Románico Atlántico publishes a digital book on the restoration of the mural paintings of Muga de Sayago

Románico Atlántico publishes a digital book on the restoration of the mural paintings of Muga de Sayago

The general director of Heritage of the Junta de Castilla y León, Juan Carlos Prieto Vielba, and the president of the Iberdrola Spain Foundation, Fernando García Sánchez, attended today in the Zamora town of Muga de Sayago the presentation of the book “La ermita de Nuestra Señora de Fernandiel. The restoration of its mural paintings. Innovation and memory in cross-border heritage”

The work, in digital format, has been edited within the Atlantic Romanesque Plan, to collect and disseminate the history, evolution and restoration process of the set of mural paintings housed in the building. The book is now available for downloading and viewing on the plan’s website

Throughout 143 pages perfectly illustrated, the history of the building and its paintings, the context and the theoretical framework in which the work was carried out, the intervention criteria, the previous studies and the restoration process are presented in detail. It also includes an article on the work carried out to improve the lighting, sustainability and energy efficiency of the church. The work is completed with a section dedicated to the Atlantic Romanesque Plan, the presentations by the entities promoting the plan and the conclusions.

A dozen experts and technicians have participated in the elaboration of the different articles, most of them linked to the previous studies and the restoration process of the mural paintings. Some of them have attended today the presentation of this new digital book, in which it has been recalled that the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de Fernandiel dates from the thirteenth century, although in later centuries there were numerous alterations and modifications.

XVI century mural painting

The building stands out for the great extension of mural painting that it preserves. As stated in the book, several groups of painters were in charge of its execution at different times in the 16th century. The head wall is presided over by a pictorial altarpiece with scenes and decorative motifs referring to the life of the Virgin. In the lateral walls of the chancel are represented characters of the Old Testament; in the second body of the church, two pictorial altarpieces dedicated to Santa Ana and Santa Brígida stand out and in the lateral walls are represented evangelical passages, several Fathers of the Church and four saints.

State of conservation

The paintings were executed on lime and sand mortar, applied in two layers. Most of the work is done dry, using egg tempera or casein, although the existence of a first work done in fresco is not ruled out. The palette is made up of ochre, yellow, orange, red, brown, charcoal black and blue colors.

Before the restoration, the ensemble presented generalized dirt; superficial dust, more compacted greasy dirt and localized stains of different nature. In addition, in the pictorial layers there were visible alterations such as cracks, loss of union between the layers, bagging, decohesion or sandblasting, as well as numerous losses of polychromy. On the other hand, the successive reforms undertaken in the building had affected the whole. To ensure the suitability of the intervention, various analyses, tests and information gathering were carried out.

Restoration Process

The work began with the elimination of surface dust, previously fixing the polychrome areas. The consolidation treatments were based on the mineralization of the decohesioned areas of mortar, the adhesion of the separated layers by means of the injection of adhesives and the help of precision props and the filling of the hollow areas with deep injection mortars. Subsequently, cleaning was undertaken, aimed at the elimination of foreign substances. The last step was the recovery of the correct reading of the paintings, through the application of mortars to regularize the walls and the chromatic reintegration of the lost areas, always following the criterion of minimum intervention.

In addition to the mural paintings, the altarpiece and the carving of Nuestra Señora de Fernandiel were also treated, as the publication reminds us. An intervention focused on the settlement of the polychromy, material consolidation, structural reinforcement, cleaning, elimination of repainting and additions, and volumetric and chromatic reintegration.

Renovation of electrical installation and lighting

To enhance this unique set of mural paintings, the intervention of the Atlantic Romanesque Plan was completed with the installation of new ornamental lighting, more in line with the temple, which provides it with optimal light levels, through the application of LED technology with a design that respects its heritage and spiritual values.

In addition, photovoltaic solar panels and stationary batteries that accumulate the energy were installed in the annex building. This system is more sustainable and efficient than the old diesel generator. This space was also prepared for possible use as an information point for the Plan.

Atlantic Romanesque Plan

Románico Atlántico is a cross-border cooperation initiative for the conservation of cultural heritage, which includes projects for the restoration and enhancement of some twenty Romanesque temples located in the Spanish provinces of Zamora and Salamanca and in the Portuguese regions of Porto, Vila-Real and Bragança. It is an example of institutional cooperation and public-private participation, since it is promoted by the Junta de Castilla y León, the Iberdrola Spain Foundation and the Portuguese Ministry of Culture.

Along with the intervention in the buildings, the plan pays special attention to dissemination actions, such as the publication of this book in digital format, which will help to bring the history of the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de Fernandiel and its mural paintings closer to society. In the province of Zamora, so far, different actions have been carried out, not only in the hermitage of Muga de Sayago, but also in San Martín de Castañeda, San Pedro de la Nave, Fermoselle, Muga de Alba, Pobladura de Aliste or more recently, in the temples of San Juan and San Vicente, in the capital. The technical support of the Santa María la Real Foundation, as well as the collaboration of the dioceses of each territory, in this case, that of Zamora, is available for each and every one of the actions.