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Bertan > Bertan 21 Las portadas de las iglesias guipuzcoanas > Versión en inglés: The staircases

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The staircases

Since the ground outside most churches was level, few staircases needed to be built. Most had small and relatively insignificant stairs, adapted irregularly and asymmetrically to the requirements of the site, as is the case of the main entrance to the church in Eibar. Some, like the side stairs in Zegama, are quite steep and have no landings. They are enclosed with moulded walls instead of balustrades and adorned with large balls at the foot.

48. Staircase at the foot of the church of San Andrés in Eibar. Small asymmetric stairs were built to adapt to the available space.© Jonathan Bernal
48. Staircase at the foot of the church of San Andrés in Eibar. Small asymmetric stairs were built to adapt to the available space.© Jonathan Bernal
49. Staircase of the side doorway in Zegama. This steep staircase was built to overcome the considerable difference in height and was enclosed with mortised sidewalls and acroterums with a ball at the base.© Jonathan Bernal
49. Staircase of the side doorway in Zegama. This steep staircase was built to overcome the considerable difference in height and was enclosed with mortised sidewalls and acroterums with a ball at the base.© Jonathan Bernal
51. Ornamental  features  on  the  stairs of the Sanctuary in Loyola. The vases and  incense  holders, also known as  censers  have  a  wide variety of decorative trimmings:<br /> 1. Echinus forms. 2. Cockle and scallop shells. 3. Cabochones arranged as jewels.© Jonathan Bernal
51. Ornamental features on the stairs of the Sanctuary in Loyola. The vases and incense holders, also known as censers have a wide variety of decorative trimmings:
1. Echinus forms. 2. Cockle and scallop shells. 3. Cabochones arranged as jewels.© Jonathan Bernal
52. The staircase of the sanctuary at Loyola, like the main stairs of a country mansion, has lions holding finely carved balls and humanised heads;<br /> mirroring the features of the noble coats of arms on council houses and mansions in the eighteenth century© Jonathan Bernal
52. The staircase of the sanctuary at Loyola, like the main stairs of a country mansion, has lions holding finely carved balls and humanised heads;
mirroring the features of the noble coats of arms on council houses and mansions in the eighteenth century© Jonathan Bernal

Only the most monumental buildings have notable staircases leading to them. The most striking is the one at the sanctuary in Loyola. Here, the great stairway leading from the church to the rest of the building was built with great care with a view to giving the sanctuary a grand entrance and elegantly solving the problem of the unequal height. It is almost entirely integrated into the doorway to which it clings and it occupies almost the full width. After thirteen steps the stairs open out into a wide landing, giving place on the sides to two other flights of seventeen stairs which narrow at the sides, while the front stairs continue upwards with the same dimensions. The outstanding feature of this approach is the play of straight and curved lines which combine in the low walls, banisters, benches and even in the paving, which deliberately follows the same rhythm, oddly augmented around the benches. The quality and refinement of the stonework in all the features is particularly impressive. One remarkable feature is that the balustrades are adaptedóin the Baroque styleóto the gradient of the ramps. This grand staircase substantially alters the external space, giving the doorway of the church a stage-like quality.

50. Staircase of the main doorway of the Church  of the Sanctuary  of Loyola. The different levels are based on radiating circular segments of different sizes, with ramps, stairs and landings.© Xabi Otero, Jonathan Bernal
50. Staircase of the main doorway of the Church of the Sanctuary of Loyola. The different levels are based on radiating circular segments of different sizes, with ramps, stairs and landings.© Xabi Otero, Jonathan Bernal
52. The staircase of the sanctuary at Loyola, like the main stairs of a country mansion, has lions holding finely carved balls and humanised heads;<br /> mirroring the features of the noble coats of arms on council houses and mansions in the eighteenth century© Jonathan Bernal
52. The staircase of the sanctuary at Loyola, like the main stairs of a country mansion, has lions holding finely carved balls and humanised heads;
mirroring the features of the noble coats of arms on council houses and mansions in the eighteenth century© Jonathan Bernal

Another fine staircase can be seen in St. Mary's church in San Sebastian, which culminates in a wide platform, which lends a certain presence to the whole. The design is similar in Andoain, but in this case a smaller stairs leads to a large esplanade, surrounded by a wall with elegant vases on well-crafted pillars. The majestic monumental doorway of the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Elgeta extends the entire width of the facade, narrowing at the top to fit into the large central arch of the structure. The same arrangement can be seen in the church in Errenteria.

54. The staircase of the church of Santa Maria in San Sebastian is very wide and is topped by a broad platform that gives the building a great sense of monumentality.© Jonathan Bernal
54. The staircase of the church of Santa Maria in San Sebastian is very wide and is topped by a broad platform that gives the building a great sense of monumentality.© Jonathan Bernal
55. In Andoain there are three different staircases. As well as the one leading straight up to the portico, there are also two more minor side stairs, leading to a wide esplanade surrounded by a wall with pillars and beautiful vases.© Jonathan Bernal
55. In Andoain there are three different staircases. As well as the one leading straight up to the portico, there are also two more minor side stairs, leading to a wide esplanade surrounded by a wall with pillars and beautiful vases.© Jonathan Bernal

In other churches, such as Nuestra Señora la Real in Azkoitia, the ends of the steps are rounded and the width gradually diminishes in perspective, thus increasing the sense of depth of the large niche of the facade and lending the doorway a great sense of the monumental. Original but more recent is the church of St. John the Baptist in Hernani, with one central stair and two side ones, and two circular extensions to the central platform with iron balustrades.

56. The church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Elgeta has a magnificent staircase running the entire width of the facade. It is enclosed at the sides by a low wall and acroterums. One unusual feature is that it marks an axis or line coinciding with the main arch in the doorway giving direct access to the church. There are also smaller side arches.© Jonathan Bernal
56. The church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Elgeta has a magnificent staircase running the entire width of the facade. It is enclosed at the sides by a low wall and acroterums. One unusual feature is that it marks an axis or line coinciding with the main arch in the doorway giving direct access to the church. There are also smaller side arches.© Jonathan Bernal
57. The staircase in the church in Errenteria, smaller than that of Elgeta but very tall, narrows to meet the arch of the entrance. © Jonathan Bernal
57. The staircase in the church in Errenteria, smaller than that of Elgeta but very tall, narrows to meet the arch of the entrance. © Jonathan Bernal

Neo-classical facades with their axial staircase have a strong urban feel to them, recalling the stairs leading to classical temples. There is a fine example of this in Mutriku.

58. The steps in the staircase in the church of Nuestra Señora la Real in Azkoitia get progressively smaller and more rounded to the sides, giving a fine effect of perspective.© Jonathan Bernal
58. The steps in the staircase in the church of Nuestra Señora la Real in Azkoitia get progressively smaller and more rounded to the sides, giving a fine effect of perspective.© Jonathan Bernal
59. The staircase of the church of San Juan Bautista in Hernani is modern and unusual. Stairs from three sides lead to a wide platform opening out onto two circular terraces.© Jonathan Bernal
59. The staircase of the church of San Juan Bautista in Hernani is modern and unusual. Stairs from three sides lead to a wide platform opening out onto two circular terraces.© Jonathan Bernal
60. The staircase f the neo-classical church in Mutriku with a singular urban feel, is reminiscent in its cold majestic solemnity of the ubiquitous stairs of classical temples.  © Donostiako Elizbarruko Artxiboa
60. The staircase f the neo-classical church in Mutriku with a singular urban feel, is reminiscent in its cold majestic solemnity of the ubiquitous stairs of classical temples. © Donostiako Elizbarruko Artxiboa
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