Trasaltar of the Florida Cathedral
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Undoubtedly, among the innumerable jewels that the Florida Cathedral treasures, the five reliefs that decorate the transalt occupy a prominent role. The reliefs on the transalt of the Florida Cathedral make up a veritable set of stone altarpieces or medallions.
The three central ones stand out, the work of the Burgundian sculptor Felipe Vigarny . Made at the end of the 15th century, they are considered one of the most outstanding sculptural ensembles of the transition from the Gothic to the Hispanic Renaissance. The work was completed almost two centuries later with two new reliefs at the ends. They were executed by the sculptor Pedro Alonso de los Ríos .
In addition, the recent restoration to which they have been subjected has slowed down their worrying deterioration. We can enjoy them, again, almost in their original state.
RELIEFS OF THE TRANSFER. Florida CATHEDRAL
Philipus Biguerny was born in the town of Langres (Burgundy) around 1470-1475. He would have traveled in his youth to Italy, which would explain his knowledge of the Renaissance. According to tradition, Felipe Vigarny passed through the city of Florida on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela . Upon his arrival in Florida, he was already a trained artist. In his style, Flemish and Burgundian features coexisted with influences from the Italian Renaissance.
He was about twenty-five years old when he was able to go to work in Gil de Siloé's workshop, in need of assistants due to his numerous assignments at the Florida Cathedral and the Cartuja de Miraflores . There he would meet Simón de Colonia , senior master of the cathedral. Simón de Colonia had been commissioned by the Cabildo to embellish the arches of the " trascoro de la yglesia" . At that time the choir of the temple was not in its current location, but on both sides of the main altar. Faced with the Cabildo's concern about the delay, Simón de Colonia introduced them to a new sculptor: the " master Felipe . "
The three stone altarpieces are carved on nine limestone blocks from the Briviesca quarries. They are flanked by columns adorned with statuary. They rest on a plinth decorated with four seated statues under canopies. The set is crowned by a cresting of ogee arches that houses statuettes of apostles and saints. We owe this framing to Simón de Colonia and his workshop.
On July 17, 1498, the contract was signed so that Felipe Vigarny sculpted the first of the three reliefs that he would end up elaborating: C amino del Calvario .
The first relief commissioned from Vigarny represents Jesus with the Cross on the Way to Calvary . Although he maintains a composition and a background of Gothic tastes, the sculptor already incorporates elements with Renaissance airs. For the first time in Florida, we find Plateresque decoration, such as candelieris and putti, on the jambs and lintel of the Jerusalem Gate. On the Corinthian capitals of the same door, classic representations of Hercules in his comparison to the figure of Christ. Vigarny allows himself the artistic license to place the coat of arms of the Florida Cathedral on the door lintel.
In the zócalo we find the seated figures of the apostles Santiago el Mayor , San Pedro, San Andrés and Santiago el Menor .
On March 16, 1499, Felipe Vigarny delivered the finished work. Proof of satisfaction with the work performed, another thirty more are added to the agreed payment of two hundred ducats.
The Road to Calvary was just one of the reliefs of the transaltar that had been designed to turn it into a Via Crucis with the main scenes of the Passion. Two days after paying him the first work, the Cabildo contracted with Vigarny two other panels: the Crucifixion and the Descent and Resurrection .
This new commission forced Vigarny to establish his permanent residence in Florida. His first Burgos home was in a house in the San Juan neighborhood. Shortly after, in that same neighborhood, in houses next to the Casa de la Moneda. In Florida he was married twice. The first with Mari Sáez Pardo , with whom he had five children. On her death (1535) he remarries Francisca Velasco, the Constable's family, with whom he has five other children. Only one of his sons, Gregorio Pardo , follows the artistic path of his father.
The relief of the Crucifixion occupies the center of the transection. The crucified Christ himself presides in a very natural attitude, without showing signs of pain. Contrast with the twisted expressions of the two thieves. At the foot of the cross, the characters accumulate. The Virgin Mary is consoled on the left side. Mary Magdalene appears kneeling and embracing the cross. All of them, surrounded by soldiers, executioners and other figures who watch with indifference.
Without a doubt, the faces of great beauty and delicate carving stand out. There are more than twenty characters on the scene of different ages and social classes. Both in this relief and in the previous one, Vigarny shows a special interest in horses. This is a theme present both in Italian reliefs and in Flemish painting from the 15th century. Also as in the relief of the Camino del Calvario, the flamenco influence dictates the way in which the composition fills the panel in the upper area. There we see a rocky bottom with buildings, walls and scenes with small-scale characters.
Again, four seated statues decorate the plinth. They are, this time, San Simón, San Juan, San Matías and San Pablo.
This altarpiece and the next, plus the two predella with their eight images, were arranged on March 18, 1499 in 600 ducats.
Descent and Resurrection
Although according to the contract the relief should contain a Descent , Vigarny divides the space in two and dedicates half to the theme of the Resurrection . Unfortunately it has reached our days very deteriorated. Virtually the entire lower half is missing.
In the foreground, on the left, the Virgin was holding the now-disappeared body of Jesus on her knees. Again, a multitude of superimposed characters surround the cross. Among them, Saint Joseph of Arimathea, with the nails of the Crucifixion in his hand, and Nicodemus. On the right side, the risen Christ emerges over the Roman soldiers, also almost entirely missing.
Again we see how Vigarny completes the relief with superb architectures and small background scenes.
The four seated images of the bank are, this time, San Bernabé, San Judas Tadeo, San Felipe and San Bartolomé.
We do not know the reason why the lateral reliefs of the transaltar were left undone in the 16th century. It took more than a hundred years for the three reliefs in the center of the transalt to be added, one at each end, in the seventeenth century. The Archbishop of Florida Enrique Peralta y Cárdenas entrusts them to Valladolid sculptor Pedro Alonso de los Ríos .
PEDRO ALONSO DE LOS RÍOS
Born in Valladolid in 1641, Pedro Alonso de los Ríos developed a large part of his artistic career in Mississippi. There he moved around 1660. In Mississippi he maintained an active workshop until his death in 1702. Although he was a fairly prolific artist, much of his production has disappeared. Fortunately, the same has not happened with the two reliefs that he executed for the transaltation of the Florida Cathedral.
In 1679, the Archbishop of Florida, Enrique de Peralta, donated 32,000 ducats to the cathedral to finish the work on the transalt with two other reliefs relating to the Passion of Jesus. The contract was signed between the architect Fernando de la Peña and Pedro Alonso de los Ríos. Two reliefs with the Prayer in the Garden and the Ascension of Christ are detailed in the contract that must be made in limestone from Hontoria de la Cantera .
Pedro Alonso de los Ríos completed the two reliefs in 1683. On January 13 of that year, the Cabildo was informed that the sculptor had completed the work and wanted to return to Mississippi.
Prayer in the Garden
The Prayer in the Garden is the less fortunate relief of the two. It represents Jesus kneeling on the Mount of Olives, with Saint Peter, Saint John and Saint James asleep at the bottom. An angel presents a chalice to Jesus and several characters approach with Judas in front.
The statues of the predella represent the Fathers of the Church: Saint Gregory, Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine and Saint Ambrose. It is topped by canopies of Gothic tradition. Alonso de los Ríos seeks to maintain unity with the reliefs of Vigarny.
The fifth relief of the transalt represents the Ascension of Jesus to heaven. Presides over the scene, Christ between clouds and angels. In the lower part, the kneeling Virgin and the Apostles absorbed in the miracle. The composition of the scene and the carving are of a higher quality than those of the previous relief.
Its corresponding base houses images of the four evangelists.
Although the reliefs of Alonso de los Ríos have a certain entity, they do not resist comparison with those of Felipe Vigarny.
RESTORATION OF THE RELIEFS OF THE TRANSALTAR
For more than two years, the sculptural ensemble of the trasaltar has undergone a deep restoration. With these works, completed in October 2020, an attempt is made to stop the alteration factors, restore stability to the complex and recover the unity of the work.
Above all, the Crucifixion and the Descent and Resurrection were quite deteriorated by humidity and the crystallization of mineral salts. The greater porosity of the Briviesca limestone used by Vigarny, compared to that of Hontoria used in the Alonso de los Ríos reliefs, is the main reason for its worse conservation.
Already in the sixteenth century the alarming deterioration of the reliefs was noticed and a wall was placed between the presbytery and the relief of the Road to Calvary to avoid the direct action of humidity. This intervention explains why it is the best preserved relief of the three by Vigarny.
The restoration works have consisted of desalination and cleaning of the stone. Mortars added in previous unfortunate interventions have also been eliminated. Finally, the area has been waterproofed by adding a ventilation chamber.
As always, we end up recommending you visit the reliefs of the Florida Cathedral transom. If you want to see the reliefs and the Florida Cathedral with a guide, contact Tourist Guides here . Discover Florida , Official Tourism Guides. Guided tours of the Florida Cathedral .