Doña Sancha's sarcophagus

Doña Sancha's sarcophagus
Doña Sancha's sarcophagus

This work of funerary art from the Romanesque period is known as the Sarcophagus of Doña Sancha, but it was actually used to house the bodies of the three daughters of King Ramiro I of Aragon, one of the Christian kingdoms that gave rise to present-day Spain.


Doña Sancha's Sarcophagus

In fact, the origin of this piece, carved in the second half of the 12th century, can be found in thefemale monastery of Santa Cruz de la Serós, where she spent many years of life. Although at present, the sarcophagus is not preserved there, but inside the Monastery of the Benedictine Nuns in the neighboring city of Jaca.

However, the trapezoidal piece with sculptural decoration on all four sides is known as Doña Sancha's Sarcophagus, because on its main face you can identify a relief where the figure of Doña Sancha, or rather, her soul in the form of a naked silhouette and surrounded by a mandorla that is raised to heaven by two angels. A scene that in turn is flanked on one side by three ecclesiastical figures under an arch, of which the oldest would also be Doña Sancha, since her brother the king Sancho Ramírez granted her a important position within the Aragonese church. While on the other side, there is the high relief of three other female figures, also under a semicircular arch that could be identified with the threesisters: her own Sancha, Urraca and Teresa.

As for the two short sides of the sarcophagus they also present images carved in stone. On one side are the mythological figures of two intertwined griffins. While on the other side is the Trinitarian Chrismon so common in many temples of the Kingdom of Aragon, from the same tympanum of the church of Santa Cruz de la Serós to other contemporary places such as the Cathedral of Jaca or the church of San Pedro de Siresa, where by the way Doña Sancha also lived and where in her last years she educated the futureKing Alfonso I the Battler.

The fact is that these three carved faces have a similar style, so much so that some historians speak of a Master of Doña Sancha. However, the back face would be a later work, and in a different style. Possibly originally, the location of the sarcophagus would make it useless to carve this face, but at some point it would move and it was decided that an image had to be created there in accordance with the rest.

For this reason, another sculptor would again make a front divided into three parts and under semicircular arches. But in this case to shelter inside three knights on horseback, who in principle would not have to be related to the life of Doña Sancha.

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