Completed Project

Toledo Cathedral (Ochavo Chapel and San Blas Chapel)

Toledo, Spain

Background

The Toledo Cathedral was built in the 13th century and contains several beautifully decorated chapels, including the Ochavo and San Blás chapels. The Ochavo, or Octagonal Chapel, is a High Renaissance reliquary room in Toledo Cathedral completed in the 1620s. El Greco’s son, Jorge Manuel Theotocopoulos, a successful architect in Toledo, designed the structure and also painted the frescoes on the ceiling. Although the chapel remained fairly structurally sound over the years, when the cathedral decided to use the space as an addition to its museum, it had to be restored. Flaws in the roof, in addition to deterioration simply due to poor maintenance and neglect, had to be addressed. The San Blás Chapel is decorated with murals attributed to Gerardo Starnina, a Florentine painter who lived in Spain in the 14th century and was a follower of Giotto. Water infiltration and salt crystallization caused the chapel to deteriorate, and it was closed to the public in the 19th century. The murals, walls, doors, and windows were in need of conservation and the chapel required a waterproofing and drainage system.

How We Helped

In the late 1970s and 1980s, Toledo Cathedral and WMF, with a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and support from the Chapter of Toledo Cathedral and the Cardinal Archbishop, undertook a project to restore the Ochavo Chapel for use as a museum to showcase the church’s treasures. The project consisted of repairing the roof and cleaning Theotocopoulos’s ceiling frescoes, the marble walls, and the floor. Conservation work finished in the summer of 1982. In order to ready the room for use as a museum, some of the objects that would be put on display to the public for the first time had to be conserved, so work was also carried out on a number of the pieces in the cathedral’s collection. Most notably, conservators treated the cathedral’s famed custodia, a highly intricate late-Gothic monstrance created between 1517 and 1524 by Enrique de Arfe. In 2003, through the Robert W. Wilson Challenge and support from project partner Iberdrola, WMF undertook the conservation of the mural paintings and implemented measures to prevent water infiltration in the walls and improve drainage in the Chapel of San Blás.

Why It Matters

Toledo Cathedral is one of the great religious complexes of Spain. Over the centuries, the archbishops of Toledo, also the primates of Spain, amassed a priceless collection of works of art. The chapels within the Cathedral are in themselves works of art and due to their restoration, more works of art within the Cathedral are able to be displayed, including the custodia, one of Toledo’s great treasures.

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