Construction of the Cathedral

The construction of the Cathedral began in 1158. Designed by Garsion the Cathedral has a Latin cross shaped floor plan (cruciform), including in the design three naves, the transept (the centre of the cruciform), ambulatory, three apses (the arched semi circle recesses) and a gallery.

The east end is what remains of the original construction. During the XVth and XVIth centuries, San Andres’ chapel was constructed and San Bartolomé and Santiago´s chapels were remodified. In the central Romanic apse, one notices the prominence of the capitals and pillars around the presbytery. On the left side of the first capital of the ambulatory El Salvador (Pantocrator) is represented and on the right side, The Assumption. The cathedral is consecrated to them. On the right side of the presbytery, on the third pillar we can see a representation of The Holy Trinity devoted to the Parish Church. On the fifth pillar King David is represented.

At the beginnings of the XIVth century three naves were built, covered with simple quadripartite rib vaults at the laterals and eight ribs in the central vault, the cathedral was finished with its main western door void of the usual decorations or sculptures owing to a lack of economic resources. At that time the cathedral was a fortified building, due to the fact that a war was taking place between the kingdoms of Castilla and Navarra. This is also the reason why a western vestibule and passages were constructed, to defend the interior and exterior of the building. There are still remains at the left nave, above the chapels and the cloister access door. The cloister was also remodeled at this time.

In the XVth century a phase of extensive constructive work took place in the Cathedral, which actually extended into the following century. This work included the enlargement of the south transept, owing to the collapse of a south occident pillar, the raising of the main altar, the construction of Santo Domingo´s Mausoleum and of the chapels of San Andres, Rosario, Inmaculada, Hermosilla, Santa Teresa and Magdalena, all of them built at the laterals which break up the initial perimeters, as well as the two apses previously mentioned. During the XVIIth century the Martyrs Chapel was also constructed.

Between 1761 and 1765 the current façade was built, dominated by the dioceses´ patron-saints: San Emeterio, San Celedonio and Santo Domingo, and the separated tower.

In 1958 a crypt as built downstairs in order to safeguard the relics of Santo Domingo.

The altarpiece

Retablo renacentista de La Catedral de Santo Domingo de la Calzada en La Rioja. Obra de Damián Forment. Detalle del retablo renacentista de La Catedral de Santo Domingo de la Calzada en La Rioja. Policromía de Andrés de Melgar.

Up until 1994, when it was taken apart for restoration, the altarpiece had been stored in the place which had been constructed for this exact purpose; the main altar. Damian Forment was the sculptor chosen to make the altarpiece. He began to build it in 1537 and continued until his death in 1540. The task was then undertaken by his apprentices. The sculpture itself is made of walnut and the structure of pine. The lower part of the piece is made from alabaster. It is devoted to El Salvador and The Assumption; their sculptures are in the middle of the altarpiece. Above them, purposefully highlighted, is the Sanctuary - a space dedicated to the permanent display and storage of the Holy Sacrament. Damian Forment was born in Valencia where he carried out all his work and so the finished works were brought from there and presented by the artist to the Aragon church in the XIVth century

Damian Forment added to the habitual Christian’s scenes profane mythology such as, sirens, centaurs, newts etc; images which since ancient times, had been connected with resurrection and salvation. Since 1545 the Trento Council forbade such representation in Christian Art and as such this is an exceptional piece.

Andres de Melgar was the person in charge of the golden and polychrome elements in the altarpiece. He worked on it from 1539 to 1553. He added Grotesques, decorations based on hybrid beings distributed evenly over axis’ of symmetry within the sculpture, and Moorish designs, based on images and the designs found on embroidered Arabic cloths.

In the last reform (2009), teh cathedral setted up an interactive touch screem together the altarpiece. This screem allow tourists tour every details of the altarpiece with high definition pictures. Also, the cathedral setted up an audiovisual projection where Damian Forment recites the story of the altarpiece construction.

Mausoleum and the henhouse

Gallinero gótico de la Catedral de Santo Domingo con gallo y gallina vivos. Mausoleo de Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Santo Domingo prepared his own sepulcher in the middle of the road he himself constructed outside the church. Many years later, with the building of the new temple the tomb became part of the interior of the Cathedral, in the south transept to be precise.

The Mausoleum is the result of three consecutive interventions. In the first quarter of the XIIIth century the construction of the burial laude of Santo Domingo took place, represented by a two meter long, high relief sculpture, an unusual piece when compared with other funerary art in Europe at that time, on which we can see Santo Domingo on his deathbed crossing his hands on his chest and six angels around him. It was restored in 2009 and most of the polychrome was recovered.

The tombstone is supported by an alabaster table, into which is set the coat of arms of Bishop Diego López de Zúñiga, who initiated the project. This allows us to apply a date to the work – around about the first half in the XVth century. Santo Domingo´s life and miracles are represented in twelve different scenes. In 1508 the structure was in part damaged by the collapse of some pillars. An alabaster baldachin covers the tomb; the design was attributed to Felipe de Vigarny and was made by Juan de Rasines in 1513.

The silver used to create the arch surrounding the structure is Mexican and was donated in 1763. The sculpture of Santo Domingo below the silver arch was created by Julián de San Martín in 1789, and is the first in which Santo Domingo is represented as an older saintly figure.

The Mausoleum is surrounded by a gold and polychrome plated iron grille, supported by a black marble plinth, made in 1708 by Sebastián de Medina.

In 1958 a crypt was built below the mausoleum where now lie the relics of Santo Domingo. A high relief statue of him, dating back to the beginning of the XIIIth century, dominates this space, depicting him as a slave liberator.

Gallinero gótico de la Catedral de Santo Domingo con gallo y gallina vivos. Mausoleo de Santo Domingo de la Calzada Gallinero gótico de la Catedral de Santo Domingo con gallo y gallina vivos. Mausoleo de Santo Domingo de la Calzada

The tower

Torre exenta de estolo barroco de la Catedral de Santo Domingo

The separated tower is the fourth tower built in the cathedral. The first one was built at the end of XIIth century, it was originally located where nowadays is situated the henhouse, and in 1450 it was destroyed by lightning. This tower was replaced by a second one, whose construction ended in 1560 and the collapse of which took place in the XVIIIth century. Around 1759 or 1760 Bishop Andrés de Porras y Temes initiated the construction of the third tower which was built as a portico-tower, with one of its sides resting against the south wall of the cathedral and the remainder supported by arches which ran along the exterior. One year later it had to be dismantled because the construction was unstable owing to underground water flow, and the south façade was affected as well. The bishop tried again with the façade and the construction of a forth tower. The architect chosen was Martin de Beratua who looked for the best quality site, eight meters away from the cathedral. The façade was built in 1761 and the current tower around 1762-5. The bell ringer’s house was designed by the same architect.

The present tower is 69 meters tall and is divided into three parts. The first two floors are square, and the upper part (the bell tower) has an octagonal formation. It is baroque style like others in La Rioja, such as Briones tower, and the twin towers of Santa Maria la Redonda in Logroño, also created by Martin de Beratúa. This tower was used for a religious custom, now seldom practiced called invoking (for example a priest may have performed rituals to invoke storms or the blessing of crops etc) and for that reason the lower part of the structure has many windows.

It was made in sandstone and the foundations were made with a mass of lime, sand, small stones and crushed cattle horns, this was to counteract the instability of the terrain and the effects of excess underground water.

132 stairs take us up to the bell tower. In many stairs there are holes which were used to let through ropes which were thrown down to allow the bells to be played from the bell ringer´s house.

The clock installed in 1780 by the blacksmith Martin Pasco still remains and continues working with the original mechanism.

The cloister and the Chapter room

Talla de la Verónica. Obra hispano-flamenta de finales del siglo XV

The cloister that we can view today is the result of reformation carried out in 1340 by Bishop Juan del Pino. Formed in stone and brick, it is covered with eight quadripartite rib vaults, one in each gallery. During the XVth and XVIth centuries, many chapels were added to its walls and even its interior patio. Many of these constructions were aesthetically unpleasing and all but four of them were demolished during the reformation which took place between 1984 and 1987. Today it houses the Cathedral Museum.

Nowadays the museum exhibits a permanent display centered around three Flemish triptych paintings: “The Annunciation,” by Joos Van Cleve, painted between 1515 and 1520; “The Adoration of The Magi,” an anonymous work created at the end of the XVth century and “Mass of Saint Gregory the Great” painted in 1530 by Adrian Isenbrant.

Among the sculptures on display in the cloister, we find “The Apostles Altarpiece”, two later Romanic sculptures in relief, made in polychrome stone, which may have originally been part of the group of statues of apostles placed in the Romanic south façade including Saint Peter and Saint John whose statues now reside in the crypt. Also on display is a wooden altar front dating from 1300 which includes elements made from gold and polychrome and is of course of great value. In its centre The Mercy Throne is represented, bordered by a tetramorph. An exceptional piece is La Verónica, a Spanish-Flemish sculpture from the end of the XVth century. The sculptural collection displayed in the cloister also includes many polychrome wooden sculptures most of them dating from around the XVIth and XVIIth centuries and two polychrome reliefs, Mass of Saint Gregory and Saint Jerónimo Penitent by Andrés de Melgar in 1553.

Leading off the oriental gallery we find the Chapter room, built by order of Bishop Juan Del Pino, and rebuilt by Pedro González de Mendoza at the second half of the XVth century. At that time the ceiling was covered with Moorish style paintings with decorative floral motifs and the developer´s coat of arms. This painted ceiling was uncovered during restoration in 1992; it had been hidden under a layer of plaster. This room also houses a gothic style statue of Santo Domingo, which was frequently venerated and taken out for procession until the end of the XVIIIth century.

The Cathedral Treasure is distributed between the cloister and the chapter rooms. The most important parts of this collection are the silver Mexican pieces donated to Santo Domingo by Calceatense (name of the inhabitants of Santo Domingo de la Calzada) emigrants.

Iglesia Catedral El Salvador • Calle El Cristo s/n., Santo Domingo de la Calzada (La Rioja)
information: info@catedralsantodomingo.es
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