Carrión de los Condes, Palencia
Church of Santiago
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The church of Santiago has undergone many building phases and today is a palimpsest of its many changes. The Romanesque body of the church was constructed in the first half of the twelfth century (1) and the elaborate facade was added in the second -- likely in the decade of the 1170s (2). Santiago was almost entirely destroyed in the Napoleonic wars, when the Spanish resistance intentionally set fire to the building to prevent the invading French troops from using the church -- and its tower -- as their strategic outpost (3). After the ravages of war, the best-preserved element of the church is its west façade, although much of the right side of the arcade on the frieze is the product of a modern restoration.
The portal is dominated by a monumental frieze that depicts Christ in Majesty surrounded by the twelve apostles (an arrangement referred to as an apostolado). Here the apostles stand under a fantastical arcade of micro-architecture complete with carved capitals. Each figure would have been identified by his name engraved into the arch above him. The names can still be seen above several of the apostles on our left (for example, see Peter and James). Below the frieze, the elaborately decorated archivolts, capitals and columns, though less commanding in size, also engage the visitor. On the middle archivolt (in between two plain bands of voussoirs) sit 24 high-relief figures -- 2 lions on the far left and far right, and 22 human figures, each in the middle of some day-to-day activity or another.
On the whole, the west façade may remind us of the south façade of the Church of Santa María del Camino nearby, while the left portal capital evokes a similar capital on the west portal of the Monastery of San Zoilo that stands just across a bridge on the other side of Carrión de los Condes (4). Open the Gigapans and 3D models below to explore the frieze in details, find the monk, the scribe, the dueling pair (and more) on the archivolt, or to look at the mysterious imagery on the capitals and angels on the columns.
Click on any highlighted section to view a gigapan (zoomable image) or 3D model. Gigapans open a new window.
Santiago de Carrión
The two portal capitals of Santiago de Carrión are sculpted with dramatic and today enigmatic messages of judgment and salvation or damnation. While the left capital gives the viewer hope, with a saved soul personified as a small cradled figure, the right displays a horrific image of a live figure being torn apart by vicious dogs.
(1) Roberto D. Ruiz Salces and Javier Peñil Mínguez, “La excavación de la iglesia románica de Santiago: aportaciones al urbanismo medieval de Carrión de los Condes (Palencia),” in Crónica del XX Congreso Arqueológico Nacional (Zaragoza: Secretaría General de los Congresos Arqueológicos Nacionales, 1991), 483. Readers may wish to take this study with a grain of salt, since although it presents helpful archeological information, it also contains certain incorrect details.
(2) Miguel Ángel García Guinea, El Arte Románico en Palencia (Palencia: Imprenta Provincial, 1961), 167.
(3) José María Quadrado, Recuerdos y bellezas de España, vol. 8: Valladolid, Palencia and Zamora (Madrid: 1861), 333-34, See more in Enrique Gómez Pérez and Santiago Peral Villafruela, Carrión: la ciudad de los condes (Palencia: Cálamo, 2003), 23-24.
(4) Observations from Elizabeth Lastra, who is currently working on a book, On Art and Authority: A Biography of Medieval Carrión de los Condes.