Iberdrola and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral sign a collaboration agreement for new interior lighting

Iberdrola and Santiago de Compostela Cathedral sign a collaboration agreement for new interior lighting

  • This renewal of the monument’s ornamental interior lighting will serve to highlight the outstanding elements including the naves, transept, ambulatory, clerestory and the Pórtico de la Gloria, the western façade porch

This morning, the Dean of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral Chapter, Segundo Pérez, and the Director of Fundación Iberdrola España, Ramón Castresana signed a collaboration agreement to fit new interior lighting in the cathedral. The event was also attended by the President of Fundación Iberdrola España, Fernando García and the Minister for Culture of the Regional Government of Galicia.

According to the specifications of the Master Plan for the cathedral, the project will enable the renewal of its interior lighting, thereby serving to highlight the outstanding elements including the naves, transept, ambulatory, clerestory and the Pórtico de la Gloria, the western façade porch. Fundación Iberdrola España is to contribute €800,000 to this initiative.

The project, which has come out of several years of preliminary studies and the deliberations by experts, is to be undertaken in conjunction with the restoration work currently under way at the cathedral, thus ensuring its compatibility. An assessment was carried out on the daytime natural light in the basilica, on the basis of which progress has been made in establishing the criterion for night-time lighting. This means that the artificial light to be fitted does not aim to compensate or replace the natural light, rather it will be understood as a different visual layer, with lighting levels typical of night light, consisting of warm light-colour temperatures, thus avoiding classic vault lighting.

Moreover, in terms of use, work will be undertaken to reconcile the use of light which, on the one hand throws the architecture of the monument into relief, while on the other, creating a welcoming ambience in keeping with the essential nature of the monument as a place of worship. Accordingly, the project has established the guidelines to implement an advanced control system to enable the creation of different scenarios and to regulate lighting levels individually at each point for different occasions: visits outside mass times, mass times and the celebration of high mass.

In fact, the idea is to adopt criteria in keeping with both the history of the monument and the ongoing reality of the cathedral as a place of worship. This “cathedral light” has always been deployed on two very different planes. Traditionally the artificial light commanded the more or less ground plane, owing to the available technology and for maintenance reasons. Such lighting has always been low level, warm coloured lighting, implemented by way of various solutions (votive candle racks, candlesticks at consecration crosses, votive lamps such as those of the ambulatory angels which the project intends to recover).

Natural light, however, commands the more elevated sections. This abundant, cold coloured light, the presence of which serves to highlight the technical and symbolic endeavours involved in the amazing construction of the Medieval naves during the day, which is absent at night: an absence that links vast ample spaces at a height with mystery, with the inscrutable. Indeed, the project sustains this interesting duality by offering visitors and churchgoers alike a stunning visual experience.

Iberdrola has been collaborating with Santiago de Compostela Cathedral since 2004 through several initiatives such as the lighting for its Holy Door. Moreover, in 2015 it helped with the complete renewal of the lighting, as well as checking and installing the electrical installation in the Main Chapel and the Tomb of the Apostle. This new project in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral further strengthens Iberdrola’s links with Galicia and its ongoing commitment to promoting the social value of its culture and the protection and preservation of the historic and artistic heritage of the region.

“This initiative constitutes one of the key goals of our actions in this area: the preservation of the monument and its importance for both the community and local development while also contributing to the preservation of its elements, thereby showcasing and highlighting the unique features of the architecture and at the same time prioritising energy efficiency and sustainability”, explains Fernando García President of Fundación Iberdrola.

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

The discovery or Inventio of the tomb of St. James and his followers by Theodomir bishop of Iria Flavia took place some time between 820-830 AD. And with it began a phenomenon, duly supported by the monarchy, that was to see north-western Spain become one of the main reference points for Christianity. Indeed, one thousand two hundred years later it continues to attract thousands of the faithful and pilgrims to walk the St. James’s Way pilgrimage, declared to be the First European Heritage Route by UNESCO.

Originally housed in a pre-existing Roman mausoleum, Alfonso II promoted the building of the first church for the safekeeping and veneration of the apostolic tomb. However, due to the sharp rise in pilgrims, this soon proved to be too small and had to be replaced by a pre-Romanesque basilica built during the reign of Alfonso III the Great, and consecrated in 899 AD. This church was razed to the ground by the Moorish leader, Almanzor in 997 AD, though quickly rebuilt early in the 11th century thus avoiding any great interruption to the cult of St. James and the pilgrimage to his tomb, while at the same time incorporating new architectural elements.

Alfonso III’s basilica, like that of its predecessor, also proved wanting given the rise in pilgrimages to Compostela. Accordingly, in 1075, Alfonso VI of Leon and Bishop Diego Peláez began the construction of the cathedral on the east side of the existing structure. This construction was to undergo several phases until its consecration in a solemn ceremony presided over by Archbishop Pedro Muñiz and attended by Alfonso IX of Leon on 21 April 1211.

The cathedral has not closed in the over eight hundred years since its consecration, though its aspect, both interior and exterior have changed considerably with the passing of time with the incorporation of a host of different artistic styles. Both liturgical and functional developments have contributed to the original structure, resulting in new constructions and decorative elements. All of which has greatly enriched the cultural heritage of the cathedral, both in terms of its structure as well as regards the art collections it contains, with respect to which votive offerings, bequests and commissions made by bishops, chapters, kings, dignitaries and pilgrims over two thousand years of history have left their mark on a place of worship that constitutes the very heart and raison d’être of not only Compostela, but Galicia as a whole.

Neither has there been any interruption over the years of the masses celebrated in the cathedral or any let up in the numbers of pilgrims it attracts. Indeed, due to the rise of these in recent decades, Santiago has become a veritable mass phenomenon. In 2019 alone, over 300,000 pilgrims have made the pilgrimage to Compostela having complied with the rules established by the Church, to whom the millions of faithful and visitors to the cathedral must be added, thus making it one of the most visited monuments in Spain. Given such a scenario, there is little doubt that 2021, the next Holy Year, will see both attendance and participation exceed all expectations.

Iberdrola’s commitment to the cultural and artistic heritage of Spain

Through its foundation in Spain, Iberdrola devotes an important part of its endeavours to projects concerned with caring for, conserving and showcasing the artistic and cultural heritage of Spain. Since 2011, the investment in these types of initiatives has risen to €12.6 million, basically targeting two main lines of work: the Restoration Programme to preserve pictorial and artistic heritage and the Lighting Programme, which deals with the design, implementation and funding of artistic lighting projects in unique buildings and monuments.

The latter programme has carried out over 40 lighting projects in unique buildings and monuments, among which the following are particularly worthy of mention: the historic Roman Bridge in Alcántara (Cáceres), the façade of the Spanish parliament building, the church of Paular Monastery (Madrid), lighting at Uclés Monastery (Cuenca), at the Royal Pantheon at the Colegiata de San Isidoro (León); the new exterior lighting of Ávila Cathedral and the interior lighting in the New Cathedral in Salamanca.

Lighting the Prado is another of the unique initiatives under this programme, consisting, as it does, of the complete lighting of the Prado Museum with pioneering LED technology, making it a benchmark project at the European level.