Dean Blasco Blasquez as an honorable burial place for himself and his family, while Bishop Blasquez Davila, the tutor of Alfonso IX and principal notary of Castile, raised the southern arm immediately afterwards. He occupied the See for almost fifty years, and must have seen the nave and side aisles and the older portions, including the northwestern tower, all pretty well constructed. This tower with its unfinished sister and portions of the west front are curiously enough late Romanesque work, and must thus have been started before the nave and side aisles had reached them in their western progress. The original cloisters belonged to the fourteenth century, as also the northern portal. Chapels, furnishings, pulpits, trascoro, choir stalls, glazing, all belong to later times, as well as the sixteenth-century mutilations of the front and the various exterior Renaissance excrescences.
It is interesting to infer that the main part of the fabric must virtually have been completed in 1432, when Pope Eugenio IV published a bull in favor of the work. Here he only speaks of the funds requisite for its "preservation and repair." We may judge from such wording the condition of the structure as a whole.
The most extraordinary portion of the building is unquestionably its "fighting turret" and eastern end. This apse is almost unique in Spanish architectural history and deeply absorbing as an extensive piece of Romanesque work, not quite free from Moorish traces and already employing in its vaulting Gothic expedients. It may be called "barbaric Gothic" or "decadent Romanesque," but, whatever it is termed, it will be vitally interesting and fascinating to the student of architectural history.
Externally the mighty stone tower indicates none of its interior disposition of chapels or vaulting. The black, weather-stained granite of its bare walls is alternately broken by slightly projecting pilasters and slender, columnar shafts. They are crowned by a corbel table and a high, embattled parapet, that yielded protection to the soldiers occupying the platform immediately behind, which communicated with the passage around the city walls. This is again backed by a second wall similarly crowned. The narrowest slits of windows from the centres of the radiating, apsidal chapels break the lower surfaces, while double flying buttresses meet, at the level of the triforium and above the clerestory windows, the thrusts of the upper walls.
The plan is most curious, and on account of its irregularity as well as certain inconsistencies, it is difficult to guess how far it was originally conceived in its present form, or what alterations were made in the earlier centuries. Some changes must have been made in its vaulting. The chevet or Capilla Mayor, which at first very properly contained the choir, is surrounded by a double ambulatory, outside of which the thick walls are pierced by nine apsidal chapels. It is probable that these were originally constructed by the engineers to lighten the enormous bulk of the outer masonry. They are not quite semicircles in plan, and are vaulted in various simple ways. Where ribs occur, they meet in the key of the arch separating chapel from ambulatory. The piers round the apse itself are alternately monocylindrical and composite; the intermediate ones, subdividing unequally the "girola," are lofty, slender columns, while those of the exterior are polygonal in plan, with shafts against their faces. Some of the caps are of the best Romanesque types, and composed of animals, birds, and leaves, while others, possibly substituted for the original ones, have a plain bell with the ornamentation crudely applied in color.
The Capilla Mayor has both triforium and clerestory of exquisite early work. Dog-tooth moldings ornament the archivolts. Mohammedan influence had asserted itself in the triforium, which is divided by slender shafts into two windows terminating in horseshoe arches, while the clerestory consists of broad, round, arched openings.
The construction and balance of the apse thrusts were doubtless originally of a somewhat different nature from what we find at present, as may easily be observed from the materials, the function and positions of the double flying buttresses. They may have been added as late as three centuries after the original fabric. Lamperez y Romea's observations in regard to this are most interesting:--
"We must observe in the two present orders of windows, that the lower was never built for lights and its construction with double columns forming a hollow space proves it a triforium. That it was actually so is further abundantly proved by several circumstances: first, by a parapet or wall which still exists below the actual roof and which follows the exterior polygonal line of the girola, as well as by some semi-Romanesque traceries which end in the wall of the Capilla Mayor, and finally, by a continuous row of supports existing in the thickness of the same wall below a gutter, separating the two orders of windows. These features, as well as the general arrangement of the openings, demonstrate that there was a triforium of Romanesque character, occupying the whole width of the girola, which furthermore was covered by a barrel vault. Above this came the great platform or projecting balcony, corresponding to the second defensive circuit. Military necessity explains this triforium; without it, there would be no need of a system of continuous counterthrusts to that of the vaults of the crossing. If we concede the existence of this triforium, various obscure points become clear."
The Capilla Mayor has four bays prior to reaching the pentagonal termination. The vaulting of the most easterly bay connects with that of the pentagon, thus leaving three remaining bays to vault; two form a sexpartite vault, and the third, nearest the transept, a quadripartite. All the intersections are met by bosses formed by gilded and spreading coats-of-arms. The ribs do not all carry properly down, two out of the six being merely met by the keystones of the arches between Capilla Mayor and ambulatory. The masonry of the vaulting is of a reddish stone, while that of the transepts and nave is yellow, laid in broad, white joints.
In various portions of the double ambulatory passage as well as some of the chapels, the fine, deep green and gold and blue Romanesque coloring may still be seen, giving a rich impression of the old barbaric splendor and gem-like richness so befitting the clothing of the style. Other portions, now bare, must surely all have been colored. The delicate, slender shafts, subdividing unequally the ambulatory, have really no carrying office, but were probably introduced to lessen the difficulty of vaulting the irregular compartments of such unequal sides. Gothic art was still in its infancy, and the splendid grasp of the vaulting difficulties and masterly solution of its problems exemplified in so many later ambulatories, had not as yet been reached. Here we have about the first fumbling attempt. The maestro is still fighting in the dark with unequal thrusts, sides and arches of different widths, and a desire to meet them all with something higher and lighter than the old continuous barrel vault. A step forward in the earnest effort toward higher development, such as we find here, deserves admiration. The profiles of the ribs are simple, undecorated and vigorous, as were all the earliest ones; in the chapels, or rather the exedras in the outer walls, the ribs do not meet in a common boss or keystone, its advantages not as yet being known to the builders. A good portion of the old roof-covering of the Cathedral, not only over the eastern end, but pretty generally throughout, has either been altered, or else the present covering conceals the original.
Thus it is easy to detect from the outside, if one stands at the northwestern angle of the church and looks down the northern face, that the upper masonry has been carried up by some three feet of brickwork, evidently of later addition, on top of which comes the present covering of terra-cotta tiles. The old roof-covering here of stone tiles, as also above the apse, rested directly on the inside vaults, naturally damaging them by its weight, and not giving full protection against the weather. The French slopes had in some instances been slavishly copied, but the steep roofs requisite in northern cathedrals were soon after abandoned, being unnecessary in the Spanish climate. Over the apse of Avila, there may still be found early thirteenth-century roofing, consisting of large stone flags laid in rows with intermediary grooves and channels, very much according to ancient established Roman and Byzantine traditions. Independent superstructure above the vault proper, to carry the outside covering, had not been introduced when this roofing was laid.
In its early days many a noted prelate and honored churchman was laid to rest within the holy precinct of the choir in front of the high altar or in the rough old sepulchres of the surrounding chapels. With the moving of the choir, and probably also a change in the church ceremonies, came a rearrangement of the apse and the Capilla Mayor's relation to the new rites.
The retablo back of the high altar, consisting of Plateresque ornament, belongs for the most part to the Renaissance. The Evangelists and church fathers are by Pedro Berruguete (not as great as his son, the sculptor Alfonso), Juan de Borgoña and Santos Cruz. In the centre, facing the ambulatory behind, is a fine Renaissance tomb of the renowned Bishop Alfonso Tostada de Madrigal. He is kneeling in full episcopal robes, deeply absorbed either in writing or possibly reading the Scriptures. The workmanship on mitre and robe is as fine as the similar remarkable work in Burgos, while the enclosing rail is a splendid example of the blending of Gothic and Renaissance.
The glass in the apse windows is exceptionally rich and magnificently brilliant in its coloring. It was executed by Alberto Holando, one of the great Dutch glaziers of Burgos, who was given the entire contract in 1520 by Bishop Francisco Ruiz, a nephew of the great Cardinal Cisneros.
Such, in short, are the characteristics of the chevet of the Cathedral of Avila, constructed in an age when its builders must have worked in a spirit of hardy vigor with the trowel in one hand and the sword in the other. As we see it to-day, it imparts a feeling of mystery, and its oriental splendor is enhanced by the dim, religious light.
In entering the crossing, we step into the fullness of the Gothic triumph. The vaults have been thrown into the sky to the height of 130 feet. It is early Gothic work, with its many errors and consequent retracing of steps made in ignorance. The great arches that span the crossing north and south had taken too bold a leap and subsequently required the support of cross arches. The western windows and the great roses at the end of the transepts, with early heavy traceries, proved too daring and stone had to be substituted for glass in their apertures; the long row of nave windows have likewise been filled with masonry. Despite these and many similar penalties for rashness, the work is as dignified as it is admirable. Of course the proportions are all small in comparison with such later great Gothic churches as Leon and Burgos, the nave and transepts here being merely 28 to 30 feet wide, the aisles only 24 feet wide. Avila is but an awkward young peasant girl if compared with the queenly presence of her younger sisters. Nevertheless Avila is in true Spanish peasant costume, while Leon and Burgos are tricked out in borrowed finery. The nave is short and narrow, but that gives an impression of greater height, and the obscurity left by the forced substitution of stone for glass in the window spaces adds to the solemnity. The nave consists of five bays, the aisle on each side of it rising to about half its height. The golden groining is quadripartite, the ribs meeting in great colored bosses and pendents, added at periods of less simple taste. In the crossing alone, intermediary ribs have been added in the vaulting.
[Illustration: Photo by J. Lacoste, Madrid
From outside the walls]
The walls of the transept underneath the great blind wheels to the north and south are broken by splendid windows, each with elaborate tracery (as also the eastern and western walls), heavy and strong, but finely designed. The glazing is glorious, light, warm, and intense. The walls of the nave, set back above the lowest arcade some eighteen inches, have triforium and clerestory, and above this again, they are filled quite up to the vaulting with elaborate tracery, possibly once foolhardily conceived to carry glass. Each bay has six arches in both triforium and clerestory, all of simple and early apertures. The glazing of the clerestory is white, excepting in one of the bays. In this single instance, a simple, geometric pattern of buff and blue stripes is of wonderfully harmonious and lovely color effect.
The shafts that separate nave from side aisles are still quite Romanesque in feeling,--of polygonal core faced by four columns and eight ribs. The capitals are very simple with no carving, but merely a gilded representation of leafage, while the base molds carry around all breaks of the pier. It may be coarse and crude in feeling and execution, certainly very far from the exquisite finish of Leon, nevertheless the infancy of an architectural style, like a child's, has the peculiar interest of what it holds in promise. Like Leon, the side aisles have double roofing, allowing the light to penetrate to the nave arcade and forming a double gallery running round the church.
Many of the bishops who were buried in the choir in its old location were, on its removal to the bay immediately west of the crossing, also moved and placed in the various chapels. The sepulchre of Bishop Sancho Davila is very fine. Like his predecessors, he was a fighting man. His epitaph reads as follows:--
"Here lies the noble cavalier Sancho Davila, Captain of the King Don Fernando and the Queen Doña Isabel, our sovereigns, and their alcaide of the castles of Carmona, son of Sancho Sanches, Lord of San Roman and of Villanueva, who died fighting like a good cavalier against the Moors in the capture of Alhama, which was taken by his valor on the 28th of February in the year 1490."
The pulpits on each side of the crossing, attached to the great piers, are, curiously enough, of iron, exquisitely wrought and gilded. The one on the side of the epistle is Gothic and the other Renaissance, the body of each of them bearing the arms of the Cathedral, the Agnus Dei, and the ever-present lions and castles. The rejas, closing off choir and Capilla Mayor in the customary manner, are heavy and ungainly. On the other hand, the trascoro, that often sadly blocks up the sweep of the nave, is unusually low and comparatively inconspicuous. It contains reliefs of the life of Christ, from the first half of the sixteenth century, by Juan Res and Luis Giraldo. The choir itself is so compact that it only occupies one bay. The chapter evidently was a modest one. The stalls are of elaborate Renaissance workmanship. The verger now in charge, with the voice of a hoarse crow, reads you the name of the carver as the Dutchman "Cornelis 1536."
Strange to say, there are no doors leading, as they logically should, into the centre of the arms of the transept. Through some perversity, altars have taken their place, while the northern and southern entrances have been pushed westward, opening into the first bays of the side aisles. The southern door leads to a vestibule, the sacristy with fine Gothic vaulting disfigured by later painting, a fine fifteenth-century chapel and the cloisters. None of this can be seen from the front, as it is hidden by adjoining houses and a bare, pilastered wall crowned by a carved Renaissance balustrade. The galleries of the present cloisters are later Gothic work with Plateresque decorations and arches walled up.
Avila Cathedral is, as it were, a part and parcel of the history of Castile during the reigns of her early kings, the turbulent times when self-preservation was the only thought, any union of provinces far in the future, and a Spanish kingdom undreamed of. She was a great church in a small kingdom, in the empire she became insignificant. Much of her history is unknown, but in the days of her power, she was certainly associated with all great events in old Castile. Her influence grew with her emoluments and the ever-increasing body of ecclesiastical functionaries. In times of war, she became a fortress, and her bishop was no longer master of his house. The Captain-General took command of the bastions, as of those of the Alcazar, and soldiers took the place of priests in the galleries. She was the key to the city, and on her flat roofs the opposing armies closed in the final struggle for victory.
The Cathedral has, in fact, only an eastern and a northern elevation, the exterior to the west and south being hidden by the huge tower and the confused mass of chapels and choir which extend to the walls and houses.
The western entrance front is noble and dignified in its austere severity; probably as old as the clerestory of the nave, it is a grim sentinel from the first part of the fourteenth century. With the exception of the entrance, it speaks the Romanesque language, although its windows and some of its decoration are pointed. It is magnificent and impressive, very Spanish, and almost unique in the Peninsula. Four mighty buttresses subdivide the composition; between these is the entrance, and to the north and south are the towers which terminate the aisles.
The southern tower has never been finished. The northern is full of inspiration. It is broken at two stages by double windows, the upper ones of the belfry being crowned by pediments and surmounted by rich, sunk tracery. The piers terminate in hexagonal pinnacles, while the tower, as well as the rest of the front, is finished with a battlement. The later blocking up of this, as well as the superimposed roofing, is very evident and disturbing. All the angles of buttresses, of windows, arches, splays, and pyramids,--those also crowning the bulky piers that meet the flying buttresses,--are characteristically and uniquely decorated with an ornamentation of balls. It softens the hard lines, splashing the surface with infinite series of small, sharp shadows and making it sparkle with life and light. The angles recall the blunt, blue teeth of a saw.
The main entrance, as well as the first two bays of the naves underneath the towers, must originally have been of different construction from the present one. Inside the church, these bays are blocked off from nave and side aisles by walls, on top of which they communicate with each other as also with the eastern apse by galleries, probably all necessary for the defense of troops in the early days. Possibly a narthex terminated the nave back of the original entrance portal underneath the present vaulted compartment.
The main entrance door is indeed a strange apparition. In its whiteness between the sombre tints of the martial towers, it rises like a spectre in the winding-sheets of a later age. It is distressingly out of place and time in its dark framework.
"But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth, and some to honor, and some to dishonor."
The semicircular door is crowned by a profusely subdivided, Gothic archivolt and guarded by two scaly giants or wild men that look, with their raised clubs, as if they would beat the life out of any one who should try to enter the holy cavern. Saints Peter and Paul float on clouds in the spandrels. Above rises a sixteenth-century composition of masks and canopied niches. The Saviour naturally occupies the centre, flanked by the various saints that in times of peril protected the church of Avila: Saints Vincente, Sabina and Cristela, Saint Segundo and Santa Teresa. In the attic in front of a tremendous traceried cusp, with openings blocked by masonry, the ornamentation runs completely riot. Saint Michael, standing on top of a dejected and doubled-up dragon, looks down on figures that are crosses between respectable caryatides and disreputable mermaids. It is certainly as immaterial as unknown, when and by whom was perpetrated this degenerate sculpture now shamelessly disfiguring a noble casing. The strong, early towers seem in their turn doubly powerful and eloquent in their simplicity and one wishes the old Romanesque portal were restored and the great traceries above it glazed to flood the nave with western sunlight.
The northeastern angle is blocked by poor Renaissance masonry, the exterior of the chapels here being faced by a Corinthian order and broken by circular lights.
The northern portal is as fine as that of the main entrance is paltry. The head of the door, as well as the great arch which spans the recess into which the entire composition is set, is, curiously enough, three-centred, similar to some of the elliptical ones at Burgos and Leon. A lion, securely chained to the church wall for the protection of worshipers, guards each side of the entrance. Under the five arches stand the twelve Apostles, time-worn, weather-beaten and mutilated, but splendid bits of late thirteenth-century carving. For they must be as early as that. The archivolts are simply crowded with small figures of angels, of saints, and of the unmistakably lost. In the tympanum the Saviour occupies the centre, and around Him is the same early, naïve representation of figures from the Apocalypse, angels, and the crowned Virgin.
[Illustration: Photo by J. Lacoste, Madrid
CATHEDRAL OF AVILA
Two years before Luther, a true exponent of Teutonic genius, had nailed his theses to the door of a cathedral in central Germany, there was born in the heart of Spain as dauntless and genuine a representative of her country's genius. Each passed through great storm and stress of the spirit, and finally entered into that closer communion with God, from which the soul emerges miraculously strengthened. Do not these bleak hills, this stern but lovely Cathedral, rising per aspera ad astra, typify the strong soul of Santa Teresa? A great psychologist of our day finds the woman in her admirable literary style. Prof. James further accepts Saint Teresa's own defense of her visions: "By their fruits ye shall know them." These were practical, brave, cheerful, aspiring, like this Castilian sanctuary, intolerant of dissenters, sheltering and caring for many, and leading them upward to the City which is unseen, eternal in the heavens.
[Illustration: CATHEDRAL OF LEON
From the southwest]
Look where the flood of western glory falls Through the great sunflower disk of blazing panes In ruby, saffron, azure, emerald stains.
In the year 1008 the ancient church of Leon witnessed a ceremony memorable for more reasons than one. It was conducted throughout according to Gothic customs, King, Queen, nobility and ecclesiastics all being present, and it was the first council held in Spain since the Arab conquest whose acts have come down to us. The object was twofold: to hold a joyous festival in celebration of the rebuilding of the city walls, which had been broken down some years before by a Moslem army, and to draw up a charter for a free people, governing themselves, for Spain has the proud distinction of granting municipal charters one or two hundred years before the other countries of Europe. For three centuries of Gothic rule, the kings of Leon, Castile and other provinces had successfully resisted every attempt at encroachment from the Holy See and, in session with the clergy, elected their own bishops, until in 1085 Alfonso VI of Castile takes the fatal step of sending Bernard d'Azeu to receive the pallium and investiture as Bishop of Toledo from the hands of Gregory VII. From this time forth, kings are crowned, queens repudiated, and even the hallowed Gothic or Mozarabic ritual is set aside for that of Rome by order of popes.
In 1135 Santa Maria of Leon is the scene of a gorgeous pageant. An Alfonso, becoming master of half Spain and quarter of France, thinks he might be called Emperor as well as some others, and within the Cathedral walls he receives the new title in the presence of countless ecclesiastics and "all his vassals, great and small." The monarch's robe was of marvelous work, and a crown of pure gold set with precious stones was placed on his head, while the King of Navarre held his right hand and the Bishop of Leon his left. Feastings and donations followed, but, what was of vastly more importance, the new Emperor confirmed the charters granted to various cities by his grandfather.
Again a great ceremony fills the old church. Ferdinand, later known as the Saint, is baptized there in 1199. A year or two later, Innocent III declares void the marriage of his father and mother, who were cousins, and an interdict shrouds the land in darkness. Several years pass during which the Pope turns a deaf ear to the entreaties of a devoted husband, the King of Leon, to their children's claim, the intercession of Spanish prelates, and the prayers of two nations who had good cause to rejoice in the union of Leon and Castile. Then a victim of the yoke, which Spain had voluntarily put on while Frederic of Germany and even Saint Louis of France were defending their rights against the aggressions of the Holy See, the good Queen Berenzuela, sadly took her way back to her father's home, to the King of Castile.
His prerogative once established, Innocent III looked well after his obedient subjects. When Spain was threatened by the most formidable of all Moorish invasions, he published to all Christendom a bull of crusade against the Saracens, and sent across the Pyrenees the forces which had been gathering in France for war in Palestine. Rodrigo, Archbishop of Toledo, preached the holy war and led his troops, in which he was joined by the bishops of Bordeaux, Nantes, and Narbonne at the head of their militia. Germany and Italy sent their quota of knights and soldiers of fortune, and this concourse of Christian warriors, speaking innumerable tongues, poured through mountain defiles and ever southward till they met in lofty Toledo and camped on the banks of the Tagus. Marches, skirmishes, and long-drawn-out sieges prelude the great day. The hot Spanish summer sets in, the foreigners, growing languid in the arid stretches of La Mancha, and disappointed at the slender booty meted out to them, desert the native army, march northwards and again cross the Pyrenees to return to their homes. It was thus left to the Spaniards, led by three kings and their warlike prelates, to defeat a Moslem army of half a million and gain the glorious victory of Las Navas de Tolosa on the sixteenth of August, 1212.
With Rome's firm grasp on the Spanish Peninsula came temples no less beautiful than those the great Mother Church was planting in every portion of her dominion north of the Pyrenees,--Leon, Burgos, Toledo and Valencia rose in proud challenge to Amiens, Rheims, Beauvais and Chartres.
Leon may be called French,--yes, unquestionably so, but that is no detraction or denial of her native "gentileza." She may be the very embodiment of French planning, her general dimensions like those of Bourges; her portals certainly recall those of Chartres, and the planning of her apsidal chapels, her bases, arches, and groining ribs, remind one of Amiens and Rheims; but nevertheless this exotic flower blooms as gloriously in a Spanish desert as those that sprang up amid the vineyards or in the Garden of France.
[Illustration: KEY OF PLAN OF LEON CATHEDRAL
A. Capilla Mayor. B. Choir. C. Crossing. D. Tombs. E. Trascoro. F. Towers. G. Cloisters.]
Leon is almost as old as the history of Spain. In the first century after Christ, the seventh Roman legion, on the order of Augustus, pitched their tents where the city now stands, built their customary rectangular enclosure with its strong walls and towers, happily seconded by the nature of the surrounding country. From here the wild hordes of the Asturias could be kept in check. The city was narrowly built in the fork of two rivers, on ground allowing neither easy approach nor expansion, so that the growth has, even up to the twentieth century, been within the ancient walls, and the streets and squares are in consequence narrow and cramped. On many of the blocks of those old walls may still be seen carved in the clear Roman lettering, "Legio septima gemina, pia, felix." The name of Leon is merely a corruption first used by the Goths of the Roman "Legio." Roman dominion survived the empire for many years, being first swept away when the Gothic hordes in the middle of the sixth century descended from the north under the conqueror, Loevgild. Its Christian bishopric was possibly the first in Spain, founded in the darkness of the third century, since which time the little city can boast an unbroken succession of Leonese bishops, although a number, during the turbulent decades of foreign rule, may not actually have been "in residence." The Moslem followed the Goth, and ruled while the nascent Christian kingdom of the Asturias was slowly gaining strength for independence and the foundation of an episcopal seat. In the middle of the eighth century, the Christians wrested it from the Moors. On the site of the old Roman baths, built in three long chambers, King Ordoño II erected his palace (he was reconstructing for defense and glory the walls and edifices of the city) and in 916 presented it with considerable ground and several adjacent houses to Bishop Frumonio, that he might commence the building of the Cathedral on the advantageous palace site in the heart of the city. Terrible Moorish invasions occurred soon after, involving considerable damage to the growing Byzantine basilica. In 996 the Moors swept the city with fire and sword, and again, three years later, it fell entirely into the hands of the great conqueror Almanzor, who remained in possession only just the same time, for we may read in the old monkish manuscripts that in 1002 from the Christian pulpits of Castile and Leon the proclamation was made: "Almanzor is dead, and buried in Hell."
Leon could boast of being the first mediæval city of Europe to obtain self-government and a charter of her own, and she became the scene of important councils during the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In the eleventh century, under the great Ferdinand I, who united Castile and Leon, work on the basilica was pushed rapidly forward. French influence was predominant in the early building operations, for Alfonso VI of Castile, who assumed the title of Emperor of Spain, had two French wives, each of whom brought with her a batch of zealous and skillful church-building prelates.
The church was finally consecrated in 1149. About twenty-five years ago, the Spanish architect, D. Demetrio de los Rios, in charge of the work of restoration on the present Cathedral, discovered the walls and foundations of the ancient basilica and was able to determine accurately its relation to the later Gothic church. The exact date when this was begun is uncertain,--many writers give 1199. Beyond a doubt the foundations were laid out during the reign of Alfonso IX, early in the thirteenth century, when Manrique de Lara was Bishop of the See of Leon and French Gothic construction was at the height of its glory. It is thus a thirteenth-century church, belonging principally to the latter part, built with the feverish energy, popular enthusiasm, and unparalleled genius for building which characterizes that period and stamps it as uniquely glorious to later constructive ages. Though smaller than most of the immense churches which afterwards rose under Spanish skies, Leon remained in many respects unsurpassed and unmatched.
"Sevilla en grandeza, Toledo en riqueza, Compostella en fortaleza, está en sutileza Santa Maria de Regla."
In the middle of the thirteenth century, after the consecration of the new church, a famous council of all the bishops of the realm was held in the little town of Madrid, and there the faithful were exhorted, and the lukewarm admonished with threats, to contribute by every means to the successful erection of Leon's Cathedral. Indulgences, well worth consideration, were granted to contributors, at the head of whom for a liberal sum stood the king, Alfonso X.
But Leon, capital of the ancient kingdom, was doomed before long to feel the bitterness of abandonment. The Castilian kings followed the retreat southward of the Moorish armies, and the history of the capital of Leon, which, during the thirteenth century, had been the history of the little kingdom, soon became confined within the limits of her cathedral walls. Burgos, a mighty rival, soon overshadowed her. The time came when the Bishop of Leon was merely a suffragan of the Archbishop of Burgos, and her kings had moved their court south to Seville. The city of Leon was lost in the union of the two kingdoms.
The fortunes of the Cathedral have been varied and her reverses great. Her architects risked a great deal and the disasters entailed were proportionate. Though belonging preëminently in style to the glorious thirteenth century, her building continued almost uninterruptedly throughout the fourteenth. We have in succession Maestro Enrique, Pedro Cebrian, Simon, Guillen de Rodan, Alonzo Valencia, Pedro de Medina, and Juan de Badajoz, working on her walls and towers with a magnificent recklessness which was shortly to meet its punishment. Although Bishop Gonzalez in 1303 declared the work, "thanks be to God, completed," it was but started. The south façade was completed in the sixteenth century, but as early as 1630 the light fabric began to tremble, then the vaulting of the crossing collapsed and was replaced by a more magnificent dome. Many years of mutilations and disasters succeeded. The south front was entirely taken down and rebuilt, the vaulting of aisles fell, great portions of the main western façade, and ornamentation here and there was disfigured or destroyed by the later alterations in overconfident and decadent times, until, in the middle of the eighteenth century, very considerable portions of the original rash and exquisite fabric were practically ruined. There came, however, an awakening to the outrages which had been committed, and from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present day, the work of putting back the stones in their original forms and places has steadily advanced to the honor of Leon and glory of Spain, until Santa Maria de Regla at last stands once more in the full pristine lightness of her original beauty.
The plan of Leon is exceedingly fine, surpassed alone among Spanish churches by that of Toledo. Three doorways lead through the magnificent western portal into the nave and side aisles of the Church. These consist of five bays up to the point where the huge arms of the transept spread by the width of an additional bay. In proportion to the foot of the cross, these arms are broader than in any other Spanish cathedral. They are four bays in length, the one under the central lantern being twice the width of the others, thus making the total width of the transepts equal to the distance from the western entrance to their intersection. The choir occupies the fifth and sixth bays of the nave. To the south, the transept is entered by a triple portal very similar in scale and richness to the western. The eastern termination of the church is formed by a choir of three and an ambulatory of five bays running back of the altar and trascoro, and five pentagonal apsidal chapels. The sacristy juts out in the extreme southwestern angle. The northern arm of the huge transepts is separated from the extensive cloisters by a row of chapels or vestibules which to the east also lead to the great Chapel of Santiago. All along its eastern lines the church with its dependencies projects beyond the city walls, one of its massive towers standing as a mighty bulwark of defense in the extreme northeastern angle.
[Illustration: CATHEDRAL OF LEON
Looking up the nave]
It is a plan that must delight not only the architect, but any casual observer, in its almost perfect symmetry and in the relationship of its various parts to each other. It belonged to the primitive period of French Gothic, though carried out in later days when its vigor was waning. It has not been cramped nor distorted by initial limitation of space or conditions, nor injured by later deviations from the original conception. It is worthy of the great masters who planned once for all the loveliest and most expressive house for the worship of God. Erected on the plains of Leon, it was conceived in the inspired provinces of Champagne and the Isle de France.
It has a total length of some 308 feet and a width of nave and aisles of 83. The height to the centre of nave groining is 100 feet. The western front has two towers, which, curiously enough, as in Wells Cathedral, flank the side aisles, thus necessitating in elevation a union with the upper portions of the façade by means of flying buttresses.
There is a fine view of the exterior of the church from across the square facing the southwestern angle. A row of acacia plumes and a meaningless, eighteenth-century iron fence conceal the marble paving round the base, but this foreground sinks to insignificance against the soaring masses of stone towers and turrets, buttresses and pediments, stretching north and east. Both façades have been considerably restored, the later Renaissance and Baroque atrocities having been swept away in a more refined and sensitive age, when the portions of masonry which fell, owing to the flimsiness of the fabric, were rebuilt. The result has, however, been that great portions, as for instance in the western front and the entire central body above the portals, jar, with the chalky whiteness of their surfaces by the side of the time-worn masonry. They lack the exquisite harmony of tints, where wind and sun and water have swept and splashed the masonry for centuries.
The two towers that flank the western front in so disjointed a manner are of different heights and ages. Both have a heavy, lumbering quality entirely out of keeping with the aerial lightness of the remainder of the church. It is not quite coarseness, but rather a stiff-necked, pompous gravity. Their moldings lack vigor and sparkle. The play of fancy and sensitive decorative treatment are wanting. The northern tower is the older and has an upper portion penetrated by a double row of round and early pointed windows. An unbroken octagonal spire crowns it, the angles of the intersection being filled by turrets, as uninteresting as Prussian sentry-boxes. The southern tower, though lighter and more ornamented, has, like its sister, extremely bald lower surfaces, the four angles in both cases being merely broken by projecting buttresses. The lowest story was completed in the fourteenth century. It was added to in successive centuries by Maestro Jusquin and Alfonso Ramos, but its great open-work spire, of decided German form, probably much influenced by Colonia's spires at Burgos, was first raised in the fifteenth century.
It is a complete monotonous lacework of stone, not nearly as spirited as similar, earlier, French work. The spire is separated from the bald base by a two-storied belfry, with two superimposed openings on each surface. Gothic inscriptions decorate the masonry and the huge black letters spell out "Deus Homo--Ave Maria, Gratia plena."
At the base, between these huge, grave sentinels, stands the magnificent old portico with the modern facing of the main body of the church above it. This screen of later days, built after the removal of a hideously out-of-keeping Renaissance front, is contained within two buttresses which meet the great flying ones. In fact, looking down the stone gorge between these buttresses and the towers, one sees a mass of pushing and propping flying buttresses springing in double rows above the roof of the side aisles towards the clerestories of the nave. The screen itself contains, immediately above the portico, an arcade of four subdivided arches, corresponding to the triforium, and above it a gorgeous rose window. It is the best type of late thirteenth or early fourteenth-century wheel of radial system, very similar in design to the western wheel of Notre Dame de Paris and the great western one of Burgos. Springing suddenly into being in all its developed perfection, it can only be regarded as a direct importation from the Isle de France. The ribs of the outer circle are twice as many as those of the inner, thus dividing the glass surfaces into approximately equal breadth of fields. This and the rose of the southern transept are similar, and both are copies of the original one still extant in the north transept. A fine cornice and open-work gallery surmount the composition, flanked by crocketed turrets and crowned in the centre by a pediment injurious in effect and of Italian Renaissance inspiration. The gable field is broken by a smaller wheel, and in an ogival niche are statues of the Annunciation.
The portico is the most truly splendid part of the Cathedral. Erected at the end of the thirteenth or beginning of the fourteenth century, much of its Gothic sculpture is unsurpassed in Spain. A perfect museum of art and a history in magnificent carving. The composition as a whole recalls again unquestionably Chartres. It consists of three recessed arches hooding with deep splays the three doorways which lead into nave and side aisles. Between the major arches are two smaller, extremely pointed ones, the most northerly of which encases an ancient columnar shaft decorated with the arms of Leon and bearing the inscription, "locus appellationis." Beneath it court was long held and justice administered by the rulers of Leon during the Middle Ages.
The arches of the porches are supported by piers, completely broken and surrounded by columnar shafts and niches carrying statues on their corbels. These piers stand out free from the jambs of the doors and wall surfaces behind, and thus form an open gallery between the two. Around and over all is an astounding and lavish profusion of sculpture,--no less than forty statues. The jambs and splays, the shafts, the archivolts, the moldings and tympanums are covered with carving, varied and singularly interesting in the diversity of its period and character. Part of it is late Byzantine with the traditions of the twelfth century, while much is from the very best vigorous Gothic chisels, and yet some, later Gothic. Certain borders, leafage, and vine branches are Byzantine, and so also are some of the statues, "retaining the shapeless proportions and the immobility and parched frown of the Byzantine School, so perfectly dead in its expression, offering, however, by its garb and by its contours not a little to the study of this art, and so constituting a precious museum." Again, other statues have the mild and venerable aspect of the second period of Gothic work. The oldest are round the most northerly of the three doorways. Every walk of life is represented. There is a gallery of costumes; and most varying emotions are depicted in the countenances of the kings and queens, monks and virgins, prelates, saints, angels, and bishops. Separating the two leaves of the main doorway, stands Our White Lady. But if the statues are interesting, the sculpture of the archivolts and the personages and scenes carved on the fields of the tympanums far surpass them.
Mrs. Wharton says somewhere, "All northern art is anecdotic,--it is an ancient ethnological fact that the Goth has always told his story that way." Nothing could be more "anecdotic" than this sculpture. The northern tympanum gives scenes from the Life of Christ, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, and the Flight into Egypt. In the southern, are events from the life of the Virgin Mary; but the central one, and the archivolts surrounding it, contain the most spirited bits. The scene is the Last Judgment, with Christ as the central figure. Servants of the Church of various degrees are standing on one side with expressions of beatitude nowise clouded by the fate of the miserable reprobates on the other. In the archivolts angels ascend with instruments and spreading wings, embracing monks or gathering orphans into their bosoms, while the lost with horrid grimaces are descending to their inevitable doom. Not even the great Florentine could depict more realistically the feelings of such as had sinned grievously in this world.
The long southern side of the church has for its governing feature the wide transept termination, which in its triple portal, triforium arcade, and rose is practically a repetition of the west. The central body is all restored. The original, magnificent old statues and carving have, however, been set back in the new casings around and above the main entrance. An old Leonese bishop, San Triolan, occupies in the central door the same position as "Our White Lady" to the west, while the Saviour between the Four Evangelists is enthroned in the tympanum.
[Illustration: CATHEDRAL OF LEON
Rear of apse]
One obtains a most interesting study in construction by standing behind the great polygonal apse, whence one may see the double rows of flying buttresses pushing with the whole might of the solid piers behind them against the narrow strips of masonry at the angles of the choir. From every buttress rise elegantly carved and crocketed finials. Marshalled against the cobalt of the skies, they body forth an array of shining lances borne by a heavenly host. The balconies, forming the cresting to the excessively high clerestory, are entirely Renaissance in feeling, and lack in their horizontal lines the upward spring of the church below. Almost all of this eastern end, breaking through the city walls, is, with the possible exception of the roof, part of the fine old structure, in contrast to the adjoining Plateresque sacristy.
It is generally from the outside of French cathedrals that one receives the most vivid impressions. Though the mind may be overcome by a feeling of superhuman effort on entering the portals of Notre Dame de Paris, yet the emotion produced by the first sight of the queenly, celestial edifice from the opposite side of the broad square is the more powerful and eloquent. Not so in Spain,--and this in spite of the location of the choirs. It is not until you enter a Spanish church that its power and beauty are felt.
The audacious construction of Leon, which one wonders at from the square outside, becomes well-nigh incredible when seen from the nave. How is it possible that glass can support such a weight of stone? If Burgos was bold, this is insane. It looks as unstable as a house of cards, ready for a collapse at the first gentle breeze. Can fields of glass sustain three hundred feet of thrusts and such weights of stone? It is a culmination of the daring of Spanish Gothic. In France there was this difference,--while the fields of glass continued to grow larger and larger, the walls to diminish, and the piers to become slenderer, the aid of a more perfectly developed system of counterthrusts to the vaulting was called in. In Spain we reach the maximum of elimination in the masonry of the side walls at the end of the thirteenth century, and in the Cathedral of Leon, whereas later Gothic work, as in portions of Burgos and Toledo, shows a sense of the futile exaggeration towards which they were drifting, as well as the impracticability of so much glass from a climatic point of view.
Internally, Leon is the lightest and most cheerful church in Spain. The great doorways of the western and southern fronts, as well as that to the north leading into the cloisters, are thrown wide open, as if to add to the joyousness of the temple. Every portion of it is flooded with sweet sunlight and freshness. It is the church of cleanliness, of light and fresh air, and above all, of glorious color. The glaziers might have said with Isaiah, "And I will make thy windows of agates and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones." The entire walls are a continuous series of divine rainbows.
The side walls of the aisles for a height of some fourteen feet to the bottom of their vaulting ribs, the triforium, commencing but a foot above the arches which separate nave from side aisles, and immediately above the triforium, forty feet of clerestory,--all is glass, emerald, turquoise, and peacock, amber, straw, scarlet, and crimson, encased in a most delicate, strangely reckless, and bold-traceried framework of stained ivory. Indeed, the jeweled portals of Heaven are wide open when the sun throws all the colors from above across the otherwise colorless fields of the pavement. "The color of love's blood within them glows." There is glazing of many centuries and all styles. In some of the triforium windows are bits of glass, which, after the destruction or falling of the old windows, were carefully collected, put together, and used again in the reglazing. Some of it is of the earliest in Spain, probably set by French, Flemish, or German artisans who had immigrated to practise their art and set up their factories on Spanish soil adjacent to the stone-carvers' and masons' sheds under the rising walls of the great churches. Like all skilled artisans of their age, the secret of their trade, the proper fusing of the silica with the alkalies, was carefully guarded and handed down from father to son or master to apprentice. They were chemists, glaziers, artists, colorists, and glass manufacturers, all in one. The heritage was passed on in those days, when the great key of science which opens all portals had not yet become common property. Some of the oldest glass is merely a crude mosaic inlay of small bits and must date back to early thirteenth century. Coloring glass by partial fusion was then first practised and soon followed by the introduction of figures and themes in the glass, and the acquisition of a lovely, homogeneous opalescence in place of the purely geometrical patterns. Scriptural scenes or figures painted, as the Spanish say, "en caballete," became more and more general. The best of the Leon windows are from the fifteenth century, when the glaziers' shops in the city worked under the direction of Juan de Arge, Maestro Baldwin, and Rodrigo de Ferraras, and its master colorists were at work glazing the windows of the Capilla Mayor, the Capilla de Santiago, and a portion of those of the north transept. "Ces vitreaux hauts en couleur, qui faisaient hésiter l'oeil émerveillé de nos pères entre la rose du grand portail et les ogives de l'abside." The glazing has gone on through centuries; even to-day the glaziers at Leon are busy in their shops, making the sheets of sunset glow for their own and other Spanish cathedrals.
In some of the side aisles, they have, alas, during recent decades placed some horrible "grisaille" and geometrically patterned windows,--in frightful contrast to the delightful thirteenth-century legends of Saint Clement and Saint Ildefonso, or that most absorbing record of civic life depicted in the northern aisle. In studying the windows of Leon, Lamperez y Romea's observations on Spanish glazing are of interest: "In the fourteenth century the rules of glazing in Spain were changed. Legends had fallen into disuse and the masters had learned that, in the windows of the high nave, small medallions could not be properly appreciated. They were then replaced by large figures, isolated or in groups, but always one by one in the spaces determined by the tracery. The coloring remained strong and vivid. The study of nature, which had so greatly developed in painting and in sculpture, altered the drawing little by little, the figures became more modeled and lifelike, and were carried out with more detail. At the same time the coloring changed by the use of neutral tints, violet, brown, light blues, rose, etc. Many of the old windows are of this style. And so are the majority of the windows of Avila, Leon, and Toledo, as it lasted in Spain throughout the fifteenth century, and others which preserve the composition of great figures and strong coloring, although there may be noticed in the drawings greater naturalism and modeling."
These rules differed slightly from those followed in France, where, with the exception of certain churches in the east, the windows of the thirteenth century were richer in decoration, more luscious in coloring and more harmonious in their tones than those of the fourteenth. There is little in this later century that can compare with the thirteenth-century series of Chartres figures.
The Leonese windows are perhaps loveliest late in the afternoon, when the saints and churchmen seem to be entering the church through their black-traceried portals, and, clad in heavenly raiment, about to descend to the pavement,--
As softly green, As softly seen, Through purest crystal gleaming,
there to people the aisles and keep vigil at the altars of God to the coming of another day.
There are, fortunately, scarcely any other colors or decorations,--or altars off side aisles,--that might divert the attention from the richness of glass. The various vaulting has the jointing of its stonework strongly marked, but, with the exception of the slightly gilded bosses, no color is applied. The glory of the glass is thus enhanced. Owing to the great portions of masonry which have been rebuilt, this varies in its tints, but the old was, and has remained, of such an exquisitely delicate creamy color that the new interposed stonework merely looks like a lighter, fresher shade of the old. The restoration has been executed with rare skill and artistic feeling.
In studying the inner organism and structure of the edifice, one soon sees how recklessly the original fabric was constructed and in how many places it had to be rebuilt, strengthened and propped,--indeed, immediately after its completion. Here, as was the general custom in the greater early Gothic cathedrals, the building began with the choir and Capilla Mayor, to be followed by the transepts, the portions of the edifice essential to the service. The choir was probably temporarily roofed over and the nave and side aisles followed. The exterior façades, portals, and upper stories of the towers were carried out last of all by the aid of indulgences, contributions, alms and concessions.
In old manuscripts and documents which record the very first work on the cathedrals we find the one in charge called "Maestro,"--or magister operis, magister ecclesiae, magister fabricae, but not till the sixteenth century does the appellation "arquitecto" appear. His pay seems to have varied, both in amount and in form of emolument,--sometimes it was good hard cash, often a very poor or dubious remuneration, handed out consequently with a more lavish hand; sometimes grants, and again royal favor. Generally the architect entered into a stipulated agreement with the Cathedral Chapter, both as to his time and services, before he began his work. We find Master Jusquin (1450-69) receiving from the Chapter of Leon not only a daily salary but also annual donations of bushels of wheat, pairs of gloves, lodgings, poultry, other supplies, and the use of certain workmen.
Leon's unquestionable French parentage is, if possible, even more obvious in the interior than in the exterior. The piers between nave and side aisles are cylindrical in plan, having in their lowest section on their front surface three columns grouped together that continue straight up through triforium and clerestory and carry the transverse and diagonal ribs of the nave. They have further one column on each side of the axis east and west and, strange to say, only one toward the side aisles, which thus lack continuous supports for their diagonal ribs. The outer walls of the side aisles are formed by a blind arcade of five arches, surmounted by a projecting balcony or corridor and a clerestory subdivided by its tracery into four arches and three cusped circles. The nave triforium consists of a double arcade with a gallery running between (one of the very rare examples in Spain). Each bay has in the triforium four open and two closed arches, surmounted by two quatrefoils. The clerestory rises above, divided by marvelously slender shafts into six compartments and three cusped circles in the apex of the arch. Here shine, in dazzling raiment and with ecstatic expressions, the saints and martyrs ordered in the fifteenth century from Burgos for the sum of 20,000 maravedis.
Throughout all the glazed wall surfaces we find evidence of the anxiety that overtook their reckless projectors. All but the upper cusps of the windows of the side aisles have been filled in by masonry, painted with saints and evangelists in place of the translucent ones originally placed here. The lower portions of the triforium lights have been blocked up and also the two outer arches of the clerestory. The light, clustered piers and slender, double flying buttresses could not accomplish the gigantic task of supporting the great height above. Nor could the ingenious strengthening of the stone walls (consisting of ashlar inside and out, facing intermediate rubble) by iron clamps supply the requisite firmness.
It seems doubly unfortunate that the choir stalls should occupy the position they do here, when there is such liberal space in the three bays east of the crossing in front of the altar. The stone of their exterior backing is cold and gray beside the ochre warmth of the surrounding piers. The classic Plateresque statues and bas-reliefs, as well as the exquisitely carved, Florentine decoration, seems strangely out of place under the Gothic loveliness above. The trascoro itself is warmer in color, but of the extravagant later period. Its pilasters, spandrels, and band-courses are filled with elaborate and fine Florentine ornamentation, while the niches themselves, with high reliefs representing the Annunciation, the Nativity, and the Adoration of the Magi, are not quite free from a certain Gothic feeling. Above, great statues of Church Fathers weigh heavily on the delicate work and smaller scale below.
The carving of the double tier of walnut choir stalls is at once restrained and rich. Beautiful Gothic tracery surmounts in both tiers the figures that fill the panels above the seats. Below are characters from the Old Testament,--Daniel, Jeremiah, Abel, David busily playing his harp, Joshua "Dux Isri," Moses with splendid big horns and tablets, Tobias with his little fish slit up the belly. Above stand firmly full-length figures of the Apostles and saints. With the exception of some of the work near the entrance, which is practically Renaissance in feeling, all this carving is late Gothic from the last part of the fifteenth century and executed by the masters Fadrique, John of Malines, and Rodrigo Aleman. Two of the stalls, more elevated and pronounced than the rest, are for the hereditary canons of the Cathedral, the King of Leon and the Marquis of Astorga. Excellent as they are, these stalls are not nearly so rich in design nor beautiful in execution as the Italian Renaissance choir stalls, in the Convent of San Marcos directly outside the city walls, carved some decades later by the Magister Guillielmo Dosel.
The crossing is splendidly broad, the transepts appearing, as one glances north and south, as much the main arms of the cross as do the nave and choir. The southern arm is quite new, having been completely rebuilt by D. Juan Madrazo and D. Demetrio Amador de los Rios. The glazing of its window and the arabesques cannot be compared to those of the original fabric in the northern arm. The four piers of the crossing, though slender and graceful, carry full, logical complements of shafts for the support of the various vaulting ribs, intersecting at their apexes.
The retablo above the high altar is in its simplicity as refreshing as the light and sunniness of the church. In place of the customary gaudy carving, it merely consists of a series of painted fifteenth-century tablets set in Gothic frames. Simple rejas close the western bays and a florid Gothic trasaltar, the eastern termination. Directly back of the altar lies a noble and dignified figure, the founder of the church, King Ordoño II. At his feet is a little dog, looking for all the world like a sucking pig in a butcher's window. And above him is an ancient and most curious Byzantine relief of the Crucifixion. The lions and castles of his kingdom surround the old king. The greater portion of the carving must belong to the oldest in the church.
In looking at the vaulting and considering the difficulty of planning the "girola" or ambulatory, one realizes that such construction could only be the outcome of many years of study, experiment and inspiration. Perfection means long previous schooling and experience. The apsidal chapels that radiate from it have glass differing in excellence. Here and there frescoes of the thirteenth century line these earliest walls. It is surprising in how many different places old sepulchres are to be found, all more or less similar in their general design and belonging to the period of transition from the Byzantine to the Gothic, yet each denoting the building period of the place where it stands. Some of the subjects of the carving are most curious: a hog playing the bagpipes, the devil in the garb of a father confessor, tempting a penitent; or again, a woman suckling an ass. Saint Froila lies on one side of the altar. Not only his sanctity but even his authenticity were disputed by various disbelievers in the city, prior to his being brought to this final resting-place. The matter was decided by placing the body in question on an ass's back, whereupon the sagacious animal took his holy burden to the spot where it deserved burial.
In the Capilla de Nuestra Señora del Dado, or "of the die," stands a Virgin with the face of the Christ child ever bleeding, it is said, since the time when an unlucky gambler in a fit of despair threw his dice against the Babe.
Directly opposite Ordoño's tomb lies the Countess Sancha, who, in a burst of religious enthusiasm, decided to leave her considerable worldly goods to the Church instead of to her nephew. This was more than he could stand, and he murdered her. Below her figure he is represented, receiving his just reward in being torn to pieces by wild horses.
To the north, a florid Gothic portal leads on a higher level to the Chapel of Santiago. This has been, and is still being, restored. Its three vaults are differently arched, the ribs not being carried down against the side walls to the floor, but met by broad corbels supported by curious figures. The stonework is cold and gray in comparison to the church proper.
Separating the northern entrance from the cloisters is a row of chapels, leading one into the other and crowded with tombs and sculpture. There are few more complete cloisters in Spain. Large and elaborate, they are a curious mixture of the old Gothic and the Renaissance restorations of the sixteenth century. Ancient Gothic tombs, their archivolts crowded with angels, pierce the interior walls, while the vaults themselves are most elaborately groined, the arches and vaulting being later filled with Renaissance bosses and rosettes. In the sunny courtyard are piled up the Renaissance turrets and sculptures that once usurped on the façades the places of the older Gothic ornamentation. The northern portal itself is practically hidden by the chapels and cloisters. It is fine Gothic work. A Virgin and Child form a mullion in its centre, while very worldly-looking women parade in its archivolts. Everywhere are the arms of the United Kingdoms. A great portion of the ancient tapestry blue and Veronese red coloring is still preserved, throwing out the old Gothic figures in their true tints.
This aerial tabernacle, so rich and yet so simple, lies in the heart of a city so fabulously old that the Cathedral itself belongs rather to its later days. The old houses and streets have a dryness and close smell like that in the ancient sepulchres of parched countries. Monuments and walls and turrets of Rome crumble around the houses and vaults of Byzantium. The naïve frescoes and carvings of the eighth and ninth centuries seem to look down with childlike wonder and amazement on the pedestrians now crowding the patterned pavements, or pressing against the shady sides of the time-worn arches.
The worshipers who tread the narrow lanes leading to and from the altar have changed, but little else. The square, mediæval castles with their angular towers still command the approach of the main thoroughfares. The crabbed old watchman with lantern and stick under his cape treads his doddering gait across the courtyards through the night hours, crying after the peal of the bell above, "Las doce han dado y sereno," "Las trece han dado y aleviendo," "Las quince han dado y nublano," just as in the middle ages, so that the good peasant may know time and weather and merely turn in his bed, if neither crops nor creatures need care.
Santa Maria de Regla too stands to-day as she stood in the middle ages, a monument to the care and affection of her children. She has the same spirituality, harmony of proportions, slenderness, and purity of lines, and she looks down and blesses us to-day with the same serenity and queenly grace which she wore in the fourteenth century. She is the finest Gothic cathedral in Spain.
[Illustration: Photo by J. Lacoste, Madrid
CATHEDRAL OF TOLEDO]
I withdrew at once with the Morisco into the cloisters of the Cathedral.--Don Quixote.
The peace of death is over Toledo, unbroken by any invasion of modern thought or new architecture since her last deep sighs mingled with the distant echoes of the middle ages. But she still wears the mantle of her imperial glory. She sleeps in the fierce, beating sunlight of the twentieth century like the enchanted princess of fairy tales, undisturbed by, and unconscious of, the world around her.
The atmosphere is transparent; the sky spreads from lapis-lazuli to a cobalt field back of the snow-capped, turquoise Sierra de Gredo mountains, while a clear streak of lemon color throws out the sharp silhouette of the battlements and towers.
There is sadness and desolation in the decay, a pathetically forlorn and tragical widowhood, strangely affecting to the senses.
A blackened ruin, lonely and forsaken, Already wrapt in winding-sheets of sand; So lies Toledo till the dead awaken,-- A royal spoil of Time's resistless hand.
Toledo! The name rings with history, romance and legend. Enthralling images of the past rise before one and vanish like the ghosts of Macbeth. Capital of Goth, of Moslem, and of Christian; mightiest of hierarchical seats, city of monarch and priest, she has worn a double diadem. Gautier says, "Jamais reine antique, pas même Cléopatre, qui buvait des perles, jamais courtisane Vénitienne du temps de Titien n'eut un écrin plus étincelant, un trousseau plus riche que Notre Dame de Tolède." But the flame of life which once burned warm and bright is now extinct and all her glory has vanished. Neglected churches, convents, palaces, and ruins lie huddled together, a stern and solemn vision of the past, waiting with the silence of the tomb, broken only by the continual tolling of her hoarse bells.
The city has a superb situation. Once seen, it is forever impressed upon the memory. The hills on which it stands rise abruptly from the surrounding campagna, which bakes brown and barren and crisp under the scorching rays of the sun, and stretches away to the distant mountains, vast and uninterrupted in its solitude and dreariness. It is "pobre de solemnidad,"--solemnly poor, as runs the touching phrase in Spanish. There is no joy and freshness of vegetation, no glistening of wet leaves, no scent of flowers. You read thirst in the plains, hunger in the soil-denuded hills. All is naked and bare, without a softening line or gentler shadow, lying fallow in spring, unwatered in drought, and ungarnered at harvest time.
The Tagus rushes round the city in the shape of a horseshoe, confining and protecting it as the Wear does the towers of Durham. It boils and eddies 'twixt its narrow, rocky confines, hurrying from the gloomy shadows to the sunshine below, through which it slowly sweeps, murky and coffee-colored, to the horizon, no life between its flat banks, no commerce to mark it as a highway.
You pass over the high-arched Alcantara Bridge, which the Campeador and his kinsman, Alvar Fanez, crossed with twelve hundred horsemen at their back, to demand justice from their sovereign. A broad terrace crawls like a serpent up the steep incline to the city gates. A forest of soaring steeples rises above you, topped by the square bulk of the Alcazar.
The city smells sleepy. The narrow streets, or rather alleys, of the town wind tortuously around the stucco façades, with no apparent starting-point or destination, as confused as a skein of worsted after a kitten has played with it. Thus were they laid out by the wise Arabs, to afford shade at all hours of the day. At every corner, one runs into some detail of historical or artistic interest,--history and architecture here wander hand in hand.
Huge, wooden doors, closely studded with scallop nails as big as a man's fist, proud escutcheons of noble races lost to all save Spain's history; charming glimpses of interior courtyards and gardens glittering fresh in their emerald coloring, and sweet with the scent of orange blossoms; Gothic crenelations, Renaissance ironwork and railing, and Moorish capitals and ornamentation, all pell-mell, the styles of six centuries often appearing in the same building. More than a hundred churches and chapels and forty monasteries crumble side by side within the small radius of the city. Half of its area was once covered by religious buildings or mortmain property.
The church, be it a grand cathedral or the humble steeple of some little hamlet, is always the connecting link between past and present. It has been the highest artistic expression of the people, and it remains an eloquent witness to continuity and tradition. It is what makes later ages most forcibly "remember," for it seeks to embody and satisfy the greatest need of the human heart.
The history of a great cathedral church of Spain is so closely connected with the civil life of its city that one cannot be thoroughly studied without some familiarity with the other. Spanish cathedrals differ in this respect from their great English and French sisters. In England, cathedrals were built and owned by the clergy, they belonged to the priests, they were surrounded and hedged in from the outside world by their extensive lawns and cloisters, refectories, chapter houses, bishops' palaces, and numerous monastic buildings. They were shut off from the rest of the world by high walls. In France, the cathedrals were the centre of civic life; their organs were the heart-throbs of the people; their bells were notes of warning. The very houses of the artisans climbed up to their sides and nestled for protection between the buttresses of the great Mother Church. Notre Dame d'Amiens, for instance, was the church of a commune, what Walter Pater calls a "people's church." They belonged to the people more than to the clergy. They were a civil rather than an ecclesiastical growth, essentially the layman's glory.
[Illustration: KEY OF PLAN OF TOLEDO CATHEDRAL
A. Chapel of Saint Blase. B. Chapel of the Parish of Saint Peter. C. Octagon. D. Chapel of the Virgin of the Sanctuary. E. Large Sacristy. F. Court of the Hall of Accounts. G. Chapel of the New Kings. H. Chapel of the Master of Santiago, D. Alvaro de Luna. I. Chapel of Saint Ildefonso. K. Chapter House. L. Chapel of the Old Kings or of the Holy Cross. M. Capilla Mayor. N. Chapel of the Tower or of the Dean. O. Mozarabic Chapel. P. Choir. Q. Portal of the Lions. R. Portal of the Olive, or Gate of La Llana. S. Portal of the Choir. T. Portal of the Little Bread. V. Portal of the Visitation. W. Portal of the Tower or Gate of Hell. X. Portal of the Scriveners or of Judgment.]
In Spain, the church belonged to both. Municipal and ecclesiastical history were one and the same, going hand in hand in bloody strife or peaceful union,--the city was the body, the cathedral its animating soul. The cathedrals were meant, not for prayer alone, but to live in,--they were for festivals, meetings, thanksgivings, for surging, excited crowds. The church was an imperium in imperio. It was the rallying place in all great undertakings or excitements. Here the Cortes often met, the great church conclaves assembled, the mystical Autos or sacred plays were performed, in them soldiers gathered, prepared for battle, edicts were published, sovereigns were first proclaimed, and allegiance was sworn; kings were christened, anointed, and buried. The troubled murmurings of the lower classes were here first voiced. They were the art galleries; here were displayed their finest paintings, statues and tapestries; they were even museums of natural history, and exhibited the finest examples of their wood-carving and glass-work, and the iron and silversmith's arts. It is thus easy to see that the political history of Toledo becomes vital in connection with its Cathedral church.
The history of Toledo dates back to Roman days,--we find Pliny referring to the city as the metropolis of Carpentania. She was among the first cities of Spain to embrace Christianity. All the barbarians, with the exception of the Franks, were Arians, but the last Gothic ruler in Spain to withstand the Roman faith was Leovgild, who reigned in the last half of the sixth century. He was also their first able administrator, the first who consistently strove to bring order out of the chaos of warring tribes and conflicting authorities. Contemporaries describe his palace at Toledo, his throne and apparel, and his council chamber, as of truly royal magnificence. It was reserved to his son Reccared to change the history of Spain by publicly announcing his conversion to the Roman faith before a council of Roman and Arian bishops held in Toledo in 587, at the same time inviting them to exchange their views fearlessly and, as many as would, to follow him. The Goths were never difficult to convert, and many of the bishops and of the lords who were present embraced the Catholic faith, to which a majority of the people already belonged. Gregory the Great, hearing of the success of Reccared's gentle and liberal proselytism, wrote to him: "What shall I do at the Last Judgment when I arrive with empty hands, and your Excellency followed by a flock of faithful souls, converted by persuasion?" He summoned a third council at Toledo in 589, and in concert with nearly seventy bishops, regulated the rites and discipline of the Church, at the same time excluding the Jews from all employments. In royal Toledo Reccared was anointed with holy oil, and he substituted the Latin for the Gothic tongue in divine service, where Isidore was the first to use it. In daily life Latin soon replaced Gothic. King Wamba built the great walls round the city, and King Roderick held his glorious tournament inside them.
Greater than any fame of Gothic monarch was that of the Church Councils which met here to determine the course of early dogma and shape the destinies of the larger part of Christendom.
The most salient figure during the rule of the Gothic kings was Saint Ildefonso, who quite overshadows his royal contemporaries. In 711 the Moors conquered the city, which then became a dependency of the Caliphs of Damascus and Bagdad until a Moorish prince shook off the foreign yoke. Independent Arab princes ruled, with Toledo as capital of their empire, until Alfonso VI, King of Castile and Leon, in 1085, finally conquered it for himself and his successors.
During the reigns of the early Castilian kings, we find names connected with the city's history which became famous all over Spain. The Cid was the city's first Alcaide. Alfonso el Batallador and Pedro el Cruel stand out in sombre relief, and Toledo was the cradle of the dramatic Comunidades' rising, and the scene of the noble death of their patriotic leader Padella. The streets ran with blood, and the walls spoke of glorious resistance before the Flemish emperor had crushed the liberties of the people.
We have a description of the brilliant pageant of Ferdinand and Isabella's entry after defeating the king of Portugal. "The Prince of Aragon was in full armour on his war horse and Isabella riding a beautiful mule, splendidly caparisoned, the bridle being held by two noble pages. Followed by their gorgeous retinue they rode slowly towards the Cathedral, while the highest dignitaries of the Church, the archbishop, himself a mitred king, the canons, and the clergy, in their pontifical garments, preceded by the Cross, came forth from the Puerta del Perdon to receive them. On each side of the arch above the doorway were two angels, and in the centre a young maiden richly clothed, with a golden crown on her head, to represent the image of 'La Bendita Madre de Dios, nuestra Señora.' When Ferdinand and Isabella and all the company had gathered around, the angels began to sing. The following day the trophies of war were presented to the Cathedral."
During the period immediately following the reign of the Catholic Kings, Toledo reached her highest prosperity. She numbered as many as 200,000 inhabitants;--to-day she has only 20,000. Glorious processions swept through her streets, the proud knights of the military orders of Alcantara, Calatrava, and Santiago, black-robed Dominican inquisitors, executioners, royal chaplains and major-domos, the Councils of the Indies, Castilian grandees, Roman princes and cardinals, brawling Flemish and Burgundian nobles, German landsknechts, and great Catholic ambassadors.
Toledo received her death-blow when Philip II, unable to brook the haughty claims of the Toledan archbishops, and feeling his power second to theirs, finally, in 1560, moved the capital of his realm to Madrid. Toledo's annals grew dark. So merciless was the Tribunal of the Inquisition that under its vigilant eye 3327 processes were disposed of in little more than a year. So Toledo fell from her former greatness.
The site of the Cathedral in the very heart of the city is by no means dominant. The church lies so low that even the spire is inconspicuous in the landscape. On three sides adjacent buildings completely bar all view or approach. The only free perspective is on the fourth side, from the steps of the Ayuntamiento across the square.
The inscription above the door of the city hall, with its trenchant advice to the magistrates, is well worth notice:--
Nobles discretos varones, Qui gobernais a Toledo En aquatos escalones Codicia, temor y miedo. Por los comunes provechos Deschad los particulares Puez vos hezo Dios pilares De tan requisimos lechos Estat vermes y derechos.
In the streets, the alcazerias which wind around the sides of the Cathedral, the rich silk guild traded. Here were shipped the goods that freighted vessels sailing for the American colonies.
During the Visigothic reign in Toledo, the Cathedral site was occupied by a Christian temple. It was transformed by the Moors after their occupancy of the city into their principal mosque; there they were still permitted to carry on their worship, according to the terms of the treaty made on their surrender of the city to King Alfonso IV in 1085. A year afterwards King Alfonso went off on a campaign, leaving the capital in charge of his French queen, Constance, and the Archbishop Bernard, recently sent to Toledo at the King's request by the Abbot of Cluny. No sooner was King Alfonso outside the city walls than the regents turned the Moors out of the church. The Archbishop arrived with a throng of Christian citizens, battered down the main entrance, threw the Moslem objects of worship into the gutters, and set in their place the Cross and the Virgin Mary. When the news of this outrage reached the ears of the King, he returned in wrath to Toledo, swearing he would burn both wife and prelate who had dared to break the oath he had so solemnly sworn. The Moslems, sagely fearing later vengeance would be wreaked upon them should they permit matters to take their course, besought the returning sovereign to restrain his wrath while they released him from his oath,--"Whereat he had great joy, and, riding on into the city, the matter ended peacefully."
The appearance of this fanatic Cluny monk is of the greatest importance as heralding a new influence in the development and history of Spanish ecclesiastical architecture. His coming marks the introduction of a foreign style of building and a revolution in the previous national methods, known as "obra de los Godos," or work of the Goths. Further, with the gradual arrival of French ecclesiastics from Cluny and Citeaux, came also a greater interference from Rome in the management of the Spanish Church, and a radical limitation of the former power of the Peninsula's arrogant prelates. Owing to the new influence, the Italian mass-book was soon presented in place of the ancient Gothic ritual and breviary. The foreign churchmen likewise aided in uniting sovereign, clergy, and nobility in common cause against the Saracen infidels now so firmly ensconced in the Peninsula. Spanish art had previously felt only national influences; now, through the door opened by the monks, it received potent foreign elements.
Spain had been far too much occupied with internal strife and political dissension to have had breathing spell or opportunity for the development of the fine arts and the building of churches. The passion for building which the French monks brought with them awoke entirely dormant qualities in the Spaniard, which in the early Romanesque, but especially in the Gothic edifices, produced beautiful, but essentially exotic fruits. First in the days of the Renaissance the architecture showed features which might be termed original and national. With the Cluniacs came not only French artisans but Flemish, German, and Italian, all taking a hand in, and lending their influences to the great works of the new art.
Nothing remains of the old Moorish-Christian house of worship. It was torn down by order of Saint Ferdinand (he had laid the foundation stone of Burgos as early as 1221), who laid the corner stone of the present edifice with great ceremony, assisted by the Archbishop, in the month of August, 1227 (seven years prior to the commencement of Salisbury and Amiens). The building was practically completed in 1493, during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, the most illustrious epoch of Spanish history. Additions and alterations injurious to the harmony and symmetry of the building were made till the end of the seventeenth century, and again continued during the eighteenth. It thus represents the architectural inspiration and decadence of nearly six hundred years.
In style it belongs to the group of three great churches, Burgos, Toledo and Leon, which were based upon the constructional principles and decorative features termed Gothic. In some respects these churches embodied to a highly developed extent the organic principles of the style, in others, they fell far short of a clear comprehension of them. None of them had the beauty or the purity of the greatest of their French sisters. Burgos may be said to be most consistently Gothic in all its details, but neither Toledo nor Leon was free from the influence of Moorish art, which was indeed developing and flowering under Moslem rule in the south of the Peninsula, at the time when Gothic churches were lifting their spires into the blue of northern skies under the guidance and inspiration of the French masters. In many respects the Gothic could not express itself similarly in Spain and France,--climatic conditions differed, and, consequently, the architecture which was to suit their needs. In France, Gothic building tended towards a steadily increasing elimination of all wall surfaces. The weight and thrusts, previously carried by walls, were met by a more and more skillfully developed framework of piers and flying buttresses. Such a development was not practical for Spain nor was it understood. The widely developed fields for glass would have admitted the heat of the sun too freely, whereas the broad surfaces of wall-masonry gave coolness and shade. Nor were the sharply sloping roofs for the easy shedding of snow necessary in Spain. In French and English Gothic churches, the light, pointed spire is the ornamental feature of the composition, whereas in the Spanish, with a few exceptions, the towers become heavy and square.
None of the three Cathedrals in question impresses us as the outcome of Spanish architectural growth, but seems rather a direct importation. They have the main features of a style with which their architects were familiar and in which they had long since taken the initial steps. They are working with a practically developed system, whose infancy and early growth had been followed elsewhere.
While in the twelfth, and the early portion of the thirteenth century, Frenchmen were gradually evolving the new system of ecclesiastical architecture, the Spaniards, destined to surpass them, were to all purposes still producing nothing but Romanesque buildings, borrowing certain ornamental or constructional features of the new style, but in so slight and illogical a degree, that their style remained based upon its old principles. They employed the pointed arch between arcades and vaulting, and unlike the French, threw a dome or cimborio over the intersection of nave and transepts. In some instances we find a regular French quadripartite vault at the crossing, but such changes are not sufficient to term the cathedrals of the period (Tudela, Tarragona, Zamora, and Lerida) Gothic. They remain historically, rather than artistically, interesting. With the second quarter of the thirteenth century, comes the change.
In style Toledo corresponds most closely to the early Gothic of the north of France. Its plan reminds one forcibly of Bourges, though it is far more ambitious in size. Owing to the long period of its building, it bears late Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque features, while traces of Moorish influence are not wanting.
The Cathedral of Toledo was built in an imaginative, creative and passionate age,--an age when the ordinary mason was a master builder as well as sculptor, stimulated by local affection, pride and piety. The results of his work were tremendous,--his finished product was a storehouse of art. Artists of all nations had a hand in the work. Bermudez mentions 149 names of those who embellished the Cathedral during six centuries. Here worked Borgoña, Berruguete, Cespedes, and Villalpando, Copin, Vergara Egas, and Covarrubias. It is rather difficult to analyze their genius. They were not naturally artists, as were the French and Italians; they did not create as easily, but were rather stimulated by a more naïve craving for vast dimensions. With this we find interwoven in places the sparkling, jewel-like intricacy and play of light and shade so natural to the Moorish artisan, and the sombre, overpowering solemnity of the warlike Spanish cavalier.
It is necessary for a people at all times to find expression for its æsthetic life. Architecture, like literature, reflects the sentiments and tendencies of a nation's mind. As truly as Don Quixote, Don Juan, or the Cid express them, so do the stories told by Toledo, Leon, or Burgos. They reproduce the passions, the dreams, the imagination, and the absurdities of the age which created them.
Toledo's first architect, who superintended the work for more than half a century, was named Perez (d. 1285). He was followed by Rodrigo, Alfonso, Alvar Gomez, Annequin de Egas, Martin Sanchez, Juan Guas, and Enrique de Egas. Hand in hand with the architects, worked the high priests.
The Archbishop of Toledo is the Primate of Spain. Mighty prelates have sat on that throne, and the chapter was once one of the most celebrated in the world. The Primate of Toledo has the Pope as well as the King of Spain for honorary canons, and his church takes precedence of all others in the land. The offices attached to his person are numerous. As late as the time of Napoleon's conquest of the city, fourteen dignitaries, twenty-seven canons, and fifty prebends, besides a host of chaplains and subaltern priests, followed in the train of the Metropolitan. At the close of the fifteenth century, his revenues exceeded 80,000 ducats (about $720,000), while the gross amount of those of the subordinate beneficiaries of his church rose to 180,000. This amount, or 12,000,000 reals, had not decreased at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In the middle ages he was followed by more horse and foot than either the Grand Master of Santiago or the Constable of Castile. When he threw his influence into the balance, the pretender to the throne was often victorious. He held jurisdiction over fifteen large and populous towns besides numbers of inferior places.
Many who occupied the episcopal throne of Toledo ruled Spain, not only by virtue of the prestige their high office gave them, but through extraordinary genius and remarkable attainments. They were great alike in war and in peace. Many of them combined broadness of view and real learning with purity of morals. They founded universities and libraries, framed useful laws, stimulated noble impulses, corrected abuses, and promoted reforms. Popes called them to Rome to ask their advice in affairs of the Church. Bright in the history of Spain shine the names of such prelates as Rodriguez, Tenorio, Fonseca, Ximenez, Mendoza, Tavera, and Lorenzana.
From the tenth to the sixteenth centuries Castile was far less bigoted than other European nations, for, of all the daughters of the Mother Church, Spain was the most independent. Her kings and her primate were naturally her champions, ever ready and defiant. King James I even went so far as to cut out the tongue of a too meddlesome bishop. From early Gothic days to the time when Ferdinand began to dream of Spain as a power beyond the Iberian Peninsula, no kingdom in Europe was less disposed to brook the interference of the Pope. Ferdinand and Isabella thwarted him in insisting upon their right to appoint their own candidates for the high offices of the Spanish church, and the Pope was obliged to give way.
The figure we constantly encounter in the thrilling tilts between Rome and Spanish prelates is the Archbishop of Toledo. Like Richelieu and Wolsey, Ximenez and Mendoza towered above their time, and their great spirits still seem present within their church. Ximenez, better known in English as Cardinal Cisneros, rose to his high office much against his will from the obscurity of a humble monk. The peremptory orders of the Pope were necessary to make him leave his cell and become successively Archbishop of Toledo, Grand Chancellor of Castile, Inquisitor General, Cardinal, Confessor to Queen Isabella, Minister of Ferdinand the Catholic, and Regent of the Kingdom of Charles V. He was "an austere priest, a profound politician, a powerful intellect, a will of iron, and an inflexible and unconquerable soul; one of the greatest figures in modern history; one of the loftiest types of the Spanish character. Notwithstanding the greatness thrust upon him, he preserved the austere practices of the simple monk. Under a robe of silk and purple, he wore the hard shirt and frock of St. Francis. In his apartments, embellished with costly hangings, he slept on the floor, with only a log of wood for his pillow. Ferdinand owed to him that he preserved Castile, and Charles V, that he became King of Spain. He did not boast when, pointing to the Cordon of St. Francis, he explained, 'It is with this I bridle the pride of the aristocracy of Castile.'"
History may accuse him of the unpardonable expulsion of the Moriscos, and the retention of the Inquisition as well as its introduction into the New World,--but what he did was done from the strength of his convictions and according to what, in the light of his age, seemed the best for his country and his Church. He was perhaps even greater as a Spaniard than as a churchman. His conceptions were all grand, and he was as versatile as he was great. Victor in the greatest of all Spanish toils, he executed the polyglot version of the Scriptures, the most stupendous literary achievement of his age. Fitting his greatness is the simplicity of his epitaph:--
Condideram musis Franciscus grande lyceum, Condor in exiguo nunc ego sarcophago. Praetextam junxi sacco, galeamque galero, Frater, Dux, Praesul, Cardineusque pater. Quin virtute mea junctum est diadema cucullo, Cum mihi regnanti paruit Hesperia.
The figure of Cardinal Mendoza stands out clear and strong in the final struggle with Granada. It was he who first planted the Cross where the Crescent had waved for six centuries, and he was the first to counsel Isabella to assist the great discoverer. His keen intellect made him lend a ready ear and friendly hand to the rapid development of the science of his time and the fast-spreading taste for literature.
And so the line of Toledo's illustrious bishops continues,--leaders of the church militant, like the Montagues and Capulets, they fought from the mere habit of fighting, but they seldom stained their swords in an unworthy cause.
There is a great discrepancy between the interior and the exterior of the Cathedral. The former is as grand as the latter is insignificant and unworthy. The scale is tremendous. Only Milan and Seville cover a greater area, if the Cathedral is considered in connection with its cloisters. Cologne comes next to it in size. It runs from west to east, with nave and double side aisles, ending in a semicircular apse with a double ambulatory. As is characteristic of Spanish churches, it is astonishingly wide for its length,--being 204 feet wide and 404 feet long. The nave is 98 feet high and 44 feet wide, while the outer aisles are respectively 26 and 32 feet across.
The exterior, with the exception of the ornamental portions of the portals and a few carvings, is all built of a Berroqueña granite. The interior is of a kind of mouse-colored limestone taken from the quarries of Oliquelas near Toledo. Like many limestones, it is soft when first quarried, but hardens with time and exposure.
The impression of the exterior is strangely disappointing. Imposing and massive, but irregular, squat, and encumbered by surrounding edifices clinging to its masonry. An indifferent husk, encasing a noble interior. Only one tower is completed, and no two portions of the decoration are symmetrical. The exterior has no governing scheme, no "idée maîtresse," no individual style, and is the outgrowth of no definite period. Successive generations of peace or war have enriched or destroyed its masonry. You stop with an exclamation of admiration in front of certain details of the exterior; before others, you only feel astonishment. The want of order and unity in the execution of its various portions and elevations is distressing.
Order and harmony may be preserved, even where an edifice is carried on by successive ages, each of which imparts to its work the stamp of its own developing skill and imagination. Very few of the great cathedrals were begun and completed in one style. Most of the great French churches show traces of the earlier Norman or Romanesque; most of the English Gothic, traces of the Norman or of the different periods of English Gothic architecture; but one dominating scheme has been followed by the consecutive architects. The lack of such a governing and restraining principle is felt in the exterior of Toledo. Further than this, although successive wars and religious fanaticism have with their destructive fury injured so many of the beautiful statues and exquisite carvings and much of the stained glass of the French and English religious establishments, still the architecture itself has in the main been left undisturbed. In Toledo, there is hardly a portion of the early structure and decoration of the lower, visible part of the Cathedral which has not been altered or torn down by the various architects of the last three centuries.
As an obvious result, the portions of the exterior which are interesting are individual features, and not a unified scheme; and they are interesting historically, rather than in relation to or in dependence upon one another.
The west front, which is the principal façade, the various doorways and completed tower form the most interesting portions of the exterior.
The west front is flanked by two projecting towers, dissimilar in design. To the south is the uncompleted one, containing the Mozarabic chapel, roofed by an octagonal cupola and surmounted by a lantern, strangely betraying in exterior form its Byzantine ancestry.
[Illustration: Photo by J. Lacoste, Madrid
CATHEDRAL OF TOLEDO
The choir stalls]
To the north rises the spire which commands the city and the Cathedral of Toledo. It was begun in 1380 and completed in sixty years,--no long time when we take into account its size and detail and the carefulness of its construction. Rodrigo Alfonso and Alvar Gomez were the architects, and the Cardinals Pedro Tenorio and Tavera directed the work. Although it lacks the soaring grace of the towers of Burgos, it possesses quiet strength and a majestic dignity, and the transitions between its various stories have been executed with a skill scarcely less than that shown in the older tower of Chartres. It is in fact full of a character of its own. Divided into three parts, it rises to a height of some three hundred feet and terminates in a huge cross. The principal building material is the hard but easily carved Berroqueña granite, with certain portions finished in marble and slate. The lower part, which is square, has its faces pierced by interlacing Gothic arches, windows of different shapes, ornamental coats-of-arms and marble medallions. It is crowned by a railing and, at the corners where the transition to the hexagon occurs, by stone pyramids. The central part is hexagonal in plan and ornamented by arches and crocketed finials. Above it rises the slate spire terminating under the cross in a conical pyramid, added after a fire in the year 1662. The spire is curiously and uniquely encircled by three collars of pointed iron spikes, intended to symbolize the crowns of thorns.
The great bells of the Cathedral peal from this tower, among them the huge San Eugenio, better known, though, by the name "Campana gorda," or the Big-bellied Bell, weighing 1543 arobes (about 17 tons) and put up the same day it was cast in the year 1753. Its fame is shown by the old lines, which enumerate the wonders of Spain as the--
Campana la de Toledo, Iglesia la de Leon, Reloj el de Benavente, Rollos los de Villalon.
Fifteen shoemakers could sit under it and draw out their cobbler's thread without touching each other. A legend relates that "the sound of it reached, when first it was rung, even to heaven. Saint Peter fancied that the tones came from his own church in Rome, but on ascertaining that this was not the case, and that Toledo possessed the largest of all bells, he got angry and flung down one of his keys upon it, thus causing a crack in the bell which is still to be seen."
Not only does the hoarse croak of Gorda's voice remind the tardy worshiper of the approaching hour of prayer, but it tells each and all of the "barrio" where the fire is raging. Though the prudent Toledan may not know the art of signing his name or reading his Pater Noster, full well he knows, whenever Gorda speaks, whether the danger is at his own door or at his neighbor's.
The lower portion of the façade between the towers is composed of a fine triple portal dating from 1418 to 1450, which, despite later changes, is still an excellent piece of Gothic work. It contains over seventy statues. Above, the façade is composed of an ornamental screen inexpressive of the structure and the internal arrangement of the edifice. A railing separated the "lonja," or enclosure immediately in front of the entrances, from the street outside. The central entrance is the Gate of Pardon; to the north is the Gate of the Tower, also called the Gate of Hell; to the south is the Gate of the Scriveners or of Judgment. The middle door is the largest and most important. For centuries the steps leading to it have been climbed and descended by the pregnant women of Toledo, to insure an easy parturition.
The doors themselves are covered with most interesting bronze work, showing how far the Spaniards had in later centuries developed the art of their skillful Saracenic predecessors. The arch of the Gate of Pardon is exquisitely formed and its moldings and recesses are profusely decorated with finely chiseled figures and ornaments. Each of the three doors is surmounted by a relief, that over the Pardon representing the Virgin presenting the chasuble to Saint Ildefonso, who is kneeling at her feet.
The Scriveners' Gate derives its name from having been the door of entry for the scriveners when they came to the Cathedral to take their oath, but, though they had a gate for their own particular use, they did not seem to enjoy an especially good reputation. According to an old verse, their pen and paper would drop from their hands to dance an independent fandango long before their souls ever entered the Kingdom of Heaven.
Above the door is an inscription commemorative of the great exploits of the Catholic Sovereigns and Cardinal Mendoza and of the expulsion of the Jews from the Kingdoms of Castile, Aragon and Sicily.
The principal feature above the doors is a classical gable which extends the whole width of the façade, its field filled with colossal pieces of sculpture representing the Last Supper. Our Lord and the Apostles are seated, each in his own niche. It recalls the carving over the northeast entrance of Notre Dame du Puy. Nothing could be more ineffective and out of place than to crown this portion of the Gothic building with a Greek gable end. Finally, above the gable, with a curious pair of arches built out in front of it, comes a circular rose almost thirty feet in diameter, of early fourteenth-century work, this again being surmounted by late eighteenth-century Baroque additions.
There are two doorways on the south side. The Gate of the Lions, which forms the southern termination to the transept, is of course named from the lions standing over the enclosing rail directly in front of it, each supporting its shield. Here you have a bit of the finest work of the exterior, a most exquisite specimen of the Gothic work of the fifteenth century. Its detail and finish are remarkable, and few pieces of Spanish sculpture of its time surpass it in elegance and grace. The larger figures are most interesting, varying greatly in execution and character. Those of the inner arches are stiff and still struggling for freedom from tradition, but of admirably carved drapery,--while the bishops in the niches to the right and left have faces radiating kindness and patriarchal benignity, faces we meet and bless in our own walks of life to-day. The bronze Renaissance doors are as fine as their setting,--splendid examples of the metal stamping of the sixteenth century, and the wooden carving on their inner surfaces is equally fine. The bronze knocker might easily have come from the workshop of the great Florentine goldsmith.
The Gate of La Llana, west of the Gate of the Lions, is as ludicrous in its eighteenth-century dress as the gable of the west façade.
On the north side of the church we find three gates; in the centre, forming the northern entrance to the transept, the Puerta del Reloi[c], and east and west of it, the Puerta de Santa Catalina, and the Puerta de la Presentacion.
You leave the outside with a feeling of distress at having viewed a patchwork of architectural composition, feebly decorating and badly expressing a noble and mighty frame. You enter into a light of celestial softness and purity. It seems an old and faded light. As soon as you regain vision in the cool, refreshing twilight, you experience the long-deferred exultation. You are amid those that pray,--the poor and sorrowing, those that would be strengthened. Here voices sink to a reverent whisper, for curiosity is hushed into awe. "I could never fathom how a man dares to lift up his voice to preach in a cathedral,--what has he to say that will not be an anti-climax?" says Robert Louis Stevenson, and you are struck by the force of his remark when you compare the droning voice coming from one corner of the building with the glorious expression of man's faith rising above and around you. The quiet majesty and silent eloquence of the one accentuates the feebleness of the other.
For the interior is as simple and restrained and the planning as logical and lucid as the exterior is blameworthy and unreasonable. Here is rhythm and harmony. The constructive problems have been ingeniously mastered, and the carved and decorated portions subordinated to the gigantic scheme of the great monument. The sculptures are limited to their respective fields. Structural and artistic principles go hand in hand. Eloquently the carvings speak the language of the time,--they become a pictorial Bible, open for the poor man to read, who has no knowledge of crabbed, monastic letters. They are the language of true religion, the religion that may change but can never die.
The plan is unquestionably the grand feature of the Cathedral; the beauty and scale of it challenge comparison with those of all other churches in Christendom. The vaulting and its development, the concentration of the thrust upon the piers and far-leaping flying buttresses are unquestionably on such a scale and of such character as to place it among the mightiest, if not the most pure and well-developed Gothic edifices. It is like a giant that knows not the strength of his limbs nor the possibilities in his mighty frame.
You do not feel the great height of the nave, owing to the immensity of all dimensions and the great circumference of the supporting piers. The nave and the double side aisles on each side are all of seven bays. The transept does not project beyond the outer aisles. The plan proper has thus, at a rough glance, the appearance of a basilica and seems to lack the side arms of the Gothic cross. The choir consists of one bay, and the chevet formed by an apse to the choir of five bays. Both aisles continue around the chevet. Outside these again, and between the buttresses of the main outer walls, lie the different chapels, the great cloister and the different compartments and dependencies belonging to church and chapel,--a tremendous development, accumulation, growth,--a city in itself. The cloisters, as well as almost all the chapels, were added after the virtual completion of the Cathedral proper.
The chevet is the keynote of the plan, and the solution of the problem, how to vault the different compartments lying between the three concentric circular terminations beyond the choir. Their vaulting shows constructive skill and ingenuity of the highest order. The architects solved the problem with a simplicity and grandeur which places their genius on a level with that of the greatest of French builders. There are no previous examples of Spanish churches where similar problems have been dealt with tentatively. We are thus forced to acknowledge that the schooling for, and consequent mastery of, the problem, must have been gained on French soil. The central apse is surrounded by four piers, the two aisles are separated by eight, and the outer wall is marked by sixteen points of support. The bays in both aisles are vaulted alternately by triangular and virtually rectangular compartments. The vista from west to east is perfectly preserved, and the distance from centre to centre of every second pair of outer piers is as nearly as possible the same as that of the inner row. The outer wall of the aisles, except where the two great chapels of Santiago and San Ildefonso are introduced, was pierced alternately by small, square chapels opposite the triangular, vaulting compartments and circular chapels opposite the others.
In the cathedrals of Notre Dame de Paris, Saint Remi of Rheims, and in Le Mans, we find intermediate triangular vaulting compartments introduced, but they are either employed with inferior skill or in a different form. In none of these cathedrals do they call for such unstinted admiration as those of the architect of Toledo. They just fall short of the happiest solution. In Saint Remi, for instance, we have intermediate trapezoids instead of rectangles, the inner chord being longer than the exterior.
The seventy-two well-molded, simple, quadripartite vaults of the whole edifice (rising in the choir to about one hundred, and, in the inner and outer aisles, to sixty and thirty-five feet) are supported by eighty-eight piers. The capitals of the engaged shafts, composed of plain foliage, point the same way as the run of the ribs above them. Simple, strong moldings compose the square bases. The great piers of the transept are trefoiled in section. The outer walls of the main body of the church are pierced by arches leading into uninteresting, rectangular chapels, some of them decorated with elaborate vaulting. In the outer wall of the intermediate aisle is a triforium, formed by an arcade of cusped arches, and above this, quite close to the point of the vault, a rose window in each bay. The clerestory, filling the space above the great arches on each side of the nave, is subdivided into a double row of lancet-pointed windows, surmounted by a rosette coming directly under the spring of the vault.
The treatment of the crossing of transept and nave is in Toledo, as in all Spanish churches, emphatic and peculiar. The old central lantern of the cruciform church was retained and developed in their Gothic as well as in their Renaissance edifices, and was permitted illogically to break the Gothic roof line. The lantern of Ely is the nearest reminder we have of it in English or French Gothic. In Spain the "cimborio" became an important feature and made the croisée beneath it the lightest portion of the edifice. It shed light to the east and west of it, into the high altar and the choir.
The position of the choir is striking and distressing. Its rectangular body completely fills the sixth and seventh bays of the nave, interrupting its continuity and spoiling the sweep and grandeur of the edifice at its most important point. It sticks like a bone in the throat. Any complete view of the interior becomes impossible, and its impressive majesty is belittled. One constantly finds the choir of Spanish cathedrals in this position, which deprives them of the fine perspective found in northern edifices. In Westminster Abbey, strangely enough, the choir is similarly placed, and there, as here, it is as if the hands were tied and the breath stifled, where action should be freest.
This peculiar position of the choir was owing to the admission of the laity to the transept in front of the altar. In earlier days the choir was adjacent to and facing the altar, the singers and readers being there enclosed by a low and unimportant rail. The short, eastern apses of the Spanish cathedrals and the undeveloped and insufficient room for the clergy immediately surrounding the altar almost necessitated this divorce of the choir. In France and England the happier and more logical alternative was resorted to, of providing sufficient space east of the intersection of the transept for all the clergy.
The rectangular choir of Toledo is closed at the east by a magnificent iron screen; at the west, by a wall called the "Trascoro," acting as a background to the archbishop's seat. A doorway once pierced its centre but was blocked up for the placing of the throne.
If the position of the choir is unfortunate, its details are among the most remarkable and glorious of their time and country. The only entrance is through the great iron parclose or reja at the east. This, as well as the corresponding grille work directly opposite, closing off the bay in front of the high altar, are wonderful specimens of the iron-worker's craft, splendid masterpieces of an art which has never been excelled since the days of its mediæval guilds. The master Domingo de Cespedes erected the grille in the year 1548. The framework seems to be connected by means of tenons and mortices, while the scrolls are welded together. The larger moldings are formed of sheet iron, bent to the shape required and flush-riveted to their light frames. Neither the general design nor the details (both Renaissance in feeling) are especially meritorious, but the thorough mastery of the material is most astonishing. The stubborn iron has been wrought and formed with as much ease and boldness as if it had been soft limestone or plaster. It is characteristic of the age that the craftsman has not limited himself to one material. Certain portions of the smaller ornaments are of silver and copper. Originally their shining surfaces, as well as the gilding of the great portion of the principal iron bars, must have touched the whole with life and color. It was all covered with black paint in the time of the Napoleonic wars to escape the greedy hands of La Houssaye's victorious mob, and the gates still retain the sable coat that protected them.
Even a more glorious example of Spanish craftsmanship is found in the choir stalls which surround us to the north and south and west as soon as we enter. Here we are face to face with the finest flowering of Spanish mediæval art. Théophile Gautier, generalizing upon the whole composition, says: "L'art gothique, sur les confins de la Renaissance, n'a rien produit de plus parfait ni de mieux dessiné." The whole treatment of the work is essentially Spanish.
The stalls, the "silleria," are arranged in two tiers, the upper reached by little flights of five steps and covered by a richly carved, marble canopy, supported by slender Corinthian columns of red jasper and alabaster. All the stalls are of walnut, fifty in the lower row, seventy in the upper, exclusive of the archbishop's seat. The right side of the altar, that is, the right side of the celebrant looking from the altar, is called the side of the Gospel,--the left, the side of the Epistle. The great carvings, differing in the upper and lower stalls in period and execution, are the work of three artists. The carvings of the lower row were executed by Rodriguez in 1495, those of the upper, on the Gospel side, by Alonso Berruguete, and those on the side of the Epistle, by Philip Vigarny (also called Borgoña), both of the latter about fifty years later (in 1543).
The reading desk of the upper stalls forms the back of the lower and affords the field for their sculptural decoration. The subjects are the Conquest of Granada and the Campaigns of Ferdinand and Isabella. We are shown in the childish and picturesque manner in which the age tells its story, the various incidents of the war, all its situations and groups, its curious costumes, arms, shields, and bucklers, and even the names of the fortresses inscribed on their masonry. We can recognize the Catholic monarchs and the great prelate entering the fallen city amid the grief-stricken infidels.
The spirit of the work is distinctly that of the period which has gone before, without any intimations of that to come. It has the character of the German Gothic, recalling Lucas of Holland and his school. If it has a grace and beauty of its own, there is also a childish grotesqueness without any of the self-assured mastery, so soon to spread its Italian light. The imagination and composition are there, but not the execution,--the mind, but not the hand.
The carvings of the upper stalls were executed by their masters in generous rivalry and in a spirit that shows a decided classic influence.
Many curious accounts of the time describe the excitement which prevailed during their execution and the various favor they found in the eyes of different critics. Looking at them, one's thoughts revert to that glorious dawn in which Cellini and Ghiberti and Donatello labored. The inscription says of the two artists, "Signatum marmorea tum ligna caelavere hinc Philippus Burgundio, ex adverso Berruguetus Hispanus: certaverunt tum artificum ingenia; certabunt semper spectatorum judicia."
Berruguete's work (on the Gospel side) shows distinct traces of Michael Angelo's influence and his study in Italian ateliers with Andrea del Sarto and Baccio Bandinelli. The nervous vigor of the Italian giant and the purity of style which looked back at Greece and Rome, are apparent.
The subjects of Vigarny's work, as also of Berruguete's, are taken from the Old Testament. They have a more subtle charm, more grace and freedom. Some of them show strength and an unerring hand, others, delicacy and exquisite subtleness. Where the Maestro Mayor of Charles V is powerful and energetic, Vigarny is imaginative and rich.
Comparing the upper and lower rows of panels, we must see what remarkable steps had been taken in so short a time by the sculptors. A lightness of execution, a victorious self-reliance, seems to follow close on the steps of tentative, even if conscientious, effort. The carving, the bold relief of the chiseling, have a vividness and intensity of expression, surpassing some of the best work of Italy and France.
The niches in the marble canopy above the upper row of stalls are filled with figures standing almost in full relief, and representing the genealogy of Christ.
The outer walls of the choir are also completely covered with sculpture. It is thoroughly Gothic in character, crude, and fumbling for expression, consisting of arcades with niches above containing alto-relievo illustrations of Old Testament scenes and characters. You recognize the Garden of Eden, Abraham with agonized face, Isaac, Jacob, passages from Exodus, and other familiar scenes. Many of the panels depict further the small, everyday occurrences and incidents so loved by mediæval artists, and so full of earnest, religious feeling. Crowning it all, amid the pinnacles, are a whole flock of angels, quite prepared for Ascension Day. It is all very similar to the early fourteenth-century work in French cathedrals.
The bay in front of the high altar, forming with it the Capilla Mayor, and the choir are closed from the transept by a huge reja as fine as the one facing it, and the work of the Spaniard Francesco Villalpando (1548).
The Capilla Mayor originally consisted of the one bay to the east of the transept, the adjacent terminating portion of the nave being the chapel containing the tombs of the kings. The great Cardinal Ximenez received Isabella's permission to remove the dividing wall in case he could accomplish the task without disturbing any of the monarchs' coffins. The walls all round, both internally and externally, are completely covered with sculpture. Many of the figures are faithful portraits; many of the groups tell an interesting story. On the Gospel side there are two carvings, one over the other, the upper representing Don Alfonso VIII, and the lower, the shepherd who guided the monarch and his army to the renowned plains of Las Navas de Tolosa, where the battle was fought which proved so glorious to Christian arms. One likewise sees the statue of the Moor, Alfaqui Abu Walid, who threw himself in the path of King Alfonso and prevailed upon him to forgive Queen Constance and Bishop Bernard for the expulsion of the Moors from their mosque, contrary to the king's solemn oath.
All around us lie the early rulers of the House of Castile, Alfonso VII, Sancho the Deserted, and Sancho the Brave, the Prince Don Pedro de Aguilar, son of Alfonso XI, and the great Cardinal Mendoza. Below in the vault lie, by the sides of their consorts, Henry II, John I, and Henry III.
At the end of the chapel, acting as a background to the altar, you find a composition constantly met in and characteristic of Spanish cathedrals. The huge "retablo" is nothing but a meaningless, gaudy and sensational series of carved and decorated niches. It is carved in larchwood and merely reveals a love of the cheap and tawdry display of the decadent florid period of Gothic.
Back of the retablo and the high altar, you are startled by the most horrible and vulgar composition of the church. Nothing but the mind of an idiot could have conceived the "transparente." It has neither order nor reason. The whole mass runs riot. Angels and saints float up and down its surface amid doughy clouds. The angel Raphael counterbalances the weight of his kicking feet by a large goldfish which he is frantically clutching. It is a piece of uncontrolled, imbecile decoration, perpetrated to the everlasting shame of Narciso Tomé in the first half of the eighteenth century.
Nothing except the choir and Capilla Mayor disturb the simplicity of the aisles and the great body of the church. All other monuments or compositions are found in the numerous rooms and chapels leading from the outer aisles or situated between the lower arches of the outside walls. There are many of them, some important, others trivial. The Mozarabic chapel, in the southwest corner of the cathedral, is the one place in the world where you may still every morning hear the quaint old Visigothic or Mozarabic ritual recited. The chapel was constructed under Cardinal Ximenez in 1512 for the double purpose of commemorating the tolerance of the Moors, who during their dominion left to the Christians certain churches in which to continue their own worship, and also to perpetuate the use of the old Gothic ritual. It is most curious, almost barbaric: "The canons behind, in a sombre flat monotone, chant responses to the officiating priest at the altar. The sound combines the enervating effect of the hum of wings, whirr of looms, wooden thud of pedals, the boom and rush of immense wings circling round and round." It is strange to hear this echo a thousand years old of a magnanimous act in so intolerant an age.
In the eleventh century King Alfonso, at the insistence of Bernard and Constance, and the papal legate Richard, decided to abolish the use of the old Gothic ritual and to introduce the Gregorian rite. The Toledans threatened revolt rather than abandon their old form of worship. The King knew no other method of decision than to leave the question to two champions. In single combat the Knight of the Gothic Missal, Don Juan Ruiz de Mantanzas, killed his adversary while he himself remained unhurt. At a second trial, where two bulls were entrusted with the perplexing difficulty, the Gothic bull came off victor. Councils were held and the Pope still persevered in his determination to abolish the old Spanish service book. Outside the walls of the city, in front of the King and churchmen and amid the entire populace of Toledo, a great fire was built, and the two mass-books were thrown into it. When the flames had died down, only the Gothic mass-book was found unscathed. Only after many years, when traditions had gradually altered and even much of the text had become meaningless to the clergy, did the Roman service book become universally introduced into Toledan houses of worship.
Two other chapels are of especial interest: those of Saint Ildefonso and Santiago. Saint Ildefonso, who became metropolitan in 658, is second only in honor to Saint James of Compostella; he was unquestionably the most favored of Toledo's long line of bishops.
Three natives of Narbonne had dared to question the perpetual virginity of Our Lady. Saint Ildefonso gallantly took up her defense and proved it beyond doubt or questioning in his treatise "De Virginitate Perpetua Sanctae Mariae adversus tres Infideles." It was a crushing vindication and a discourse of much reason and scriptural light. Shortly afterwards the Bishop, together with the King and court, went to the Church of Saint Leocadia to give public thanks. As soon as the multitude had had sufficient time to kneel at the saint's tomb, a group of angels appeared amid a cloud and surrounded by sweet scents. Next the sepulchre opened of its own accord. Calix relates, "Thirty men could not have moved the stone which slid slowly from the mouth of the tomb. Immediately Saint Leocadia arose, after lying there three hundred years, and holding out her arm, she shook hands with Saint Ildefonso, speaking in this voice, 'Oh, Ildefonso, through thee doth the honor of My Lady flourish.' All the spectators were silent, being struck with the novelty and the greatness of the miracle. Only Saint Ildefonso, with Heaven's aid, replied to her. Now the virgin Saint looked as if she wished to return into the tomb and she turned around for that purpose, when the King begged of Saint Ildefonso that he would not let her go until she left some relic of her behind, for a memorial of the miracle and for the consolation of the city. And as Saint Ildefonso wished to cut a part of the white veil which covered the head of St. Leocadia, the King lent him a knife for that purpose, and this must have been a poniard or a dagger, though others say it was a sword. With this the saint cut a large piece of the blessed veil, and while he was giving it to the King, at the same time returning the knife, the saint shut herself up entirely and covered herself in the tomb with the huge stone."
But even this was not a sufficient expression of gratitude to satisfy Saint Mary, for next week she herself came down to enjoy matins with Saint Ildefonso in the Cathedral. She sat in his throne and listened to his discourse with both pleasure and edification. A celestial host dispensed music in the choir, music of heaven, hymns, David's psalms and chants, such as never had been heard before, either in Seville or in Toledo. To cap it all, the Virgin made her favorite a splendid present of a chasuble worked by the angels with which she invested him with her own hands before she said good-bye. You may still kiss your fingers after having touched the sacred slab upon which the Virgin stood and above which run the words of the Psalmist: "Adorabimus in loco ubi steterunt pedes ejus." The chapel is, similarly to the screens around the choir, of fourteenth-century work.
[Illustration: Photo by J. Lacoste, Madrid
CATHEDRAL OF TOLEDO
Chapel of Santiago, tombs of D. Alvaro de Luna and his spouse]
The Chapel of Santiago was erected by Count Alvaro de Luna, for more than thirty years the real sovereign of Castile. It is most elaborately decorated throughout with rich Gothic work, interwoven with sparkling filigree of Saracenic character. The tombs of the Lunas are of interest because of the great Count. His own is not the original one. The first mausoleum which he erected to himself was so constructed that the recumbent effigy or automaton could, when mass was said, slowly rise, clad in full armor, and remain kneeling until the service was ended, when it would slowly resume its former posture. This was destroyed at the instigation of Alvaro's old enemy, Henry of Aragon, who remained unreconciled even after the death of his old minister. At each corner of Alvaro's tomb kneels a knight of Santiago, at his feet a page holds his helmet, his own hands are crossed devoutly over the sword on his breast, and the mantle of his order is folded about his shoulders. His face wears an expression of sadness.
Alvaro began his career as a page in the service of Queen Catharine (Plantagenet). He ended it as Master of Santiago, Constable of Castile, and Prime Minister of John II, whom he completely ruled for thirty-five years. He lived in royal state, became all-powerful and arrogant. His diplomacy effected the marriage of Henry II and Isabella of Portugal, but he later incurred the enmity of Isabella, was accused of high treason, found guilty, and executed in the square of Valladolid. Pius II said of him, "He was a very lofty mind, as great in war as he was in peace, and his soul breathed none but noble thoughts."
And thus we may continue all around the Cathedral, past the successive chapels, vestries, sanctuaries and treasuries,--the architecture and sculpture of each connected with great events and telling its own story of dark tragedy or lighter romance.
In one, the Spanish banners used to be consecrated before leading the hosts against the Moors; in another, Spain now keeps her priceless treasures under the locks of seven keys hanging from the girdles of an equal number of canons. There are silver and gold and pearl and precious jewels sufficient to set on foot every stagnant Spanish industry. The 8500 pearls of the Virgin's cape might alone feed a province for no short time. They are buried in the dark. Outside in the light, the children of Spain are starving and without means of obtaining food. At one's elbow the whine of the beggar is continually heard, till one recalls Washington Irving's words: "The more proudly a mansion has been tenanted in the days of its prosperity, the humbler are its inhabitants in the days of her decline, and the palace of the king commonly ends in being the resting-place of the beggar."
Here and there, in the interior as in the exterior, we find, mixed with or decorating the Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance details and the later extravagances which followed the decline of the Gothic. Even where the carvers are expressing themselves in Gothic or Renaissance details, we frequently observe an extreme richness, a love of chiaroscuro, of sparkling jewel-like light and shade, and intricately woven ornamentation which betrays the influence of the Arab. We see the Morisco, a kind of fusion of French and Moorish, in many places. The triforium of the choir is decidedly Moorish in its design, although it is Gothic in all its details and has carvings of heads and of the ordinary dog-tooth enrichment instead of merely conventionalized leaf and figure ornament. It consists of a trefoil arcade. In the spandrels between its arches are circles with heads and, above these, triangular openings pierced through the wall. The moldings of all the openings interpenetrate, and the whole arcade has the air of intricate ingenuity so usual in Moorish work. Again, in the triforium of the inner aisle we find Moorish influence,--the cusping of the arcade is not enclosed within an arch but takes a distinct horseshoe outline, the lowest cusp near the cap spreading inward at the base. We see Moorish tiles, we find Moorish cupolas as in the Mozarabic chapel, and Moorish doorways, as the exquisite one leading into the Sala Capitular,--here and there and everywhere, we suddenly come upon details betraying the Arab intimacy.
The children of the Renaissance also embellished in their new manner, not only in the magnificent carvings of the choir but in a variety of places, for instance, the doors themselves contained within the Moorish molds leading to the Sala just mentioned, the entire chapel of St. Juan, the Capilla de Reyes Nuevos, portions of the Puerta del Berruguete, and the bronze doors of the Gate of the Lions.
Again, on the capitals and bases of many of the piers, with the exception of those of the central nave, Byzantine influence may be seen.
So each age, according to its best ken, dealt with the Cathedral. In among the varying styles of architectural decoration, the sister arts embellish the stone surfaces or are hung upon them. There are paintings by Titian, Giovanni Bellini, and Rubens, by El Greco, Goya, and Ribera; Italian and Flemish tapestries, and frescoes too. Probably the greater portion of the main walls were covered with them, for here and there traces are still to be seen and a tree of Jesse remains in the tympanum of the south transept, and near it an enormous painting of Saint Christopher.
While the "Tresorio" may have been the treasure-house of the clergy, the church itself was that of the people. Here was their art museum, here were their galleries. The decorations became the primers from which they learnt their lessons. Here they would meet in the afternoon hour as the light fell aslant sapphire and ruby, through the clerestory openings. It would light up their treasures with strange, unearthly glory and form aureoles and haloes of rainbow splendor over the heads of their beloved saints. Cool amethyst and emerald and warmer amber and gold touched the darkest corners, and a gold and purple glory illuminated the high altar.
Some of the earlier glass is as fine as any to be found in Europe. The depth and intensity of the colors are remarkable. Probably none of it was Spanish, but all was imported from France, Belgium, or Germany. The glass in the rose of the north transept and in the eastern windows of the transept clerestory can hold its own beside that of the cathedrals of Paris and Amiens. The subject scheme of the rose in the north transept is truly noble. The earliest glass is that in the nave (a little later than 1400), and this is Flemish. The windows of the aisles are at least a century later. Their composition is simple and broad, the coloring rich and deep, and the interior dusk of the church enhances the value of the sunlight filtering through the glass.
Better than to descend into the immense crypt below the Cathedral, with its eighty-eight massive piers corresponding to those above, is it to stray into the broken sunlight of the green and fragrant cloister arcade.
Bishop Tenorio procured the site for the church from the Jews, who here, right under the walls of the Christian church, held their market. A fresco adjoining the gate explains by what means. It represents on a ladder a fiendish-looking Jew who has cut the heart out of a beautiful, crucified child and is holding the dripping dagger in his hand. This fresco stirred up the fury of the Christian populace to the point of burning the Jewish market, houses and shops, which then were annexed by the Bishop. The fine, two-story Gothic arcade of the cloisters encloses a sun-splashed garden filled with fragrant flowers. Around the walls of the lower arcade are a series of very mediocre frescoes. The architecture itself is not nearly as interesting as that of the cloisters of Salamanca. It ought particularly to be so in this portion of the church, for here is the very climate and place for the courtyard life of the Spaniard.
So lies the Cathedral, crumbling in the sunlight of the twentieth century. Beautiful, but strange and irreconcilable to all that is around her, she alone, the Mother Church, stands unshaken, lonely and melancholy, but grand and solemn in the midst of the paltry and tawdry happenings of to-day. She has served giants, and now sees but a race of dwarfs; princes have prostrated themselves at her altars, where now only beggars kneel. Her walls whisper loneliness, desertion, widowed resignation.
NOTE.--In connection with the remarks on page 160, a Catholic friend has pointed out how rarely, when Peter has been robbed, ostensibly to pay Paul, Paul (otherwise the Poor) has derived any benefit from it. It is willingly conceded that Henry VIII bestowed much of the wealth derived from the dissolution of the religious houses on his own favorites, and recent disclosures in France show as scandalous a diversion of some of the funds similarly obtained.
[Illustration: Photo by J. Lacoste, Madrid
CATHEDRAL OF SEGOVIA]
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault, The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.
Once upon a time, long, long ago, in the days of the Iberians, there was a city and its name was Segovia. It is now so old that all of it, with the exception of the great heap of masonry which crowns its summit, has practically crumbled into a mountain of ruins. The pile still stands, dominating the plain and facing the setting sun, triumphant over time and decay,--the Cathedral of Saint Mary and Saint Froila. Though Mary was the holier of the two patrons, owing to whose protection the church stands to-day so well preserved, still Froila was in certain respects no less remarkable. The Segovians of his day saw him split open a rock with his jackknife and prove to the Moslems then ruling his city, beyond all doubt, the validity of his Christian faith.
But long before saints and cathedrals, the Romans, recognizing the tenacious and commanding position as a military stronghold of the rock of Segovia, which rises precipitously from the two valleys watered by the Erasma and Clamores, pitched their camp upon its crest, renaming it Segobriga. The city was fortified, and under Trajan the truly magnificent aqueduct was built, either by the Romans or the devil, to supply the city with the waters of the Fonfria mountains. A beautiful Segovian had at this early time grown weary of carrying her jugs up the steep hills from the waters below and promised the devil she would marry him, if he only would in a night's time once and for all bring into the city the fresh waters of the eastern mountains. She was worth the labor, and the suitor accepted the contract. Fortunately the Church found the arcade incomplete, the devil having forgotten a single stone, and the maid was honorably released from her part of a bargain, the execution of which had profited her city so greatly. Segovia still carries on her shield this "Puente del diabolo," with the head of a Roman peering above it.
The strong position of the city made it an envied possession to whatever conqueror held the surrounding country. It lay on the borderland, constantly disputed with varying fortune by Christian and Moslem. Under the dominion of the early Castilian kings, and even under the triumphant Moors, the youthful church prospered and grew, for in the government of their Christian subjects, the Mohammedans here, as elsewhere, showed themselves temperate and full of common sense. The invaders had, indeed, everywhere been welcomed by the numerous Jews settled in Spanish cities, who under the new rulers exchanged persecution for civil and religious liberty. Prompt surrender and the payment of a small annual tax were the only conditions made, to confirm the conquered, of whatever race or religion, in the possession of all their worldly goods, perfect freedom of worship and continued government by their own laws under their own judges.
In the eleventh century, Segovia was included in the great Amirate of Toledo, but the Castilian kings grew stronger, till in 1085 they were able to recapture Toledo. The singularly picturesque contours of the city are due to the various races which fortified her. Iberians were probably the first to strengthen their hill from outside attack,--the Romans followed, building upon the foundations of the old walls, and Christian and Moslem completed the work, until the little city was compactly girdled by strong masonry, broken by some three to four score fighting towers and but few gates of entrance. Alfonso the Wise was one of the great Segovian rulers and builders. He strengthened her bastions, added a good deal to the walls of her illustrious fortress, and in 1108 gave the city her first charter. A few years later Segovia was elevated to a bishopric.
Long before the earliest cathedral church, the Alcazar was the most conspicuous feature in the landscape, and it still holds the second place. Erected on the steep rocks at the extreme eastern end of the almond-shaped hill, it stands like a chieftain at the head of his warriors, always ready for battle, and first to meet any onslaught. Several Alfonsos, as well as Sanchos, labored upon it during the perilous twelfth century. Here the kings took up their abode in the happy days when Segovia was capital of the kingdom, and even in later times it sheltered such illustrious travelers as the unfortunate Prince Charles of England, and Gil Blas, when out of suits with fortune.
The first Cathedral was erected on the broad platform east of the Alcazar, directly under the shadow of its protecting walls. The ever-reappearing Count Raymond of Burgundy was commissioned by his father-in-law, the King, to repopulate Segovia after the Moorish devastations, and he rebuilt its walls, as he was doing for the recaptured cities of Salamanca and Avila. The battlements were repaired, and northerners from many provinces occupied the houses that had been deserted.
To judge from the ruins as well as from well-preserved edifices, Romanesque days must have been full of great architectural activity. One is constantly reminded of Toledo in climbing up and down the narrow streets, where one must often turn aside or find progress barred by Romanesque and Gothic courtyards or smelly culs-de-sac. Everywhere are Romanesque portals and arches, palaces and the apses and circular chapels of the age, bulging beyond the sidewalks into the cobblestones of the street. They seem indeed venerable. Some of the old palaces present a curious all-over design executed in Moorish manner and with Moorish feeling. It is carved into the sidewalk, showing in relief a geometrical, circular pattern, each circle filled with a quantity of small Gothic lancets, surely difficult both to design and to execute. Some of the old parish churches stand with their deep splays, round-headed arches and windows and broad, recessed portals almost as perfectly preserved as a thousand years ago. The Romanesque style died late and hard. Even in the thirteenth century, the city could boast thirty such parish churches. To-day they seem fairly prayer-worn. Beyond their towers stretch the plains in every direction, seamed by stone walls and dotted with gray rocks. Olive and poplar groves cluster round the small hillocks, rising here and there like camels' backs.
[Illustration: KEY OF PLAN OF SEGOVIA CATHEDRAL
A. Capilla Mayor. B. Choir. C. Crossing. D. Sacristy. E. Cloisters. F. Tower.]
As long as the welfare and development of the city depended on strong natural fortifications, Segovia remained intact. To the twelfth and thirteenth centuries belongs her glory. Her power passed with the middle ages and their chivalry, and in the sixteenth century she was a dead city.
Villages, convents and churches lie scattered over the plain, the houses crowded together for protection against the blazing, scorching, pitiless sun. Standing by itself is the ancient and severe church, where many a knight-templar kept his last vigil before turning his back on the plains of Castile, and apart sleeps the monastery where Torquemada was once prior. They all crumble golden brown against the horizon.
Many a bloody fray or revolution upset the city during the middle ages. The minority of Alfonso XI witnessed one of the worst. The revolt which broke out in so many of the Spanish cities against the Emperor Charles V, proved most fatal to the Cathedral of Segovia.
The first Romanesque Cathedral had been built in honor of St. Mary, under the walls of the Alcazar, during the first half of the twelfth century. It was consecrated in 1228 by the papal legate, Juan, Bishop of Sabina. Some two hundred and fifty years later, a new and magnificent Gothic cloister was added to it by Bishop Juan Arias Davila, and likewise a new episcopal palace more fitting times of greater luxury and magnificence. This palace, despite the coming translation of the Cathedral itself, remained the abode of the bishops for the three following centuries. In the new cloisters a banquet of reconciliation was celebrated in 1474 by Henry IV and the Catholic Kings. It was held on the very spot whence Isabella had started in state on a journey proving so eventful in the history not only of Castile but of the entire Peninsula and countries beyond. Three years after the furious struggle which took place around the entrance of the Alcazar, Charles V issued the following proclamation:--
"The King: To the Aldermen, Justices, Councillors, Knights, Men-at-arms, Officials, and good Burghers of the city of Segovia. The reverend Father in Christ, Bishop of the church of this city, has told me how he and the