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Travel, Art and Symbolism in Pontevedra: San Pedro de Ansemil

Travel, Art and Symbolism in Pontevedra: San Pedro de Ansemil

February 2020 · 5 min read · Silleda

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‘The man with no capacity for strangeness or admiration walks through life with his eyes closed and his step weary’ (1)

Also in this council of Silleda, and just four, at most five kilometers from the monastery of San Lorenzo de Carboeiro, the lover of Romanesque in general and, why not say it, also passionate about mystery, you can visit another establishment, much more How interesting, that should not leave you indifferent at all: the church of San Pedro de Ansemil.

Former monastery of Benite nuns that were finally annexed to the monastery of San Payo de Antealtares in the 16th century, the surviving church structure constitutes, in the opinion of historians, one of the rarest and interesting examples of protorromanic structures that They can be found in the region.

Obviously their origins, like those of many other similar enclaves, are quite uncertain and poorly documented, although they tend to place them, at least, in those misty 9th and 10th centuries, being contemporaries of the aforementioned and nearby monastery of San Lorenzo de Carboeiro.

As in the case of the latter, also in San Pedro de Ansemil we find the imprint of the Galician nobility that dominated in these spectacular territories, specifically in the person of the gentleman Diego Gómez de Deza, whose mortal remains rest forever in a sepulcher that is located In the so-called Chapel of Santa Ana –also known as Chapel of the Deza-, a small building attached to the main body of the church nave, whose origin would have to be located later: at the end of the 13th century or at the beginning of the 14th century , period in which the revolutionary style known as Gothic already prevailed, which would replace the obsolete Romanesque conceptions prevailing until then.

Although there is hardly any documentation on these origins, there is, however, a large handwritten compilation on the processes followed in the fifteenth century against one of his last abbesses, Doña Isabel de Ulloa, who was also, curiously, from the monastery of San Pedro de Dozón (2).

Interesting in terms of its ornamentation, and in the same way that in the field of Silos they speak of the silent style, also here, in Ansemil, reference could be made to the Compostela style, although, as he already ventured when speaking of the nearby monastery of San Lorenzo de Carboeiro, is also located, the hand of that anonymous master who left his mark in the lobed form of certain eardrums, although here, on the north cover, replaces the Sansonian figure with a Greek cross.

Not far from that cover, and in addition to what looks like a small reused piece, a curious kind of graffiti appears, which could be a kind of lion and a tree or maybe a horse, although the rear seems serpentine. Curious also, due to its shape and content, the portico of access to the Chapel of Santa Ana, offers us an interesting Virgin enthroned on a throne in which two lions are appreciated - similar, for example, to that of the Virgin of March, located in the cloister of the monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos-, giving breastfeeding –transmission of Knowledge- to the Child, a sculpture that seems more typical of other types of constructions of greater magnitude –I wonder, if perhaps it came from the nearby monastery of San Lorenzo - and that perhaps it was reused in an indeterminate period of history.

Below it, it is worth taking a careful look at the lintel of the door, as it forms a pentagon that includes the figure of an Agnus Dei with a flowered cross, on whose sides you can see a Sun and a Moon. On the roof of this chapel, another Agnus Dei is noticed, similar to those that can be seen in other places of the Galician geography: Betanzos, A Mezquita, San Francisco de Lugo, etc.

Plain tympanum, the main front, facing west, picks up a typical chess or jaqués motif, whose archivolts are supported by four capitals: foliaceous the exterior, showing the interiors two lions facing the one on the left and a curious representation on the right : a headless character, dressed in habits and showing an open book in his hands, surrounded by four naked characters, in a simian attitude, which seems to make reference –a priori, since from a psychological point of view, it would lend itself to deeper reflections- to the evangelization of some little given peoples to abandon their old customs.

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Varied, likewise, is the theme of the impressive series of canecillos. Theme that includes a wide variety of reasons, among which those of a plant or foliar nature; zoomorphic; erotic-eschatological and symbolic, which includes what appears to be a spinary and another curious character that seems to refer to gluttony, so chews in the mouth, but that can represent an allusion to craft guilds - in this in the case of shoemakers, who chewed the soles of shoes to soften and mold them - and that by their shape, appearance and possible significance reminds one who is located in one of the interior capitals of the unique church of Santa María de Wamba, located in the vicinity of the Montes Torozos vallisoletanos.

Notes, References and Bibliography:

(1) Manuel Guerra: 'Romanesque symbology: Christianity and other religions in Romanesque art', Spanish University Foundation, Madrid, 1986, page 13.

(2) For more information, we recommend reading the work of Ernesto Zaragoza Pascual, 'Reform of the monasteries of Lobás, Dozón and Ansemil (1498-99), Cuadernos de Estudios Gallegos, Volume XLIX, Fascicle 115, Santiago, 2002.

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NOTICE: Revised and updated version of the one originally published in my blog ROMÁNICA, ENIGMAS DEL ROMÁNICO ESPAÑOL. Both the text and the accompanying photographs are my exclusive intellectual property. The original entry, where you can verify the authorship of juancar347, can be found at the following address:

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