Spanish; from the Church of San Martin, Fuentidueña, Segovia
Limestone; H. to top of barrel vault 29 ft. 8 1/2 in. (9.05 m), W. interior 22 ft. 1/2 in. (6.72 m)
Exchange Loan from the Government of Spain, 1958 (L.58.86)
The Virgin and Child in Majesty, with Archangels and the Magi, ca. 1100
Attributed to the Master of Pedret (Spanish, Catalonia, 12th century); from the Church of the Virgin (Era Mare de Diu), near Tredòs, Cap d’Aran
Fresco, transferred to canvas
The Cloisters Collection, 1950 (50.180a–c)
The church from which this apse comes was probably part of a castle complex, built by Christians engaged in the reconquista, the campaign to wrest the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims. The great round arch, thick walls, barrel vault, half-dome, and small windows are typical of the Romanesque style. Built of golden limestone, the apse is decorated with sculpture on the interior and exterior. Inside, Saint Martin tramples evil beasts on the left, and on the right the angel Gabriel announces the impending birth of Christ to the Virgin Mary. The capitals surrounding the slitlike windows are carved with contorted animals and birds.
Mounted in the apse from Fuentidueña is the fresco pictured here, which originally comes from a different church, nestled in the Pyrenees near the border between Spain and France. Despite its remote location, the Church of the Virgin at Cap d’Aran occupies a strategic position in the mountains, at the head of the Garonne River. In the twelfth century, it was controlled by the Knights Templar, then a wealthy military order dedicated to the protection of the Holy Land and to the Christian reconquest of Spain. The church is one of several in Catalunya where the same accomplished artist worked.
The Church of the Virgin was sacked in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War; subsequently, its frescoes were acquired by museums and private collectors, while other objects from the church disappeared entirely.