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CARTUJA DE SANTA MARIA DE MIRAFLORES
Preserving a Medieval Monastery in Castilla y Leon
Cartuja de Santa Maria de Miraflores in Burgos was founded by John II, King of Castilla y Leon following the destruction by fire of an earlier monastery. The new complex was designed by Hans and Simon of Cologne in 1452, who collaborated with other renowned artists on the church’s interior to create one of the most impressive ensembles of medieval art and architectural ornament to survive in Spain. The alabaster tomb of Infante Alfonso, a highly decorated monument with an architectural niche framing a sculptural image of the entombed, and the star-shaped mausoleum of King John II and his second wife Isabel of Portugal, were started by their daughter Queen Isabella and completed between 1489 and 1493 by Flemish sculptor Gil de Siloé. The church’s main altarpiece, also executed by Siloé and painter Diego de la Cruz between 1496 and 1499, repeats the decorative flourishes of the mausoleum.
The monastery is still occupied by the Carthusian order, a cloistered group of monks who have devoted their lives to God and the solitary life and who observe silence.
HOW WE HELPED
WMF supported the successful restoration of the main altar, mausoleums, and sanctuary screen, as well as the reproduction of the alabaster statue of St. James (Santiago el Mayor), currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cloisters (MMA) in New York City. The replica, which was produced by the MMA reproduction studios, be featured at an exhibition at the Reina Sofia Institute in New York in February 2010 before it is brought to the Cartuja complex for permanent display.
The last phase of work, completed in 2010, consisted in the conservation of the western façade which had, for unknown reasons, been moved from the north side to its current location on the west side in 1657. Over the years, the façade suffered damage, caused mainly by oxidation of the anchors used to accommodate the façade in its new space, the deterioration of the mortar, and biological presence in the stone. The cleaning of the façade ornaments revealed remnants of the original polychromy. The conservation work included the desalination of the polychromatic areas, followed by the setting of the polychrome and repointing of the mortar and joints in the façade.
WHY IT MATTERS
Cartuja de Santa María de Miraflores contains the tomb of the Infante Alfonso and the mausoleum of his parents, King John II and his wife Isabel, whose daughter Queen Isabella was the major patron of Christopher Columbus. The church, part of the monastery complex, embodies the last flowering of the middle ages in Spain, just prior to the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand in 1469 that joined the royal lines of Castilla and Aragon, creating modern Spain as we know it today, and opening up the era of exploration.
The intricately carved and gilded wood altar and alabaster sepulchers by Gil de Siloé are among the most important late Gothic works in Spain.