Romanesque Now Has a Virtual “Bible”

Romanesque Now Has a Virtual “Bible”
The best website yet about the prevailing artistic style of the 11th and 12th centuries debuts: its database will include 330,000 photos of 9,000 monuments from Spain and Portugal.
El País: El románico ya tiene ‘biblia’ virtual
Tereixa Constenla reporting from Madrid January 18, 2012

Arcs on the northern side of San Juan del Duero in Soria. Photo provided by the Royal St. Mary Foundation.

Loarre Castle
A drawing by Peridis of Loarre Castle in Huesca from

Románico Digital

A ruin can be half empty or half full. Peredis, or José María Pérez, the architect and artist who has done as much for Romanesque as King Alfonso VI of León and Castilla, albeit in another manner and another century, grabbed hold of Unamuno to show the dichotomy. When the author of Niebla (Fog) visited Aguilar de Campoo in Palencia, he only perceived – and wrote – of “ruins here and ruins there”. The author saw destruction and emptiness. He displayed the pessimism pegged to the collective identity of those thinkers who had a front row seat to witness the collapse of an empire. They knew much of despondence, so much that Unamuno himself ended his work with a counterweight: “a ruin can be hope.”

Peridis, perhaps by historical circumstance, perhaps by a blessed nature, perhaps because he was raised beside a great monastic ruin in Aguilar de Campoo, is one of those who proclaims that “a good ruin is cultural patrimony,” or hope. Yesterday he again demonstrated this during his presentation of the website, the most rigorous and exhaustive database yet to exist on the unlimited virtual world about the artistic style that was a part of the backbone of Christian Europe with its pilgrimages.

Launched by the Fundación Santa María la Real (Royal St. Mary Foundation), chaired by the artist, the initiative aspires to be the world’s number one website for Romanesque art within 3 years. It debuts with 4000 monuments and 60,000 digital photos, but in three years it plans to include all 9000 of the vestiges catalogued on the Iberian Peninsula (380 of those in Portugal) and display 330,000 high resolution photos of them.

The next leap is to incorporate the Romanesque footprint in Italy and France, the other countries with the most examples, which do not have their own website. “Everything is on the Internet, the good and the bad,” said Jaime Nuño, Director of the foundation’s Center for Romanesque Studies. There is a lot of information, but we have to ask ourselves whether there is much knowledge.”

The knowledge backed up on this new site is the fruit of persistent work accumulated over 15 years by people kicking around Spain to weave a detailed and unique work, the Enciclopedia del Románico, a true bible of the style which prevailed in the north of the peninsula between 1070 and 1250, before Gothic refinement replaced it in temples and objects.

A proud Peridis assured that this encyclopedia, basically built by unemployed university graduates zealous about documenting an art in danger of extinction, is today a reference book in places like Harvard University and the U.S. Library of Congress, among others. More volumes will be added to the 38 already published to collect Romanesque works in Galicia, Catalonia, and Huesca.

The social and economic aspect of the recovery of patrimony is cardinal for the foundation. It cannot possibly be relocated. “A textile factory can go to China, but the Aqueduct of Segovia can’t,” Nuño indicated. “The patrimony is a primary resource, but much more would be needed to convert it into a manufacturable product, into a resource that could generate wealth and not be seen as a burden,” he defended. José María Pérez recalled that in 1985, when the youth unemployment rate competed with the current levels, a school/workshop was established to restore the Royal St. Mary Monastery that inspired the collective movement that helped restore monuments all over Spain. “We demonstrated that our patrimony is one of the best sources of employment,” he reiterated. “Not only can we take care of it; it’s also great wealth for a touristic country. Romanesque is an art of the countryside, and it is often found in unique locations, in a Spain that is disappearing,” he continued. But together with the threat is the possibility for new joy to blossom. Peridis pointed out that “thanks to great writers like Umberto Eco, the medieval era and Romanesque art are in fashion.”

Fashion is with it, and technology is as well: the new website received the collaboration of the Ministry of Industry, Tourism, and Commerce and the Foundation for Technological Innovation (Cotec), contributing in its manner to the preservation of a style that used architecture and sculpture to enlighten the masses and which generated a cohort of artists and artisans capable of bringing forth sounds from stones.

Medieval Prowess
-Spain, Italy, and France are the countries with the most remaining testimonials to Romanesque art.
-The site includes information on 4000 monuments, and by 2015, it will incorporate another 5000 structures from Huesca, Catalonia, and Galicia into its catalog.
-In addition to digital photos, the site offers architectural plans, geolocation maps, and historical documentation.
-It also hosts a virtual community about Romanesque, which permits users to load photos and commentaries for each monument.

Explore posts in the same categories: Art, Spain, Translations


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