|Santa María la Nueva with its Baroque|
bell gable and two burial niches for those
who couldn't afford a plot inside.
Photos in this post 2017-2019 Jessica Knauss
The church was built in the early twelfth century in an early, pure Romanesque style. Then, it was built in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century in a Romanesque style that was making the first changes toward Gothic. The Gothic style took over at the sides of the apse, built in the later thirteenth century, and finally the bell gable was added in the seventeenth century. In Zamora, it's not the usual practice to keep revising a church, once built. So why is Santa María la Nueva the most Zamoran of twenty-two Romanesque churches?
|Don Benito and his son between two narrators in their leather shop|
in a representation of the legend associated with Santa María la Nueva
not far from that very church, during the medieval festival in Zamora, 2019
|Ready with their torches to do some Romanesque damage|
|The red lights and smoke effects show what Don Benito so regrets having to do.|
These medieval legends keep only the essential information to tell the story, relying on their audience's cultural context to generate the emotional impact. Although I provide quite a bit more context in my play, I still rely on actors' performances to lend an interpretation to my written words. It was an interesting departure to write for the stage!
Now that you know the legend, tour the church where it all happened.
The building just behind the church in this photo is the previously mentioned Holy Week Museum, the largest such of its kind in the region and maybe all Spain. It helps make this plaza an important hot spot during Holy Week as the floats on display travel in and out its specially proportioned doors.
This poor fellow is being devoured by wild animals (probably wolves). Given the checkerboard pattern above, which represents choices on the spiritual path, this capital could be illustrating what happens to those who choose the wrong path. But because no sculptor of Santa María la Nueva left a record of his exact intentions, this same scene could be interpreted in the opposite way. Harking back to Celtic spiritualism, these wolves could be spirit animals who, by killing humans, allow them to be reborn in a better, stronger form. The Christian interpretation makes this a metaphor referencing Christ's resurrection as well as the way a sinner "dies" to his sins to become spiritually pure.
Why does this man have birds pecking at his head? I believe they're eagles, and this scene may represent the triumph of the spirit (represented by the birds) over the weakness of the flesh (represented by the man).
|The simplicity of the apse is on full display during a Lenten candlelight |
Stations of the Cross service in 2019.
Trout Riot really happened. Near the corner and rather lower down than I would've expected for a miraculous escape route, the hole through which the consecrated communion wafers flew safely toward the convent is protected by a seemingly ancient grate. A plaque reads, "Through this fissure in the wall, the Sacred Forms miraculously exited from amid the fire and smoke and took refuge at the oratory of the Convent of the Ladies. In the year of grace 1158." It is highly unlikely that this is that very crack because this wall is part of the Romanesque rebuild. From what I know of medieval practicality, the rebuilders wouldn't have added a crack back in on purpose. And, no, this hole doesn't go through to the outside--sadly for the legend, happily for the people who visit or sit through mass in the winter.
Trout Riot legend may or may not have a grain of truth to it. The architecture says, "Yes! Of course it's true! Just look at my evidence and folkloric backup." True or not, it's a fascinating slice of medieval Spanish life with its own gem of medieval art and architecture.
Don't forget to get your free dramatic interpretation of the medieval legend here!