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Apotheosis of Saint Benedict. Paintings of San Martiño

The paintings of San Martiño Pinario

Galician painting and the quality of its works have been questioned on numerous occasions by critics such as Manuel Murguía and Couselo Bouzas. However, in the heart of Santiago de Compostela is the collection of paintings of San Martiño Pinario.

This monastery has the collection of works most praised by the same critics who also question the quality of Galician paintings. The sacristy of the church houses most of the works in the collection.

The paintings belonged to the Benedictine order, so the monks played an important role as patrons of art. In the 18th century, the monasteries had considerable patrimonial income, which they could devote to embellishing the spaces under their care.

There are no references to a guild of painters in Compostela, so scholars conclude that the artists worked in their homes and workshops. Because of this, there are no records of the commissions that the monks may have made during these years.

The nuptials of the Virgin. Author Anonymous.

The nuptials of the Virgin. Author Anonymous.

The works of San Martiño

The paintings that remain today fill the walls of the monastery and represent the life cycles of the saints. These works aimed to perpetuate the trajectory that both the monks and the faithful had to follow.

At this point, the paintings acquired a didactic function, as did the altarpieces and the choir seats. It is not surprising that Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica are the most frequently represented figures. There were the monks who commissioned the works.

Saint Benedict of Círculo de Juan Antonio García de Bouzas.

Saint Benedict of Círculo de Juan Antonio García de Bouzas.

The Benedictines also had a great devotion to the Virgin Mary. Specifically, the Compostela monks of the Order owed their dedication to Our Lady of Succour, of which some canvases have also been preserved.

One of the jewels of the monastery of San Mariño Pinario is the work of Our Lady of Succour by the painter Claudio Coello. The painting dates from 1678 and represents the miracle that one of the Canticles of Alfonso X describes. In one arm, she welcomes the disobedient baby Jesus, while with the other, she strikes a stick at the devil who wants to take him away.

Our Lady of Succour by Claudio Coello

Our Lady of Succour by Claudio Coello

A change in subject matter

From the 19th century onwards, there was a change in the pictorial subject matter. From purely religious themes, the focus shifted to secular works. Devotional representations were eclipsed by genre and everyday scenes, and portraiture became more prominent.

In keeping with this trend, and after the foundation of the Seminary of Compostela in the monastery, a series of portraits were produced. The protagonists were the nobles and great personalities of the time, such as prominent theologians.

Pope Leon XIII by José María Fenollera Ibañez.

Pope Leon XIII by José María Fenollera Ibañez.

In all of them, the precision of the drawing and the obsession with reproducing all kinds of details play a major role. One of the most outstanding is that of Pope Leo XIII. The painting was commissioned as a sign of gratitude for granted the Seminary the option of conferring higher degrees.

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