17.01.10, Nicolai and Rheidt, eds., Santiago de Compostela

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Alison Stones

The Medieval Review 17.01.10

Nicolai, Bernd, and Klaus Rheidt, eds. Santiago de Compostela: Pilgerarchitektur Und Bildliche Repräsentation in Neuer Perspektive . Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2015. pp. 430. ISBN: 987-3-0351-9844-7 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
Alison Stones
University of Pittsburgh

This splendid publication offers much that is new in a field that has benefitted from an immense amount of scholarship extending back through the last two centuries and earlier. Spearheaded by a long-term collaborative research project sponsored by Bernd Nicolai of the University of Bern and Klaus Rheidt of the University of Cottbus, this beautifully produced volume draws together twenty-four essays, several of them collaborative, devoted to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela under three main headings: documents, written and pictorial; the building and its sculpture; and the place of Santiago within the network of artistic exchange among Spain, France, and Italy.

The documentation section opens with an essay by Miguel Taín Guzman on the earliest depiction of the west façade in a drawing by Canon José de Vega y Verdugo of 1657, before the baroque restorations of the 18th century and critical for clarifying what was the state of the west end designed in the late 12th century by Master Mateo. Paula Gerson examines the architectural descriptions of the building given in the mid-12th century Pilgrim's Guide, concluding that the author, though not himself a mason, was "clearly a collector of knowledge, an organizer and a synthesizer; who put together an unprecedented architectural description, antedating Abbot Suger and Gervase of Canterbury" (42). Jens Rüffer puts forward the architectural and documentary evidence for the location the private chapel of the archbishop and the location of its altars in the galleries, either in the north transept or in north and south transepts and west galleries, in relation to the archiepiscopal palace. The textual sources are the Historia Compostellana and the Pilgrim's Guide, neither of which is completely clear. Consequently much of the argument remains to be confirmed by a thorough architectonic analysis of these spaces and what the masonry reveals about passageways. This section concludes with a fascinating account of the appropriation of Santiago and the pilgrimage for political and ecclesiastical purposes in the 19th and 20th century, notably under Franco, by Belén Maria Castro Fernández.

The longest section of the volume, and the core of the book, is Part II where new research and fresh interpretations of the monument are presented, based on first-hand observation on the one hand (Rheidt on the nave, Wunderwald on the nave capitals, Rohn on the choir under Paláez and Gelmírez, Watson and Münchmeyer on the crypt, Valdez del Álamo on pre-Pórtico de la Gloria sculpture, Nicolai on the Pórtico de la Gloria and its iconongraphy, Claussen on the inscription naming Mateo, Keller on polylobed arches, and Kaufmann on the choir screen); and on the other hand a re-examination of the excavation results of the 1950s and the earliest structures on the site by John Williams, paying special attention to the destroyed church of Antealtares, back-to-back with the Alfonsine shrine; and the reconstruction model co-authored by John Dagenais, José Suárez Otero, John Williams and Itay Zaharovits (see www.humnet.ucla.edu/santiago/iagohome.html; www.etc.ucla.edu/research/projects/compostela.htm). Each of these articles pays careful attention to changes of plan, their chronology and the results, which by and large credit Gelmírez with a more comprehensive program than has hitherto been considered, while carefully evaluation the many changes that occurred in the course of execution. Beautiful colour diagrams illustrate the major new chronologies proposed. It is impossible in a short review to give a resumé of the meticulous observations and conclusions of these essays which break much new ground in a field where so much has already been said; these essays repay careful reading.

The final section addresses the place of Santiago Cathedral in its Hispanic and European context. A triple-authored essay on San Isidoro de León opens this section, by Maria Victoria Herráez, Maria Concepción Cosmen and Manue Valdés; Claudia Rückert compares the Pórtico de la Gloria with north Spanish monuments, its remarkable copy at San Martín de Ourense and its antecedent at San Miguel de Estella and lesser-known monuments at Santa Catalina de Azcona, Santa Maria la Real in Irache, San Nicolás in Tudela, La Seo in Zaragoza and the well-known Annunciation relief at Silos. Quitterie Cazes compares Santiago with Saint-Sernin de Toulouse, emphasizing the many differences between the two, and calling for a metrological study. Kristna Krüger compares Cluny and Santiago, drawing into the comparison Romainmôtier, Tournus, Charlieu and considering the liturgy and processions in relation to the ground plans, and the function of Galilee chapels such as that of Vézelay and San Vicente at Ávila. Henrik Karge takes a close look at the other "pilgrimage church plans," particularly Saint-Martial de Limoges, omitted in the Pilgrim's Guide in favour of Saint-Léonard de Noblat, in relation to the development of the ambulatory and radiating chapel model, based ultimately on St Peter's. Andreas Hartmann-Virnich and Heike Hansen report on new archaeological work on Saint-Trophime at Arles and Saint-Gilles-du-Gard demonstrating a hitherto unsuspected complexity in the building history of both in relation to the cult of their respective saints, resulting in both remaining unfinished. Finally, Manuel Castiñeiras considers Santiago's links to the other two major pilgrimage sites of the Middle Ages, Rome and Jerusalem, sparked by Diego Gelmírez's visits to Rome and his acquisition of relics of the Passion, likely from the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Finally, aspects of the antique in sculpture, from the Fernando cross of 1063 to the classicising columns of the Pórtico de la Gloria are discussed by Horst Bredekamp and Stefan Trinks.

All in all, this is a rich resource that will certainly inspire yet more work on this inexhaustible monument. A quibble: the English of some of the essays by non-native speakers leaves on occasion something to be desired: linguistic editing for the English would have benefitted the volume as a whole. In fact, an argument is to be made for translating the entire volume into English: it would ensure a broader readership, particularly among American students, few of whom these days have at their disposal the specialized knowledge of German and Spanish that so many of these articles require.

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