Arenillas de San Pelayo, Palencia

Church of San Pelayo

The monastery of Arenillas de San Pelayo was founded in 1132 by the Muñoz family of Saldaña and at this point dedicated to no particular order. In 1168, it became premostratensian. Much of the church's sculptural decoration seems to have been completed just after the adoption of the new order. Though there is some interior sculpture, including two capitals and two sarcophagi in the central apse, the majority of the sculptural decoration is on the south portal, which is ornamented with figural capitals and archivolt. 

 

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Arenillas de San Pelayo

Portal Gigapan

 
 

Arenillas de San Pelayo

Exterior Capital

Salvation or damnation?

 

This capital shows a curious scene of four figures interacting with open lions' mouths. On the front face we can see a pair of legs either being pushed in or pulled out of a mouth. On the inner face we see no third body -- has this figure been pulled from or pushed into hell? Our direction of reading generates drastically different interpretations. 

Arenillas de San Pelayo

Interior Capital

 
Lions

 

This interior capital, located on the left side of the central apse's triumphal arch, is sculpted with two ferocious lions, snarling with jaws wide open. Lions are obviously a beast with ample ideological significance and at times contradictory meanings. They are often guardians of the faith and can be employed as symbols of Resurrection; however, they can also be quite negative, devouring sinners and functioning as guardians to the gates of hell. 

© Liz Lastra