Moarves de Ojeda, Palencia

Church of San Juan Bautista

The church of San Juan Bautista de Moarves de Ojeda was originally constructed in the last decades of the twelfth century. The building underwent various later phases of construction—most noticeably its fifteenth century vaulting—but preserves the general structure and ornate sculpture of the Romanesque period. The church is undoubtedly most famous for its intricately sculpted frieze. This massive frieze caps the south portal, which is also sculpted with billeted archivolts and figural capitals.

 

The frieze, sculpted in the late twelfth century, likely the 1180s, centers on a regal, and somewhat rigidly postured Christ in Majesty surrounded by symbols of the four evangelists. Flanking Christ is an apostolado, with six apostles on each side. Inscriptions identify the individuals (to view, zoom in and examine their books and scrolls). The subject and its composition is very similar to the frieze of the church of Santiago in Carrión de los Condes and was most likely modeled on the earlier program. However, despite the iconographical similarity, the two vary quite significantly in style. The artist(s) at Moarves appear to have been less interested in naturalism and more in delicate pattern and intricacy, a contrast that becomes most noticeable when comparing the two depictions of Christ.

 

Inside the church is a twelfth century baptismal font decorated with a nearly identical program to that of the frieze, Christ in Majesty surrounded by the apostles. The font was much more roughly hewn and the goal of the sculptor seems to have been different. While the exterior program individualizes the apostles through inscription, on the font, each is nearly indistinguishable from the next. In fact, there are thirteen apostles rather than the standard twelve. Only Christ receives much attention to detail—seen in his intricate, repetitive drapery folds and decorative garment borders—and this seems meant to directly associate him with the large exterior representation. The font then is relatively emblematic, perhaps meant as a reference to the church’s powerful and dramatic exterior program. 

 

Moarves de Ojeda

South Portal Detail

Click here or on the photo below to access a gigapan (zoomable image).

Baptismal Font

 

Like the exterior frieze, the twelfth century font is also sculpted with a Christ in Majesty surrounded by the apostles. However, while circling the font count the apostles. There are actually thirteen figures in addition to Christ, rather than the twelve appropriate to the scene. The upper third of the piece has been much restored. These restorations are discernable through the variation in color. 

© Liz Lastra