Spain's Oldest Romanesque Cathedral: San Pedro of Jaca

This edifice is particularly remarkable by its sculptures and reredos of various periods. The oldest sculptures are those adorning the exterior of the apses and transept; they date back to the 11th century. You will discover modillions with realistic head

When, in 1035, Sanche the Great shared his lands with his sons, he bequeathed to his bastard, Ramire, a small domain in the mountains which turned to be the hub of the Aragonese Kingdom. Huesca, the episcopal city was in the Moors'hands and Ramere I, when establishing his capital in Jaca, made the church of this city, a cathedral.  

Jaca at the foot of the Somport, close to the Benedictine monastery of San Juan de la Pena, is the first stop in the mountains on the road to Santiago de Compostella. In 1063, the year of his death, Ramire I made a donation to the edifice whose construction had just begun by the both apse and the façade. The same year, a council of nine bishops blessed the church under construction. The works went slowly however, for in 1094, it was not yet completed.

This is a church with three naves, non-protruding transept, three apses (the one in the centre was later extended and replaced by a Gothic one) with, to the West, a porch with two bays in the prolongation of the nave. At the crossing of the transept, a cupola on pendentives is supported by four pointed arches resting on volutes of modillions. The vaults were replaced in the Gothic period, those in the side-aisles are groined vaults. 

This edifice is particularly remarkable by its sculptures and reredos of various periods. The oldest sculptures are those adorning the exterior of the apses and transept; they date back to the 11th century. You will discover modillions with realistic heads or animals, capitals resembling those in Saint-Isidor Church in Léon and metopes even more realistic with dancers bearing a light chlamys floating in the air, snake charmers and a bestiary with namely a dromedary, a lion, an aspic, a basilisk. The capitals in the nave include foliage derived from the Corinthian Style, the corbels present interlaced traceries or figures with putti, lions, monsters, affrontee birds reminiscent of Antic Art. 

The West portal dating back to 1100, is decorated with a grand Christ  framed by two lions in a very pure stylization whilst in the capitals appear angels and characters full of ease and motion. Two other capitals, in the South portal, figuring Balaam on his donkey and Abraham's sacrifice are noticeable. At the portico, capitals showing the history of Saint-Sixt, King David and the musicians were reused. These sculptures show the predilection of Aragonese artists for fantastic and realistic figures. 

In the cathedral, you will be surprised by the splendid alabaster adorments, in the Chapel of Saint-Roch, by Giovanni Moreto and the Tomb of Bishop Pedro Baguer of the 17th century.

Portico of the Cathedral San Pedro in Jaca, Spain.

Image source:  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f0/Jaca%2C_Catedral_de_San_Pedro-PM_32172.jpg

King David and musicians, capital at Jaca Cathedral.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/92/Detalle_del_Capitel_del_rey_David_con_m%C3%BAsicos.jpg

Gothic vaults of the nave, Jaca Cathedral.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/00/B%C3%B3veda_de_la_Catedral_de_Jaca.jpg

Cupola and lantern at Jaca Cathedral.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/08/Jaca_-_Catedral_-_Interior_-_Parroquia_-_Luciernaga.jpg

Baroque reredos at Jaca Cathedral.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0c/Jaca_-_Catedral_-_Interior_-_Parroquia_-_Reablo.jpg

Renaissance reredos at Jaca Cathedral.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c2/Jaca_-_Catedral_-_Interior_-_Retablo06.jpg

Capital of the South portico, Jaca Cathedral.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Jaca_-_Catedral_-_Portada_Meridional_-_Capitel03.jpg

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