Gothic Art in Spain VI, Conclusion

The industrial arts in Gothic Spain included excellent examples of blacksmithing, because the manufacture of keys, nails, hinges, door handles and bars were often a complement to monumental art.

A Spanish Gothic door handle in the house of the Archdeacon of Barcelona, also known as Casa de l’Ardiaca.

In Castile, the locksmiths from Segovia were particularly famous for the keys they made. The doors were reinforced with nails; still to this day many doors in the cities of Castile are garnished with nails of varied forms. Catalan blacksmiths were also famous; they made true wonders in the bars of the cathedral of Barcelona. The doors of the cathedral of Tarragona still have their splendid hinges and a door handle with the head of a dragon. This same type of door handle was applied in the house of the Archdeacon of Barcelona. Sometimes the door handle was only a ring supported by a plate with ornaments directly applied on the door.

 

 

The reliquary of the “Corporales de Daroca” (XIV century) by Pere Moragues (Parochial museum of Daroca, Zaragoza, Spain).

Royal documents and inventories mentioned jewelry and sumptuary objects made in precious metals. Some were decorative objects, centers for dinner tables in the form of castles, lions, or multi-storey fountains adorned with figures. The most important work of the XIV century Catalan goldsmithing is the reliquary of the “Corporales de Daroca” by the royal jeweler Pere Moragues, also renowned as an excellent sculptor. This reliquary has the form of a rectangular custody, with figurative reliefs on its back representing the Crucifixion and below the figure of the Virgin Mary between the king and the queen while praying. In the front, two doors with enamels representing the coat of arms of the House of Aragon can be opened and closed to allow the view of the shroud; the Sacramental bread is stored in a box with enamels and embossed reliefs. Also from the XIV century is the magnificent golden silver altarpiece with transparent enamels, of the cathedral of Gerona. From the XV century is the beautiful chalice of the cathedral of Tortosa, produced in Peñíscola.

The altarpiece of the cathedral of Gerona (ca. 1325, Catalonia, Spain).
The chalice of the cathedral of Tortosa (XV century, Catalonia, Spain).

The Spanish ivories of the Gothic period were not very original. They repeated with great fidelity the French models. Instead, in Central Spain works in embossed leather forming reliefs and later polychromed had no equal in any other country at this time.

When building the Spanish Gothic cathedrals, it was thought to dedicate the space located behind the high altar for the choir of canons (as was done in the Romanesque period). But in the XV century, as the number of canons grew, it was necessary to construct larger choirs located in the main nave in front of the altar, and for this purpose the center of the church was “closed” with stone or wooden gates decorated with luxurious carvings. This seclusion of a part of the main nave inside the building hinders the total view of the interior of the cathedral and partially obstructs the appreciation of the perspective given by columns and naves. It was a deplorable initiative, although some choirs of the Spanish cathedrals are works of art as worthy of conservation as the churches themselves, like the choir of the cathedral of Barcelona, with its splendid Gothic chairs.

General view of the Choir of the Cathedral of Barcelona, begun in 1390. The chairs constitute one of the most outstanding sculptural ensembles of the Gothic style in Catalonia. The canopies and pinnacles were made by the sculptor Michael Lochner and his disciple Johan Friedrich at the end of the 15th century.
Choir of the Cathedral of Barcelona: Pictured here are the commemorative coats of arms (1517-1518) painted by John of Burgundy in the backs of the high chairs of the choir stalls corresponding to the seats of the knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece.
Choir of the Cathedral of Barcelona: At the entrance to the choir, on the right, is the wooden pulpit (here at the top right corner of the picture) carved by the sculptor Pedro Çanglada in 1403.
The Choir stalls of the Cathedral of Toledo with their highly ornamented chairs carved in wood (1495) by Rodrigo Alemán.

The beauty of the Gothic furniture of the XIV and XV centuries produced in the territories of the Catalan-Aragonese crown is reflected in two famous armchairs: one is the chair of the abbot of the Carthusian monastery of Valldemosa, near Palma de Mallorca, carved in wood, and the other is the silver throne, a chair for Eucharistic use traditionally known as the King Martin’s chair, which today serves as a base for the custody of the cathedral of Barcelona during the processions of Corpus Christi.

The throne of the king Martin “the Humane” (XIV-XV centuries, cathedral of Barcelona).

There are innumerable Castilian chests of the XIV and XV centuries, for example the chest of the Cid, in the cathedral of Burgos, with nails and iron reinforcements. Other chests or coffers of the Gothic centuries were simply adorned with medallions and crests. Some small Catalan boxes for jewelry and documents were made with plates of beaten copper. To coin these plates, few molds were available, so the same subjects were repeatedly used, these included themes pertained to poetic stories while some Catalan boxes represented gallant scenes.

El Cid’s chest at Burgos Cathedral, it is supposed that in this chest was kept the fundraisings obtained during the Spanish reconquest. It is one of the most emblematic objects of the cathedral of Burgos and constitutes one of several objects related to El Cid Campeador (a Castilian nobleman and military leader in medieval Spain) found in the city of Burgos. After his death, he became Castile’s celebrated national hero and the protagonist of the most significant medieval Spanish epic poem, “El Cantar de Mio Cid”.

The commercial inventories of Gothic times often described the rich fabrics used by nobility: capes, dresses, garments or very fine fabrics. Some were embellished with Eastern themes, although manufactured in Spain because they carry the coat of arms of Castile and Leon, and it is known that the Andalusian Moorish wove fabrics for the Christians. From the first centuries after the invasion, Arabs had imported weavers and styles from the factories of Damascus and Baghdad, and so oriental-style textiles where produced continuously in Malaga, Almeria and Granada. Little by little these oriental styles Hispanicize to adapt to the likes of the Christian magnates and thus formed a type of fabric with Spanish Gothic-Moorish styles entirely different from those that were produced at the same time in Syria and in Egypt. In these Hispano-Arab fabrics predominated the use of geometric patterns.

While during the XII and XIII centuries in Spain the Islamic art was considered foreign and dangerous for the local traditions of Christians who then enthusiastically preferred French and Gothic fashions; in the XIV and XV centuries, with the Reconquest already secured, Christians were no longer afraid of making use of Islamic models and almost preferred them to the typically Gothic styles imported from Europe.

El Cid’s chest displayed high on the walls of the Burgos Cathedral.
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