|The south facade of Santa Maria la Blanca, Villalcázar de Sirga|
Photos in this post 2019 Jessica Knauss
"There's a miracle-working Virgin there," I said. "The Cantigas mention her a lot." As shown in the previous post, there are no fewer than fourteen cantigas (3 percent!) telling only some of the miracles the Virgin Mary performed in the thirteenth century in what was then known as Villasirga.
|Fifteenth-century castle at Olmillos de Sasamón|
|The view from the pub, with Christmas decor|
Before the redo trip two weeks later, I read all the Villasirga cantigas and got a sense of the awesome power concentrated here. We learned that the "sirga" in the town's name refers not just to any road, but to the type of road that follows along a canal. Given that it's named for a place of transit, Villasirga has always been a site of reference for travelers. Perhaps for that reason, it is the only town to the north of the Duero River that belonged to the Order of the Knights Templar. As was their custom, they set up a hospital and hostel for weary travelers here. In the early thirteenth century, after an artist created the image of the Blessed Virgin, the town was able to compete for the massive traffic along the pilgrims' Road to Santiago. It was at that time that the Church of Santa Maria la Blanca was built, to honor this Virgin Mary and give her a grand space in which to work her miracles.
|Note the painted column capitals!|
As I've hinted above, the construction is Romanesque-Gothic transition, so although it's built like a fortified structure with few windows, it's also voluminous. When you walk in, the whole space is illuminated through the rose window in the Santiago Chapel, and you can't help but look up at the pointed arches undulating through the upper space.
Knowledge of these construction events and interventions is necessary to understand the unexpected question I had to deal with on this auspicious day:
She's similar in style and symbolism to the Santiago Chapel Virgin and just as symmetrical and placid, but she's made of wood. She was always an indoor Mary. For this reason, she still has her right hand and Baby Jesus still has his head. She's now surrounded by a magnificent fifteenth-century Hispano-Flemish series of panels depicting the life of Jesus.
During the part of the mass when the congregation gives each other "God's peace," the priest came into the aisle and shook everyone's hand and even chatted a little before returning to his post to finish. This is the first time I've seen such a warm and welcoming act. It felt like a sign of cosmic approval for the decisions I've made up to this point.
|Romanesque fantastic creatures, but the execution is Gothic|
|Peter with the keys to the pearly gates|
|You can get a sense of the grand scale looking toward the foot.|
|The stone Virgin is dwarfed in the light from |
the rose window.
"I can tell!" he said.
Just one more miracle from Villalcázar de Sirga.