Most of the kings of Aragon were buried in the monastery of Poblet. The royal tombs of Poblet were placed over some low Gothic arches located in the church’s crossing, thus forming a sort of platform to support the royal tombs which have the shape of a mortuary box with a small canopy covering them. Above the mortuary marble box were the statues of the deceased princes.
In Santes Creus are the royal tombs of Peter the Great and James II. Peter the Great, the conqueror of Sicily, is buried in an urn of red porphyry, and James II lies alongside one of his wives (Blanca de Anjou) in a Gothic casket with their carved portraits.
Throughout the Iberian Peninsula the Romanesque burial style was repeated, that is, the sepulcher was either placed inside a niche opened on the wall, or in the form of a sarcophagus, or the sepulcher was placed directly on the ground and covered with a tombstone with reliefs. The sepulcher often had the sculpture with the portrait of the deceased placed on the front cover of the sarcophagus while at the place of the feet there are dogs as a symbol of fidelity. Of this type is the tomb of Carlos the Noble of Navarre and his wife Leonor de Castilla located in the cathedral of Pamplona, a work of the first third of the XV century by the French artist Jeannin Lomme. On other occasions in front of the funerary urn sometimes is represented a group of monks with their prelate intoning liturgical chants.
The royal tombs of Seville are rare, while most of the kings of Castile were buried in the cathedral of Toledo or in the monastery of Las Huelgas, near Burgos. These recumbent effigies of the Gothic Spanish tombs are works of great beauty. Sometimes the deceased appeared as if he/she would be sleeping; other times they have their eyes opened, or they appeared praying or reading a devotional.
The type of sepulcher placed in a niche opened in the wall, frequent in Castile and Andalusia, often presents the arcosolium* decorated with Mudejar ornamentation. One of the most beautiful examples of Castilian funerary monument of this type, from the last years of the fifteenth century, is that of Don Juan de Padilla, entirely gothic, today in the Museum of Burgos, and that was originally placed in the monastery of Fresdelval. The noble man appeared kneeling above the urn, in front of a reclinatory and in the bottom of the niche is a small altar with the image of the Descent of the Cross.
These statues and funerary monuments illustrate about the evolution of the art of sculpture in Gothic Spain. They reveal a gradual nationalization of imported models, the same phenomenon that we already studied when we talk about Gothic architecture in Spain. At first, the sculptures were strictly the product of foreign artists. For example, it is possible that the recumbent effigy of the archbishop Juan de Aragón in the cathedral of Tarragona, is the work of a disciple of the great Tuscan sculptor of the XIV century Tino de Camaino. The sarcophagus of Santa Eulalia, in the cathedral of Barcelona, is also considered to be the work of a Pisan artist. But marked Iberian characteristics are found in other contemporary sculptures, such as the portrait of Elisenda de Montada in her tomb of the monastery of Pedralbes, and those of Jaime II and his second wife in Santes Creus already mentioned. The same happened in the central region of Spain, with the particularity that there the artistic influences came from French artists instead of Italian. The most convincing example of this French influence is the relief of the door of the Sarmental in Burgos. On the other hand, in the mullion of the facade of the cathedral of Leon is the sculpture of the White Virgin, a wonderful sculpture entirely carved in pure Spanish style. Here the type of French maiden-queen has become a totally Castilian young lady, intelligent, without coquetry or vanity, carrying the child with a lively and funny face.
Ornamental sculpture, which faithfully imitated French styles in the first cathedrals of León, Burgos and Toledo, gradually nationalized and took an Iberian spirit during the middle of the fourteenth century. The frieze that represents the celestial court located in the door of the cathedral of Leon is of pure Spanish style. In Catalonia the decoration is precise, with a repertoire that includes very few plant decorative elements. This style is seen in many other examples, such as the altarpiece carved in alabaster in 1420 for the cathedral of Vich, by Pere Oller, and the top portion of the facade of the Palace of the Generalitat in Catalonia, with the medallion of Saint George and the dragon sculpted by Pere Johan in 1418 at the age of twenty. Very characteristic of the Catalan decoration are the reliefs or little heads that, serving as corbels, adorn the windows and that sometimes represented humorous themes, like those of the palace of King Martin in Poblet.
Another school of sculpture was that of Poblet exemplified in its royal pantheons. An excellent example is the altarpiece of the church of Anglesola, currently in the Museum of Boston, and the tombs with the recumbent effigies of the counts of Urgel from the monastery of Bellpuig de les Avellanes currently in the Cloisters museum of New York.
Finally, from the middle of the fourteenth century is the polychrome alabaster statue of the treasure of the cathedral of Gerona called Charlemagne by Jaume Cascalls. It is believed to represent the effigy of a king of Aragon because carries its crest in the band and in the weapons.
Arcosolium: (from Latin arcus, “arch”, and solium, “throne”; plural “arcosolia”). An arched recess used as a place of entombment. Early arcosolia were carved out of the living rock in catacombs. From the 13th century onwards, and continuing into the Renaissance, arcosolia were built above ground, particularly in the walls of churches. In these post-Roman era recesses, which were built of brick and marble, the sarcophagi are usually separate from the arch. These tombs are highly ornamented in the styles of those periods.