San Pedro de la Nave – Guest Post by Jong-Soung Kimm


The church of San Pedro de la Nave is located in the town of El Campillo, San Pedro de la Nave-Almendra municipal unit in Zamora province, near the Spanish-Portuguese border and about 150 kilometers southwest of León. The visitors are led to the church through a pathway of a contemporary landscape design from the visitor center.

Exterior, San Pedro de la Nave, El Campillo (Zamora) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The church originally stood on the banks of the river Esla but rebuilt on the present site when the Ricobayo dam was constructed in 1930~32. It is recorded in an inscription at the visitor center that the structure was moved to the present location “stone by stone” under the historic-artistic direction of Manuel Gómez-Moreno, and technical supervision of architect Alejandro Ferrant Vázquez.

Construction inscription, San Pedro de la Nave, El Campillo (Zamora) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The beginning of the original building was long thought to go back to sometime after 680 and before the Muslim conquest of 711, but the most recent archaeological studies place it about two centuries later at sometime between 9th and 10th century, and prove the church to be a Mozarabic architecture. The monument had already been registered as Bien de Interés Cultural in 1912 before the historic move twenty years later.

San Pedro de la Nave was built on the Latin Cross plan initially with the nave, choir and transepts. The aisles, or cells were added, and the apse was built to the east of the choir, resulting in a loosely basilica plan. The “aisles” here are not the continuous linear spaces on either side of the nave as found in the more developed Romanesque church plan of later period, but a series of compartments connected to the nave and choir. It would be more accurate, therefore, to refer to them as “cells” with different functions, a reflection of the Hispanic liturgy of that period. The interior of the nave measures about 3.6 meters by 6.9 meters.

Plan, San Pedro de la Nave, El Campillo (Zamora)

On the exterior of the church, the crossing is given prominence with a tower above it, and the transept arms are built as tall as the nave and choir. The axial view from the south of the church comes across a little like a Greek Cross structure because of almost equal arms being created by the apse and southern transept.

South view, San Pedro de la Nave, El Campillo (Zamora) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The open entrances at the porticoes to both transepts are given more importance than the one at the western façade of the church.

As a visitor sets foot through the modest western entrance, the eyes catch the barrel-vaulted nave, then come to a stop at the pair of horseshoe-shaped arches defining the western and eastern boundaries of the crossing. The master builder devised a framing scheme of rather wide transverse arches resting on very substantial abacuses which in turn are supported by capitals which taper to triangular shape and rest on top of slender round columns with noticeable entasis, giving a clue to the possibility that they are recycled columns from Roman ruins.

Nave view from west, San Pedro de la Nave, El Campillo (Zamora) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Although he created a square crossing, the master builder made a point of according priority to the east-west direction of the church by placing the triangular capitals only under the transverse arches over the nave and choir, but not under the transept arches. The view from the south transept toward north illustrates this point clearly.

View from south transept, San Pedro de la Nave, El Campillo (Zamora) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view looking up toward the tower loft over the crossing shows the transverse arches for the transepts simply resting on the abacuses turning around corners as imposts.

Crossing transverse arches, San Pedro de la Nave, El Campillo (Zamora) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The relatively long choir is connected to cell spaces on either side with elaborate openings. The square-ended apse is defined by a slightly tighter horseshoe-shaped arch at a lower height supported by round columns resting on the chancel floor without pedestals.

Apse, San Pedro de la Nave, El Campillo (Zamora) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The chancel has an elaborate altar.

Chancel altar, San Pedro de la Nave, El Campillo (Zamora) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

San Pedro de la Nave has an outstanding ornament program, perhaps one of the best among the early Medieval architecture on the Iberian Peninsula. The care and importance the master builder and his stone carvers bestowed on the church is evident in the elaborate carvings even on the high pedestals for columns for the crossing.

Pedestal carvings, San Pedro de la Nave, El Campillo (Zamora) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The high point of the ornaments, however, is reserved for the four wide triangular capitals over the slender round columns which show biblical scenes such as Daniel in the Lion’s Den at the northwest corner of the crossing …

Capital – Daniel in Lions’ Den, San Pedro de la Nave, El Campillo (Zamora) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

…or the Sacrifice of Isaac at the southwest corner.

Capital – Sacrifice of Isaac, San Pedro de la Nave, El Campillo (Zamora) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The abacuses for the capitals are decorated with volutes with carvings of human and animal figures as seen on the Isaac capital. The frieze band running the lengths of the ashlar masonry has carvings with succession of circles, vegetation and animal motifs.

San Pedro de la Nave, erected at the dawn of the Mozarabic architecture, foreshadows what would come only years later in the evolving liturgy and ecclesiastical building enterprise of Romanesque architecture on the Iberian Peninsula.

Nave, San Pedro de la Nave, El Campillo (Zamora) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Location: 41.58333° 5.96425°

To see links to all of Jong-Soung Kimm’s contributions to Via Lucis, please follow this link.

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