25.21"N, 4°17'35.29"W and it is at an altitude of 1,003 metres.
1. South elevation of the church.

Originally this was a feudal village belonging to the king. Then, in 1285, Sancho IV donated it to the monastery of Santa Maria la Real in Aguilar de Campóo and that explains how a small village was able to employ stone masons of such high workmanship that they were able to build a small but superb church.
The church has a single nave and apse preceded by a straight presbytery. The nave roof is higher than the roof over the presbytery and apse. It rests on a cornice decorated with nailheads. The apse has two buttresses which end about a metre below the top of the wall, dividing it into three vertical sections. The apse roof rests on a cornice with convex moulding. It has a central, indented, splayed loophole window surrounded by an archivolt resting on capitals. The dripstone and right abacus are decorated with palmettes encircled by their own stems. The left abacus has an undulating stem and the left capital has a pair of roughly executed confronted lions. The right capital has two anthropomorphic creatures holding on to stems. The south presbytery has a loophole window with capitals of stylized leaves. The bell-cote is situated above the west wall.
The church has a total of fifty-seven corbels depicting musicians, dancers, animals, and geometrical shapes. They include a masturbating mouth-puller, a sheela na gig touching her genitals, an upside-down pregnant woman (possibly mistakenly placed upside-down during a restoration), a flute player touching his head, and man masturbating.
The entrance is now covered by a large porch running the full length of the south façade. It has a modern skylight to illuminate one of the most beautiful and best preserved Romanesque entrances in the province of Palencia. The roof over the projecting entrance rests on a cornice decorated with rosettes and eight corbels. The slightly pointed arch of the door is decorated with chevron and is surrounded by five splayed archivolts (photo 2) and a dripstone resting on a continuous abacus, forming right angles, and on capitals and columns. The abacus and the dripstone are decorated with a row of flat three-quarter height beads.
2. The arch and its archivolts over the south door.

The first archivolt has a representation of the Last Supper with figures that are almost three-dimensional. There is a pair of apostles per voussoir with, on the keystone, Christ in the act of blessing. Each figure is placed within an arch supported by Solomonic columns. Above them there is a representation of the Heavenly Jerusalem. At the far left, one of the prophets is holding a book. On the far right there is an unusual representation of the sculptor, seated and holding the tools with which he is carving the stone in front of him. Behind is a book of designs from which he is copying. Above him, written on the arch, is ‘MICAELIS ME FECI(T)’ – Michael made me (photo 3).
3. An apostle on the left and the sculptor on the right.

The second archivolt has a roll moulding; the third has an arcade above which there is chevron decoration; the fourth has two roll mouldings; and the fifth has roll and concave moulding. The monolithic columns rest on torus bases and a plinth.
Left capitals, from outer to inner
1. Two confronted griffons.
2. A rearing griffon on the right and, on the left, Samson sitting on a lion, prizing open its mouth.
3. A centaur, with a bag over his shoulder, shooting an arrow at a rearing griffon. His hands and the bow are missing.
4. A pair of confronted griffons standing on rolled-over acanthus.
5. A pair of addorsed griffons standing on rolled-over acanthus with their heads turned in a menacing manner.
6. A pair of confronted harpies wearing Phrygian hats – an indication of their magical powers and their eastern provenance – standing on top of much weathered leaves. At the side there is a standing knight wearing a full coat of mail. He holds a large shield and has inserted his sword into a rearing lion which is attacking him (photo 4).
4. A pair of confronted harpies and a knight being attacked by a lion.

Right capitals, from inner to outer
1. The three Marys carrying unguent jars in front of the empty tomb, the lid of which is being lifted by an angel (photo 5).

5. The three Marys carrying unguent jars and an angel lifting the tomb lid.

2. A floral capital with slender tall leaves surmounted by bunches of grapes or seeds.
3. A row of slender palm leaves opening towards the top with bunches of seeds.
4. A knight, wearing a full coat of mail, seated on a griffon. He holds a spear in his right hand and is throttling the beast with his left. On the right side, there is another griffon looking at the previous scene.
5. A pair of griffons, curled around each other and biting one another’s necks.
6. A row of elegant acanthus leaves, curled over at the top.
The church has a pointed triumphal arch resting on capitals, a straight, barrel-vaulted presbytery, and a round apse. The apse and presbytery are decorated with paintings executed by the so-called ‘Master of San Felices’ in a mixture of fresco and tempera dating from between 1475 and 1500. Some panels have disappeared – the American art historian, Post, recounts the acquisition of several panels by Lady Limerick of Hall Place, Bexley, Kent, England. The remaining panels of the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Epiphany, the Flight into Egypt, the Massacre of the Innocents, and the Ascension follow no regular order.

6. Some of the frescoes in the apse and presbytery.

The north capital (photo 7) has Daniel praying, while two lions lick his feet. On the sides, there is a pair of volutes. On the south capital (photo 8), over several rows of flattened caulicles, crossed over and forming volutes, is the angel sent by God to protect Daniel:
Daniel answered, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.” The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. (Dan.6: 21-3)
                                                                         7. Daniel praying while two lions lick his feet.

   8. The angel sent by God to protect Daniel.

The font is Romanesque and dates to the first part of the 13th century. It is decorated with two rows of tetra-foil leaves within indented circles separated by vertically placed bands.
The bestiary and the scenes of men confronting beasts are a recurrent theme in late Romanesque sculpture. In San Cornelio y San Cipriano we find two influences: (1) the strict plastic characteristic of stylized floral capitals and the use of flat three-quarter height beads (simibezantes) derived from the Cistercian monastery of San Andres del Arroyo juxtaposed with (2) the decorative exuberance of the late Romanesque style. In general these traits occurred in churches built between 1180 and 1200. They are magnified in this church because of its high level of workmanship.
The entrance is of the type seen in the province of Palencia at Arroyo, Eufemia de Cozuelos, Mave, San Andres de Aguilar, and Zoila del Paramo. According to Garcia Ginea, the animal and figurative capitals follow the style found in the monastery of Santa Maria de Aguilar de Campóo by the so called ‘Master of the Massacre of the Innocents’. The figures of the Last Supper in the first archivolt of the entrance have been carved by a different mason: they are in the style of the ‘Master of Moarves’ also seen in Santa Eufemia de Cozuelos and Dehesa de los Romanos.
Enciclopedia del Románico en Palencia, Fundación Santa María La Real, Volumen 1, pp. 415-424
Románico Guías, Palencia 2006, Fundación Santa María La Real, pp. 64-66

Matamorisca, Palencia
The village of Matamorisca is 6.6 kilometres north-northeast of Aguilar de Campóo ‘as the crow flies’ and is reached by taking the CL-626 out of Aguilar for 7.2 kilometres. The church of San Juan Bautista is situated a on a rocky hill about 200 metres east of the village. Its GPS coordinates are 42°50'33.04" N, 4°18'25.34" W and it is at an altitude of 960 metres.
The first written documentation about the village appears in a document dated 1042, in which Fronilde Fernández donates land, animal and buildings to the monastery of Santa María in Aguilar for the salvation of his soul and that of his sister Elvira. In 1103, Munia Fortúnez donated the monastery more property in Matamorisca and in 1173 Cardinal Jacinto put Matamorisca’s church and other properties in the north of Palencia under the protection of the monastery.
The church as we see today is the result of several restorations. It was built in the second half of the 12th century. Very little remains of the original north nave. The belfry and south nave were added a few years later and during the 16th and 17th centuries the bell-cote was replaced by a tower and a sacristy was added. The north and west doorways have been blocked off.
The south entrance (photo 1) is late-Romanesque with a pointed door surrounded by four archivolts resting on jambs decorated with engaged columnettes. According to Hernando Garrido there were itinerant master masons from the Cantabrian region of Trasmiera who worked in the area of the Palencia Mountains sculpting the doorways, capitals and windows at very reasonable prices.
1. The late-Romanesque south entrance.

The frescoes, most of which are in the south apse (photo 2), were executed by the ‘Master of San Felices’ towards the end of the 15th century. He also painted in Santa María la Real at Valberzoso, San Juan Bautista at Olea de Boedo, San Cebrián de Mudá and San Felices de Castillería.
2. The frescoes of the south apse.

East Wall, top down and left to right
1st register: Two panels, one each side of the window, of the Annunciation.
2nd register: Three panels depicting the Nativity, the Adoration, and the Circumcision (photo 3).
3. The Circumcision.

3rd register: Three panels depicting the legend of St Eustace who was a Roman general with the name Placidus (in the 15th century this legend was also attributed to St Hubert). While hunting a stag in Tivoli near Rome, Placidus saw a vision of the crucified Christ lodged between the stag's antlers. He was immediately converted, had himself and his family baptised, and changed his name to Eustace. In the first panel the saint has fallen from his horse, having seen the stag with the vision of Christ on the cross between its antlers (photo 4).

4. Placidus falls from his horse, having seen the vision of Christ between the stag’s antlers.

In the centre panel he is stands in front of his wife with a falcon perched on his wrist. In the third panel he is in bed with his wife having told her about his vision. The following is an excerpt from The Golden Legend:
And when he was come home to his house, and had told this thing to his wife in their bed, she cried: My Lord! and said: And I saw him this night that is passed, and he said to me: Tomor[row] thou, thy husband, and thy sons, shall come to me. And now I know that it was Christ. Then they went to the bishop of Rome at midnight, which baptized them with great joy, and named Placidus, Eustace, and his wife, Theospis.
South Wall, top down and left to right
1st register: A single panel depicting an unknown female saint.
2nd register: A single large panel to the right of the window depicting a scene from the Last Judgement. St Michael stands on the left holding the weighing scales. In front of him, on the right, are the blessed, all of whom are praying. Behind are the condemned, roped together, being led by devil.
3rd register: Two panels, the first being a small one with the donor of the frescoes holding a maquette of the church. The large second panel is of another scene from the Last Judgement. On the left are a number of coffins with the condemned emerging from them. In the centre the devil sits in front of a cauldron and on the right is the gaping mouth of Leviathan.
The sandstone font is late Romanesque and dates to the 14th century. It is decorated with two superimposed rows of blind arcades. The arches rest on projecting capitals which form crosses with the pilasters that they rest on.
Enciclopedia del Románico en Palencia, Fundación Santa María La Real, 2002, Volumen 1, pp. 347-351
Románico Guías: Todo el Románico de Palencia, Fundación Santa María La Real, 2006, p. 55
Hernando Garrido, José Luis: Sobre esultura románica de inercia en el norte de Palencia, CAqv, 4, 1991, pp. 142-143.
San Cebrián de Mudá, Palencia
The church of San Cornelio y San Cipriano is situated in the village of San Cebrián de Mudá which is 15 kilometres northwest of Aguilar de Campóo ‘as the crow flies’. Take the CL-626 out of Aguilar for 17 kilometres to Rueda de Pisuerga and then turn right and drive 4.9 kilometres northeast on the PP-2125 to San Cebrián de Mudá. The church is situated southeast of the Plaza Mayor (town square). Its GPS coordinates are 42°53'30.72"N, 4°23'10.44"W and it is at an altitude of 1,040 metres.
The late 12th century church is surrounded by a hidden necropolis which came to light when a few tombs were unearthed when parts of the church were remodelled. There are few historical references to the village – the earliest dates from 1228 when the monastery of Aguilar de Campóo bought land in San Cebrián de Mudá. From that time forward there are further written references to other land purchases by Aguilar. In 1352 half of San Cebrián de Mudá is documented as belonging to the monastery of Santa María la Real in Aguilar, the other half belonging to the families of Pero Royz and Iohan Ferrández.
The church has been built with reddish sandstone ashlars excavated from a nearby quarry. It has a rectangular nave with an entrance on the south and a bell-cote dating from the end of the 12th century. The square apse – which is higher than the nave – and the sacristy both date from the 15th century.
The handsome bell-cote on the west side follows the type prominent in this area. It has three storeys; the lower serves as the base for the upper two storeys which are staggered. It has a window with an arch decorated with billet and it is surrounded by an archivolt and dripstone, both decorated with nailheads. The capitals and the abaci are much weathered; only the right capital has remains of large interlacing. Access to the belfry is through an external staircase on the north wall.
The south projecting entrance is sheltered by an enclosed porch built in the 18th century. The door is surrounded by a pointed arch with nailhead decoration around it, three splayed archivolts resting on capitals and columns, and a dripstone decorated with nailheads. The archivolts have convex and concave mouldings. The capitals are decorated with schematic fern leaves with a pronounced central nerve; the leaves cross-over one another creating a central rhomboid. This type of capital can be seen in other churches in the province of Palencia – such as in the Ermita de Santa Eulalia at Barrio de Santa Maria, San Cristóbal at Rueda de Pisuerga, and San Pedro at Vergaño – which implies there was a local workshop of masons who worked extensively in this region.
The apse, which was renovated in the 15th century in Gothic style, is higher than the nave. The ceiling of the nave is barrel-vaulted with five transverse arches which rest on engaged columns and capitals and have buttresses on the exterior. There are ten Romanesque capitals but only eight are visible, the other two are behind the Baroque altarpiece. Three of the eight visible capitals are carved with figures; the others are decorated with various kinds of leaf. They are all shallowly carved.
North Capital 1: A man stands under an arch.
South Capital 2: A man, wearing a short tunic and holding a lance, confronted by two rearing lions.
South Capital 3: Two men, wearing short tunics, blessing what appears to be a leaf ending in a ball.
The church has frescoes on all three walls of the apse and on the north wall of the nave. They were painted in tempera by the so called ‘Master of San Felices’ who worked on several churches in the region of Palencia and south Cantabria. The Fundación Santa Maria la Real restored the paintings and the building in 1992. To see the paintings on the apse east wall it is necessary to go behind the altarpiece.
Apse North Wall, top down and left to right (photo 1)
1st register: A single panel of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.
2nd register: Three panels depicting Jesus carrying the cross and helped by Simon of Cyrene, the Flagellation, and probably Jesus brought before Pontius Pilate.
3rd register: A single large panel depicting the Last Supper.

1. Apse north wall frescoes.

Apse East Wall, top down and left to right
1st register: Three panels, the outer two having geometrical designs while the central one depicts the Annunciation.
2nd register: Two panels, the first being the Circumcision and the second, the Nativity.
3rd register: Three panels depicting the Adoration of the Magi, the bishop and martyr St Cipriano, and the Massacre of the Innocents.
Apse South Wall, top down and left to right (photo 2)
1st register: Three panels depicting the virgin and martyr St Apolonia, St Catherine of Alexandria with the instruments of her successive martyrdoms (a wheel of knives and a sword), and St Barbara.
2nd register: Two panels, one on each side of the window, the first being the Visitation and the second, the saints Lucía and Águeda, both of whom are carrying the palms of martyrdom.
3rd register: Three panels depicting the archangel Michael holding a pair of weigh scales and trampling the devil, a damaged scene with a reaper holding a sickle (probably from the Apocryphal Gospels), and the Flight into Egypt.
2. Frescoes on the right hand side of the apse south wall.

Nave North Wall
There are several paintings on the north wall of the nave. One of them depicts the Mass of St Gregory (photo 3) in which Pope Gregory (c. 540–604) is shown saying mass just as a vision of Christ as the Man of Sorrows has appeared on the altar in front of him. This vision was in response to the Pope's prayers for a sign to convince a doubter of the doctrine of transubstantiation.

3. Fresco of the Mass of St Gregory.

Enciclopedia del Románico en Palencia, Fundación Santa María La Real, Volumen 1, pp. 585-590

Románico Guías, Palencia 2006, Fundación Santa María La Real, p.100


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