Restoration and maintenance of Romanesque art in Castile and  León and Portugal

Together with the Portuguese Ministry of Culture and the regional government in Castilla y León, we have carried out an ambitious project to restore and maintain the monumental Romanesque art in 24 churches: 13 located in northern Portugal and 11 located in Spain in the vicinity of the Douro and Támega rivers (in Salamanca and Zamora).

 
Fundación Iberdrola España has played an active part in the recovery and maintenance of Romanesque art in Spain and Portugal since the beginning of the programme.

This joint initiative, known as the Atlantic Romanesque Restoration Plan, seeks to restore the region’s cultural, natural and social heritage, invigorate the area on a socio-economic level and strengthen cross-border relationships between Spain and Portugal.

The Plan includes other activities such as educational, cultural and tourist projects to weave a network of synergies and achieve a series of other goals such as the implementation of R&D&i projects, creation of research networks, exchanges of experiences, and the reinforcement of a common European identity.

The Atlantic Romanesque Intervention Plan unites the efforts of governments, the Church and business and private initiatives in Spain and Portugal.

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The agreement signed in Portugal included representatives from Fundación Iberdrola España, Iberdrola and members of the Spanish and Portuguese governments.

  • The agreement to implement this project was signed on 23 September 2010 in the city of Bragança in Portugal, and later ratified by the President of the Regional Government of Castile and León, Juan Vicente Herrera; the Portuguese Minister of Culture, Gabriela Canavilhas; and the Chairman of Fundación Iberdrola España, Manuel Marín. The signing ceremony was also attended by the Chairman of Iberdrola, Ignacio Galán; the Regional Director of the Portuguese Ministry of Culture for the country’s northern region (currently the Secretary of State), Paula Silva; and the Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Regional Government of Castile and León, Mª José Salgueiro.
  • This project redoubles the strong commitment between Iberdrola, Castilla y León – where the Iberdrola group was born in 1901- and Portugal, where the group has important projects, especially the construction on the Támega River of one of the largest hydroelectric projects in Europe.

Project characteristics

The initial investment in the project, of approximately 4.5 million euros, was made in the period from 2010 to 2014 (first phase of the plan), each party contributing a third of the total amount.

The project benefits 24 churches, 13 in Portugal and 11 in Spain: six located in the Spanish province of Zamora, eight in the Portuguese district of Vila Real, one in the Porto district, five in the Spanish province of Salamanca and four in the district of Bragança.

The Atlantic Romanesque Restoration Plan works on two different fronts:

  • On the one hand, comprehensive actions consisting of an architectural intervention in the church, the restoration of its immediate vicinity, lighting improvements and the installation of a monitoring system to better control the building by registering certain parameters (temperature, humidity, vibrations, movements, etc.).
  • On the other hand, the activities included maintaining the monitoring system and replacing the electrical installations with a more innovative and efficient decorative lighting system, consistent with the historic-artistic values of these heritage sites.

The Fundación Santa María La Real, a leading institution in the field of Romanesque art restoration, is key to the design and technical execution of the works, which are carried out in constant collaboration with the bishoprics of the areas in which the plan is being implemented. Its contributions have included the development of the monitoring system known as the Heritage Monitoring System (HMS) and they are divided into 3 phases:

PHASE 1   PHASE 2   PHASE 3
The building is studied to ascertain its characteristics and historical evolution. The data acquired are used to determine the sort of equipment necessary to ensure its conservation, and small sensors are mounted at strategic points in the church to control environmental parameters. Lastly, the data retrieved are periodically sent to a control centre, where they are examined to determine the subsequent steps to take in each case to prevent possible alterations.

Upon completion of the works at each church, the experts publish an explanatory leaflet for the parish, explaining the entire process together with numerous useful and simple tips on how to help to maintain the churches and keep them in a good state of repair, thus allowing local residents to become more engaged in the projects.

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The plan’s website has a version for mobile devices. The monitoring systems and humidity sensors allow the conditions in the churches included in the project to be controlled.

Progress in the programme

The first phase of the programme took place from 2012 to 2014, operating in parallel in various churches. Below, you can check on the situation and the progress made in our projects:

  • DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH

This church was built in the 12th century, over a previous building. Today, it is surrounded by modern buildings and, despite its many refurbishments, it represents a fine example of Romanesque architecture in the city of Salamanca. It has a 3-nave floor plan ending in circular apses.

At present, the church has two entrances: the Romanesque portal (Puerta del Obispo) and the Renaissance portal.

The church’s interior contains an Isabelline-style choir stall, from the 16th century, and the main altarpiece by José Joaquín de Churriguera.

  • ACTION

The action plan  is currently being designed.

  • DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH

Late Romanesque church from the 13th century, built in granite masonry. The building underwent major restoration in the 16th and 17th centuries and further alterations were made as a result of the fire that razed the church in 1887.

Part of the northern wall, the western front and most of the southern façade still remain from the Romanesque period. The façade found here was restored in the 16th century. Remains of corbels can be seen in the original eaves, and also in the chapel. Remains of a Romanesque-style semicircular arch are to be found in the main chapel.

  • ACTION

Completed in late 2011. The work focused on adapting the electrical installation and ensuring the preventive conservation of the church and its interior furnishings.

      • New electrical installation. The works consisted of renovating the electrical and lighting installation in order to provide the church with a system that is not only more modern, safer and efficient, but also better suited to its artistic features and Romanesque origin. To this end, the wiring, meters and electrical boxes were refurbished and low-energy LED-technology lights with the same aesthetic appearance and finish were installed. The wiring network was also concealed to reduce its aesthetic impact on the church today, following numerous alterations and additions to the installation.
      • Preventive conservation. A further project goals has been to ensure the preventive conservation of the building and its assets. To achieve this, the technicians used the MHS system to monitor the area housing the collection of historical chasubles owned by the parish, so as to protect these pieces.
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The church now has a suitable electrical installation and conditions to ensure that the church and its assets will be well preserved.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH

This church, made of granite masonry with a wide square apse followed by a single nave, has undergone various transformations, especially in the 16th century, although its origins are clearly Romanesque.

From the Romanesque period, it only retains two corbels arranged on the southern wall, walled up remains of a simple semicircular façade and an eroded consecration inscription in the northern area written in Visigoth characters that could date from the mid-12th century.

  • ACTION

The interior lighting was renewed, and the previous ceiling and wall lights were replaced with more modern ones. New alabaster and steel hinged windows were also fitted to improve the building’s ventilation and thus reduce damp problems. The work concluded by replacing the tiled floor in the baptistery area.

In addition, monitoring work was carried out using the MHS system.

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The parishioners are now enjoying the results of this project which renovated the church’s lighting and climate control.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH

The building is a soundly-built granite masonry construction, with a small quadrangular apse and a wide 5-section nave, with a belfry and three façades where the influence of the early Gothic period can be seen.

As a result of the various alterations the building underwent over a relatively short period of time, it is not easy to interpret its entire evolutionary process, which starts in the Romanesque period.

  • ACTION

The interior lighting installation at the Cristo de la Misericordia chapel was refurbished. In addition, the surroundings were renovated by improving the access road and removing undergrowth. The exterior illumination floodlights have also been hidden and street furniture has been installed in order to create different spaces, including a vantage point for enjoying views over the Arribes del Duero.

In addition, monitoring work was carried out using the MHS system.

The works began in October 2012.

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The chapel has new interior and exterior lighting, as well as improved surroundings.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH

This chapel is inside the walled enclosure of Yecla la Vieja and probably dates from the late Romanesque period. Although its construction began at the beginning of the 13th century, the church we know today dates from the reign of the Catholic Monarchs.

The quadrangular choir stall is the oldest part of the church and is accompanied by a single three-section nave divided by late Gothic arches. The adjoining apse is on the southern side, while the entrance is in the northern façade.

Outside there are corbels and a small pediment at the foot of the church.

  • ACTION

The main achievement in Yecla has been to provide electricity to the El Castillo chapel by means of solar panels, replacing the inadequate petrol generator that it had before. Its Velux windows, which were a very unusual feature in this type of building, have also been removed to let in natural light, as requested by the parishioners, through an ad hoc solution.

The lighting system has been renovated to highlight the chapel’s unique characteristics, as well as the carpentry, and a HMS Heritage Monitoring System has been installed.

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The chapel ‘s lighting system, carpentry and windows have been renovated.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH

This Visigoth church, which was built between the 7th and 8th centuries on the banks of the River Esla, has been a National Monument since 1912. Its current location in the town of El Campillo in the Zamora region is due to Iberdrola moving it stone-by-stone to protect it and stop it from being damaged by construction of the Ricobayo reservoir in 1930.

Its design follows the layout of a Greek cross on a 3-nave basilica floor plan, which today provides an interesting example of a hybrid between these two types of floor plans. Some prominent features include the horseshoe Visigoth arches and the decoration of the friezes and capitals, which are among the most spectacular to be found in Visigoth architecture.

The church continues to house religious worship today.

  • ACTION

The action phase for the area surrounding the church, which involved much more than a simple restoration, is now complete: the project proposed a new building management model, which allows visits to be better organised and provides for its conservation.

    • To achieve this, a visitor reception centre has been built, integrated within the building’s surroundings, that helps organise access to the church and provides an exhibition area to display the pieces and historical elements formerly housed in the building.
    • The intervention guarantees the conservation of the building: although structurally sound, the church did have some damp issues due to the poor state of repair of the roof. In order to avoid and correct these issues, the roofs have been replaced by new ones that guarantee the weather-tightness of the building, and the woodwork within the building was renovated.
    • The church was also equipped with a lighting system suitable for its characteristics, since it was not connected to mains electricity and the only lighting came from the natural light that penetrated through the arrow-holes, which was insufficient.
    • The building has been monitored, through the HMS system, to control environmental parameters and the data obtained has been used to draft proposals for management.

This has been a participatory project from the beginning as it involved and was supported by all the bodies involved (the Castilla y León regional government, Fundación Iberdrola España and, in this case, the Bishopric of Zamora) as well as the parish, the San Pedro de la Nave – La Almendra local council and the people of El Campillo.

After the restoration works, Ignacio Galán (Chairman of Iberdrola), Juan Vicente Herrera (President of the Board of Castilla y León) and Manuel Marín (Chairman of Fundación Iberdrola Spain) officially reopened the restored building and its surroundings.

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The church now has a new building management model, new roofing and a new lighting system.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH

The Santa María Magdalena church is a small building made of granite ashlar and masonry. It consists of a square apse with a gabled roof, a vestry against its northern side and a single nave, with a façade protected by a simple portico and a bell-gable. The interior of the church has been extensively renovated in different periods.

  • ACTION

This was the first church that was restored as part of the Atlantic Romanesque Project. Work began in 2010 in order to improve the safety of its electrical installation. Through the installation of sensors, the environmental and safety parameters can now be monitored and the data is sent regularly to a control centre. This has been possible thanks to the Heritage Monitoring System (HMS), which enables preventive conservation of churches and introduces pioneering applications to ensure their safety.

You can consult more information about the project in the restoration dossier [PDF].

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This restoration, the first within the Atlantic Romanesque Project, has improved the safety of the church’s electrical installations.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH

This late Romanesque church was built at the end of the 12th or beginning of the 13th century, although it retains Gothic elements. The building underwent substantial remodelling in this period: the apse was replaced and the sloped buttresses and the triumphal arch inside were added. The church was built with stone blocks in the corners and reinforcement elements, while masonry was used in the rest of the building.

The façade consists of a pointed arch and archivolt. Its two carved crosses are noteworthy: one is the Maltese cross and the other is six-armed.

  • ACTION

The works themselves started with the restoration of the church’s main altarpiece, a classical, 17th century piece of carved, gilded and polychrome wood in the pre-Churrigueresque style. This piece, arranged in three horizontal bodies and three vertical sections, consists of several images of polychrome carving. While the work shows no signs of serious structural or pictorial damage, insects had attacked the wood, causing loss in both density and strength, and there was significant oxidation of its colours and protective coating.

The intervention on the altarpiece, which ended in May 2012, was carried out in situ and was executed in two parts in order to return the altarpiece to its former excellent condition:

    • Conservation treatments, to restore stability to each of the altarpiece’s elements.
    • Restoration treatments, to remove rusted varnishes, clean the surface and reintegrate the pictorial film.

After this restoration, work began on renovating the church’s lighting system in order to minimise the visual impact of the installation, guarantee its safety, contribute to energy savings and enable different environments to be created. The lighting improvements have endowed the church with an appropriate ambience for both worship and visits by fitting small spotlights that enhance such features as the altarpiece, the geometric coffered ceiling and the baptismal font.

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The intervention focused on restoring the main altarpiece and renovating the church’s lighting system.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH

This church dates back to the 10th century and was built using granite masonry and slate.

It has three naves, the central one covered by a slightly pointed barrel vault, while the side ones are covered by central groin vaults and simple ribbed vaults.

The eastern portal, which connected the church with the cloister that has now disappeared, is Romanesque. There is another southern portal, now blocked off, that has a semicircular double arch over smooth jambs. The original cloister was located on this side and later replaced by a late Gothic one of which only some remnants exist today. The Renaissance-style western façade is topped by an 18th century bell-gable.

  • ACTION

First restoration stage The restoration work focused on improving and waterproofing the roof, especially in the apse, secondary apse and vestry area, in order to solve the damp problems affecting the church.

    • Preliminary studies began in early 2011, consisting of installing a number of sensors and crack monitors inside the church that measured the building’s structural and environmental conditions. As a result, it was decided in this first stage to focus on cleaning, restoring and improving the roof to eliminate dampness, which was damaging some of the building’s inner walls.
    • While this work was being carried out, experts continued expanding and enhancing the monitoring system by installing new devices and sensors inside the church to record new data. With all the information gathered, experts from the Fundación Santa María analysed how the church had changed after this first stage, in order to establish a diagnosis for the second restoration stage.

Second restoration stage. It started in 2012 and consisted of cleaning the walls and ceilings of both the sacristy and the north wall to remove the existing vegetation. The floor in the sacristy was also renovated, all with the key objective of preparing this space for worship.

    • Work was carried out on the interior fittings and on the carpentry to ensure that adequate humidity and temperature conditions were maintained.
    • The upper part of the buttresses were covered with lead bibs or plates, in order to prevent moisture from penetrating inside the church.
    • The mural paintings in the secondary apses were restored.
    • The lighting was improved, to enhance the mural paintings in the secondary apses and to facilitate worship in the sacristy.
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Work has been undertaken in this church to weatherproof its roof and recondition the sacristy as a space suitable for worship by improving the heating, lighting, etc.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH

Though more reminiscent of the Gothic than the Romanesque, which can be seen in both its shape as well as its decoration, this church is a direct heir of the late Romanesque style in the capital of Zamora. Its origin dates back to the end of the 12th century and the first quarter of the 13th.

Amongst its preserved Romanesque remains, we can highlight part of the wall of the nave and a series of now walled-up semi-circular windows, in addition to numerous ashlar blocks reused in subsequent refurbishments. Granite is the most abundant material in the area, it was, thus, used to construct this church, particularly as ashlar blocks.

The interior is formed by a rectangular apse, renovated in the eighteenth century, and the late Gothic nave is divided into four sections separated by pointed arches. Between both lies the cross vault, crowned by an 18th century dome. Of the church’s three portals, the northern one is its main access, probably opened during the 18th century. The southern portal displays pointed forms with four archivolts decorated with vegetation and small human heads. Traces of colour can still be seen, which suggests that it was completely polychromed at one time.

  • ACTION

Two Baroque period altarpieces that were damaged by the passage of time, dirt and the loss of their polychromy were restored. One of the restorations was paid for by the Confraternity of the Virgen de la Bandera, which is closely involved in the church’s maintenance and conservation. The process began with a cleaning phase, it was then completed using various methods to consolidate both the wooden support and the pictorial layers. Treatments against fungi and wood-boring insects were also applied.

In addition, the lighting system was modernised by installing new LED technology light points, which allow greater light output and lower consumption. Two supports were designed to house the LED lights and the PA system, thereby doing away with all surface installations.

The project also included a monitoring system for the shrine.

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Two altarpieces have been restored and the lighting and public address system has been modernised.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH

This church, which has a single nave, ends in a large square apse to which the sacristy is attached. This church was constructed using granite and slate masonry that, although it has undergone renovation in modern times, still retains some Romanesque elements. This is the case for the northern wall and the semicircular arched entrance gateway, which is now covered up. The eastern façade appears intact and tombstones also remain that go back to the church’s origin, which could date back to the 12th century.

Other than the semicircular arch above the northern entrance, the church’s interior no longer displays its Romanesque features.

  • ACTION

The works focused on refurbishing the Romanesque portal located in the cemetery wall. The door, which had been walled up, was opened up and steel and alabaster elements were installed to allow light to enter the nave. This improved the historic-artistic interpretation of the building, recovering lost cultural values by returning to the original configuration of a doorway that, due to its decoration and imposing size, is a rare contrast to the architectural simplicity common within this part of Zamora province.

The electrical installation was also modernised by means of new low consumption light points that enhance the lighting of the most important artistic elements such as the main altarpiece, the presbytery and the baptismal fonts.

The project also included building monitoring so as to ensure the perfect conservation of both the building and the objects housed inside it.

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In this church, the Romanesque portal, located in the cemetery wall, was rehabilitated and the electrical installation modernised.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH

This single nave church, with its quadrangular apse, was part of the monastery at Castro de Avelãs in the 16th century. The nave has an exposed wooden roof and is divided into three sections separated by semicircular diaphragm arches, which in turn are set upon pilasters decorated with vegetable crops and bird claws.

The inclined buttresses corresponding to the interior arches can be seen from the outside. The cornice is supported by corbels, both smooth as well as figured, with anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and geometric imagery. The main façade is crowned by a small bell-gable and conserves four brackets belonging to an ancient portico. This opens into a bay with a semicircular arch, displaying a star-shape lattice. The portal, with a pointed arch and two archivolts with moulding, sits upon protruding imposts.

The floor level inside the nave is below the outside ground level; so access is gained via steps. Once inside, the hemispherical basin of the baptismal font is on the Gospel side, elevated on a corbel with geometric imagery. On the other side, the lateral walls of the triumphal arch are decorated with murals of Saint Catherine and Saint Bartholomew framed with vegetable motifs. The Mannerist style of the main altar is highly prominent and comprises six panels divided by Corinthian columns and friezes with cherubs.

  • ACTION

The rehabilitation works in this church consisted of low-key interventions, respecting the authenticity of the building at all times:

    • Rehabilitation of the roofs to prevent moisture entering.
    • Replacement of the exterior plaster in the apse and sacristy that was in poor condition.
    • Cleaning the granite masonry by removing the vegetation growing from the walls and treating the joints.
    • Curative and preventive treatment of all the wood in the roofs against wood-boring insects with colourless insecticide products.
    • Intervention in the church’s bays that previously contained dissonant elements.
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The rehabilitation works included restoration of the roof, improvements to the wooden structure, pre-installation of the electrical system and restoration of the woodwork.

  • DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH

This is the Atlantic Romanesque Project’s most iconic church in Portugal. Part of this Romanesque church was a Benedictine monastery in the 12th century. A new, single-nave church was then built in the 18th century, employing the primitive secondary apse on the northern side as the vestry. The secondary apse on the southern side was partially reconstructed in the 20th century and the cloister and monastic wings were discovered near the church in 2006.

An advance can be seen in the construction materials, since, in addition to granite, bricks were used to create the series of archways and blind windows in the chancel, with clear Mudéjar influence. The main façade contains a portal with a straight lintel and a curved pediment, and above, it has a bay.

Three archivolts adorned with grape leaves and vines constitute the Baroque main altar. The collateral altarpieces located on the triumphal arch’s wall display images such as San José con el Niño and el Sagrado Corazón de Jesús. There are also twelve paintings on the walls representing the Passion of Christ.

  • ACTION

After a rigorous survey of the property to ensure its conservation and heritage value, interventions were carried out consisting of:

    • Restoration of the roof system, including replacement of the tile roof as well as the placement of an insulating and waterproof membrane, which allows ventilation, to avoid condensation and moisture problems.
    • Improvement to the original wood structure and application of protective treatments in the coffered ceilings.
    • Pre-installation of an electrical system, to be executed at a later stage.
    • Protective treatments were applied to the woodwork and the doors were painted.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH

This 12th century church has a longitudinal plan comprising a single nave. In the main portal, the columns support three archivolts and show an alternating prismatic and smooth shafts. The façade is finished in a gable, crowned by a shortened cross. There are three portals, one in the north and two in the south: the northern portal has a pointed arch, without ornamentation, and those in the south have decorated voussoirs. There is an additional door on this side. The bell-gable has three recesses with bells and it is topped with a gable.

The main chapel is relatively high and in the proto-Gothic style. The interior has an interesting array of blind arches on the first level and the second level contains three small arrow-holes. The space is crowned with a barrel arch, separated from the presbytery by the toral arch.

A series of arches run through the inside of the entire nave, supported on corbels with vegetable decoration identical to the decoration on the apses. Two Atlantean figures have a structural function in the high wooden choir stall: a woman with exposed breasts and a man.

  • ACTION

Interdisciplinary analysis work was carried out before starting the intervention. A number of different professionals participated and their recommendations were as follows:

    • Rehabilitation of the roof system to avoid moisture problems.
    • Restoration and improvement of the original wooden structure and the application of protective treatments to the coffered ceilings.
    • After suffering structural problems, braces were placed on the corners, as well as general reinforcement by consolidating the joints, using mortars compatible with historic buildings.
    • Application of protective treatments to the woodwork and painting the doors.
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An interdisciplinary team completed a detailed survey to define the work to be carried out at San Pedro church in Roriz.