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Bertan > Bertan 21 Las portadas de las iglesias guipuzcoanas > Versión en inglés: Ornamentation and decoration

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Ornamentation and decoration

The decorative repertoire of the Romanesque was relatively limited: balls, small arches and cordwork. The Gothic used more abundant decoration with rudenture, sawtooth and zigzag patterns, trilobate arches, rosettes, sun discs and schematic heads like with ones in Idiazabal, which some scholars have identified with the apostles; the broadest ornamental field can be found in Deba where the sculptural carvings in polychrome stone are very rich in tracery, corbels and canopies over the sculptures. In the Renaissance period, typical Castilian decorations were used, such as balls, the coats of arms of patrons or founders and medallions with busts. Cockle or scallop shells and cords were also used; and the architecture itself included pediments and branching pinnacles.

101. Idiazabal. Trilobate arches, cordwork and chiaroscuro geometric forms.© Jonathan Bernal
101. Idiazabal. Trilobate arches, cordwork and chiaroscuro geometric forms.© Jonathan Bernal
102. Idiazabal. Decorative edgings in the Basque tradition:<br /> wheels with curved spokes and sun symbols, common on Hispano-Roman steles;<br /> six-petalled rosettes and abstract vegetable features.© Jonathan Bernal
102. Idiazabal. Decorative edgings in the Basque tradition:
wheels with curved spokes and sun symbols, common on Hispano-Roman steles;
six-petalled rosettes and abstract vegetable features.© Jonathan Bernal
103. Idiazabal. The letters IHS, standing for 'Jesus Saviour of Men', used to ward off all evil from the church.© Jonathan Bernal
103. Idiazabal. The letters IHS, standing for 'Jesus Saviour of Men', used to ward off all evil from the church.© Jonathan Bernal
104. Idiazabal. Schematic heads related to primitive Galician figures.© Jonathan Bernal
104. Idiazabal. Schematic heads related to primitive Galician figures.© Jonathan Bernal
113. Botanic motifs were used on doorways, with vases containing flowers, fruit, grapes and acanthus leaves, all symbols related to Christianity.© Jonathan Bernal
113. Botanic motifs were used on doorways, with vases containing flowers, fruit, grapes and acanthus leaves, all symbols related to Christianity.© Jonathan Bernal
116. Pasai San Pedro. Decoration of palms in an oval with the papal emblems, crown and keys of the patron saint.© Jonathan Bernal
116. Pasai San Pedro. Decoration of palms in an oval with the papal emblems, crown and keys of the patron saint.© Jonathan Bernal
119. In the atrium of the church of Soraluze, there are carvings dating from 1666 with vegetable motifs in deep relief with a strong chiaroscuro effect.© Jonathan Bernal
119. In the atrium of the church of Soraluze, there are carvings dating from 1666 with vegetable motifs in deep relief with a strong chiaroscuro effect.© Jonathan Bernal
120. Sculpture of St. Martin in Zegama Sculpture and relief played an important role in the design of doorways. © Jonathan Bernal
120. Sculpture of St. Martin in Zegama Sculpture and relief played an important role in the design of doorways. © Jonathan Bernal

In the first half of the seventeenth century the decoration was limited to the architectural features, concave surfaces or mortises or protuberances bordering the features, ornamentation of triglyphs and metopes, pyramids, pediments and niches. In the second half of the century the decorations became more abundant with thick and uneven mouldings at the entrances to the church, and sectioned plaques, modillions, naturalist consoles and demon-like heads or figureheads. This was all complemented in the Baroque century with lush vegetative forms such as ferns and palms, flowers, fruit, bunches of grapes or shells, and cherubs, such as those to be seen in Oñati. In the Sanctuary of Loyola we also have evidence of their taste for colour with the use of hard stone, marbles and jasper on walls and paving. Sculpture played an important role in the decorative programme of the entrances to the churches, stressing the patronage of the buildings, as we can see in Zegama. Rocaille was used in the French style to add a natural touch and fill many church doorways. The most splendid example can be seen in the church of Santa Maria in San Sebastian, where it were used as a frame for the stone carvings of the liturgical attributes of the Virgin. Such was the freedom afforded to artists in decorating these features in the eighteenth century that curved portions in stone were used as festoons in the belfry of the church of Santa Maria in Tolosa.

105. Deba. Corbels, canopies and rich polychrome sculpture work.© Jonathan Bernal
105. Deba. Corbels, canopies and rich polychrome sculpture work.© Jonathan Bernal
106. Bidaurreta. Coats of arms of patrons or founders of the convent and Franciscans. © Jonathan Bernal
106. Bidaurreta. Coats of arms of patrons or founders of the convent and Franciscans. © Jonathan Bernal
107. Medallions with busts and branching pinnacles on the side doorway at Eibar.© Jonathan Bernal
107. Medallions with busts and branching pinnacles on the side doorway at Eibar.© Jonathan Bernal
108. Decoration of triglyphs and metopes in Errenteria and Azkoitia.© Jonathan Bernal
108. Decoration of triglyphs and metopes in Errenteria and Azkoitia.© Jonathan Bernal
109. Pediments and niches house sculptures with declamatory gestures, like these ones in Errenteria.© Jonathan Bernal
109. Pediments and niches house sculptures with declamatory gestures, like these ones in Errenteria.© Jonathan Bernal
110. Alegia:<br /> the sectioned plaques with their multiplying effect strengthen the chiaroscuro and relief on this Baroque facade. © Jonathan Bernal
110. Alegia:
the sectioned plaques with their multiplying effect strengthen the chiaroscuro and relief on this Baroque facade. © Jonathan Bernal
111. The modillions are interpreted with a feeling of naturalism in Segura.© Jonathan Bernal
111. The modillions are interpreted with a feeling of naturalism in Segura.© Jonathan Bernal
112. Censers and rocaille consoles creep up the shafts of the columns of the church of Santa Maria in San Sebastián.© Jonathan Bernal
112. Censers and rocaille consoles creep up the shafts of the columns of the church of Santa Maria in San Sebastián.© Jonathan Bernal

The wood carvings on beams, eaves and atriums are particularly interesting. Some constitute authentic works of art, such as the structure in the atrium of the church Soraluce-Placencia. In general any kind of support was used to decorate the doorways, with great variations down the centuries. This great ornamental outlay was cut back at the end of the eighteenth century, until it finally practically disappeared in the Neo Classical period, when incised decorations abounded, such as austere urns or other vessels with smooth surfaces, inscriptions and in some cases, as in the church in Elgeta, liturgical symbols to reflect the fact that the church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

114. Demonic heads or masks were sculpted on doorways as a reminder of sin, vice and the devil in Hernani, Ataun and Segura.© Jonathan Bernal
114. Demonic heads or masks were sculpted on doorways as a reminder of sin, vice and the devil in Hernani, Ataun and Segura.© Jonathan Bernal
121. Doorways were used to educate worshippers. In Santa Maria in San Sebastian and the entablature of the doorway of the church in Elgeta for example, we see the liturgical symbols on rocaille consoles.© Jonathan Bernal
121. Doorways were used to educate worshippers. In Santa Maria in San Sebastian and the entablature of the doorway of the church in Elgeta for example, we see the liturgical symbols on rocaille consoles.© Jonathan Bernal
117. The doorways of the churches in Ataun and Zegama feature vases with carved fruit-laden flowers, giving a strong plastic, volumetric and naturalist feel.© Jonathan Bernal
117. The doorways of the churches in Ataun and Zegama feature vases with carved fruit-laden flowers, giving a strong plastic, volumetric and naturalist feel.© Jonathan Bernal
118. Angels were a popular theme in the Baroque and appear in varying attitudes.© Jonathan Bernal
118. Angels were a popular theme in the Baroque and appear in varying attitudes.© Jonathan Bernal
115. Parish church of Errenteria. The fern decoration was used to fill in arches and niches.© Jonathan Bernal
115. Parish church of Errenteria. The fern decoration was used to fill in arches and niches.© Jonathan Bernal
122. This decorative trim of military trophies on the parish church of Azpeitia, was a popular feature in France from whence is spread across the border to Gipuzkoa © Jonathan Bernal
122. This decorative trim of military trophies on the parish church of Azpeitia, was a popular feature in France from whence is spread across the border to Gipuzkoa © Jonathan Bernal
123. The orders of columns and all types of supports provided another type of ornamentation for the doorways.
123. The orders of columns and all types of supports provided another type of ornamentation for the doorways.
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