Románico Atlántico renews the lighting of the Carrascal de Velambélez church, Salamanca

Románico Atlántico renews the lighting of the Carrascal de Velambélez church, Salamanca

The Culture and Tourism representative of the Junta de Castilla y León, Javier Ortega, and the Fundación Ibredrola España’s president, Fernando García, both supporting entities of the Plan Románico Atlántico, visited this morning the Nuestra Señora del Castillo shrine to see in person the results of the intervention.

The action has focused on lighting improvement and on burying the wiring that used to cover the main façade of the building.

During the tour, they have been accompanied by the mayor of the Salamanca’s town, Carrascal de Velambélez, Alberto Torres, and by representatives of Salamanca’s dioceses, and the technicians in charge of the renovation. The Nuestra Señora del Castillo church is a simple building, with only one nave and a rectangular chancel, built at the end of the XV century using the foundations of a previous Romanic structure.

The shrine holds a unique collection of Renaissance mural paintings that cover its walls. Above the nave and apse lies a coffered ceiling covered with a Moammar roof. One of the objectives of the lighting renovation was to highlight the artistic value of those elements. “We wanted to go a step further into the preservation process of the Nuestra Señora del Castillo church by facilitating the building’s management and by spreading its heritage values”, explained one of the people in charge of the action.

Intervention criteria.

The work has been developed in accordance with the intervention criteria of the Plan, by facilitating the management and diffusion of the building without leaving aside its liturgical function. To achieve this, the first step was to establish photometric values, as in the quantity of light needed in each moment to guarantee the optimal perception of the different shrine’s functions, avoiding glares, and assuring the adequate preservation of the property.

We cannot forget that we are dealing with a historical building with liturgical functions– explained Jesús Castillo, a Fundación Santa María la Real’s architect in charge of the intervention -, the lighting must adapt to the building itself and to the assets it contains, highlighting their essence”. All of this has been considered while designing the new lighting that can be regulated according to the liturgical or ornamental function of the shrine. “We have adapted the lighting to the building”.

Installation’s renovation and underground wiring.

The obsolete electrical installation has been renovated and updated by increasing the power from 127 volts to the 230 V required by the current normative. Besides that, the wiring that used to cover the main façade has been buried, allowing the spotlight to return to its architecture.

Warm light has been chosen for the inside of the building, regulated accordingly to the elements before the eyes of the visitors. “The light compliments the architecture and highlights the volumetric composition of the building by showing its heights and deepness thanks to the shadows that form naturally on the facings’ nooks, improving the perception of the monument”.

LED technology also guarantees the energetic efficiency of the installation and improves its preservations. There have also been designed different lightings to each of the building’s functions, procuring to highlight its prominent elements: the paintings, coffered ceiling, and altarpieces.

Set of mural paintings

Thus, it is now possible to properly admire the set of mural paintings, consisting of different biblical scenes that were previously restored by Salamanca’s council and diocese. The church’s main façade displays now a pretend retable composed of three vertical panels and two bodies, divided by pilasters and entablature with candelieri decoration and vegetal ornaments with features of Gothic and Renaissance styles. By the bench, there are evangelical busts next to San Pedro and San Pablo busts, all of them with their characteristic iconographic attributes. Besides them, there are scenes of the Virgin Mary’s life and Christ’s childhood.

While in the previous scenes there were plenty of colors, the apse’s lateral walls were illuminated with grisaille and a type of sgraffito. Above a shifted socket surrounded by columns, rounded arches, and flower garlands, rise two registries, each composed of six scenes. These cloths narrate the Passion of the Christ, from the Praying on the garden until his Descendant as well as hagiographic scenes of Santiago el Mayor, San Martín, or San Lorenzo, which come together with a red sash with full-bodied effigies of saints, among whom we recognize Santa Bárbara, San Bartolomé, Santa Apolonia, San Juan Bautista, Santa Áugeda, Santa Lucía.

The mural set of Carrascal de Velambélez stands out due to its proportions among the diverse group of more or less known paintings preserved at the southeast of Zamora, north of Salamanca, and the frontier area with Portugal, which in recent years has been the focus of several studies promoted by the Junta de Castilla y León. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has also carried an array of outreach activities for the paintings, such as brochure publishing, the development of a virtual visit, the 3D design of a panel for people with visual impairment, the publishing of videos in Spanish, Portuguese, and sign language for people with disabilities. They have also organized visits, technical seminars, and an itinerary exhibition about the topic in Salamanca, Zamora, and some Portuguese towns.

This artistic focus shared between Castilla y León and northern Portugal focuses on the shrines with those pictures in Zamora and Salamanca by collaboration with the Direção Regional de Cultura do Norte. All of these actions being carried on the frontier will undoubtedly contribute to the territorial development, joining the improvement of the scenic appeal with the monumental or artistic interest.

Plan Románico Atlántico

Lastly, there should be reminded that the Plan Románico Atlántico is a cross-border collaborative initiative for the conservation of cultural heritage that utilizes the territory as a necessary tool, as well as a development objective and a sustainable practice of public administration.  It encompasses projects situated in the Spanish provinces of Zamora and Salamanca and in the Portuguese regions of Porto, Vila-Real y Bragança.

The Plan is an example of institutional collaboration and public-private partnership as it is promoted by la Junta de Castilla y León, the Fundación Iberdrola España, and the Culture Ministry of Portugal. Parallel to this intervention in Salamanca’s province, the project for the reconditioning of the inside of San Martín de Tours church is being finished.

The parties involved make a positive assessment of this project of recovery and enhancement of heritage value at the service of these border areas and therefore wanted to give it continuity with the signing of a new agreement between the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Fundación Iberdrola España, and Salamanca and Zamora’s dioceses for 2021-2022, within the framework of the protocol signed in February 2020. This new agreement is based on a heritage management approach that includes the capacity to generate resources and enhances the value of heritage.