Romanesque, considered the first great international style, capitalized on European artistic manifestations from the 11th century until the mid-13th century. In Spain it made its entrance after it had already developed in countries like Italy and France, penetrating through the religious orders that made the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela through El Camino (Way to Santiago). Along that route which became a true cultural center during the Middle Ages, have remained, as witnesses to the conception of the world that served an era, true treasures that are still standing after a millennium, offering us its wonders. Here is a compilation of the best Romanesque buildings in Spain.
The Cathedral of St Peter of Jaca
It is one of the oldest and most significant Romanesque cathedrals in Spain. Its construction began in the 11th century after having become the capital of the Kingdom of Aragon and episcopal headquarters. The Cathedral of Jaca owns the characteristic basilica with three naves that became archetype for other similar constructions (the basilica form generally consists of a long and rectangular nave, with one aisle on both sides). Also its decoration is very characteristic, highlighting the bollards, the capitals decorated with vegetal and figurative motifs, and the checkered pattern known as ‘taqueado jaqués’ – decorative motif that would later be exported to other constructions like the Cathedral of Zaragoza. Unfortunately, in the fire of 1440 it was damaged and the roof was rebuilt in Gothic style, the original building remaining distorted.
Cloister of St Domingo of Silos
The Burgos Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos was built in Visigoth times (before the 7th century). After being practically abandoned in the Muslim era, it was the future St Domingo who would undertake its reconstruction and return it to its operation. Although the church and the rest of the monastery were rebuilt and refurbished, again, in the 18th century, the cloister has remained intact until today, becoming a Romanesque masterpiece. Its particular beauty is evident in the arcades of double columns that are in the two floors of the cloister, as well as in its gaudy capitals carved in detail, and in the reliefs of the buttresses that narrate scenes of the death and resurrection of Christ, as “La duda de Santo Tomás“(Saint Thomas doubt).
This small temple is also known by the name of San Martin de Frómista, for being in that town of Palencia’s province. Although it dates from the 11th century, it has suffered an endless number of modifications and additions until the original building became virtually unrecognizable. In 1894, after being declared a National Monument, its restoration was undertaken by the famous architect Aníbal Álvarez, who returned the building to its original form. It is striking, both inside and outside, the rotundity and harmony of its shapes, being one of the purest examples of the Romanesque style, in addition to its cylindrical towers.
In the city of Leon we find the magnificent Collegiate-Basilica of St Isidoro. The temple itself is a great compendium of architectural styles ranging from the Romanesque to the Baroque. However, some of the Romanesque parts that have survived are of great value, as is the case with the Royal Pantheon (Panteón Real), which is located at the foot of the Basilica. The place where most kings of Leon rest is covered with a mural decoration that is regarded as one of the peaks of the Romanesque, the fine paintings representing the liturgical cycles of Christmas, passion and resurrection.
Cathedral of St. James of Compostela
Finally, at the last stop on the road, we come across the colossal Cathedral of Santiago. This temple, being one of the most fascinating and undoubtedly the most visited of all Romanesque, was built to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims who came to the place after discovering the tomb of the apostle. Works to build the cathedral as we know it today were directed by Master Esteban and Master Mateo, seeking to build a temple at a height comparable to the importance that this holy place had, and judging by its monumentality they certainly succeeded. The dimensions of its barrel vault are impressive, but more so the sculptural decoration of its façades: the door of the Forgiveness (la puerta del Perdón), the door of the Silversmiths (la puerta de las Platerías) and the Portico of Glory (el Pórtico de la Gloria) witness the evolution from the hieratic of the Romanesque sculpture to the naturalism of the Gothic.