Casket of San Millán

Casket of San Millán
Casket of San Millán

The casket of San Millán is one of the most outstanding goldsmith works of the peninsular Romanesque and in it the influences that other artistic currents -in this case the Mozarabic plastic- had for the development of the Spanish Romanesque, become plausible. an artistic current that cannot be understood without the influences that the diverse artistic tendencies of the pre-Romanesque poured over it.

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It seems that in the middle of the 11th century, around the year 1067, the relics of San Emiliano were going to be transferred from the Monastery of Suso to the new church built in San Millán de la Cogolla and for such a well-deserved occasion the monarch Sancho IV of Pamplona entrusted Abbot Blas with the construction of a chest of gold and ivory, set with precious stones to house the relics of the saint. In fact, there are numerous data that we know about its execution, for example we know that the ivory plates are based on the drawings made by the scribe Munio; We also know the names of the two masters who worked on the chest, García and Engelram, as well as their disciples Simeón and Rodolfo.

We find ourselves before a rectangular wooden chest with a pyramidal lid, its interior is lined with an exquisite fabric of Arab origin and the exterior has been covered with gold, precious stones and ivory plaques carved in low relief. twenty twoplates that make up the chest recount the life of Saint Emiliano based on the book written by Saint Braulio.

On one of the short sides of the chest we found the figure of Jesus Christ in Majesty inside a mandorla and flanked by the images of Abbot Blas and Munio, the set was completed in the upper area with the images of the monarchs Sancho IV and his wife. At present, only the plaques of Abbot Blas and Munio are preserved in the chest, the rest of the pieces are in the New York Museum. In the rest of the chest, the carved plates tell the life and miracles of Saint Emiliano, highlighting scenes such as the Expulsion of the devil, the Saint with his disciples and followers, Saint Millán feeding the beggars or the scene of Leovigildo defeating the Cantabrians.

Stylistically, the piece presents elements that refer us to the Hispano-Muslim current, some horseshoe arches or the battlements- notwithstanding the expressiveness of some characters refers to sources even more remote, perhaps to the Romanesque of the Germanic type that Master Engelram could have brought to San Millán.

At the beginning of the 19th century the piece was looted during the War of Independence and many of its plates disappeared for several years. Today, despite the fact that many of them have been found in various museums, the pieces have not been returned to their original location and what we have is a reproduction made in the mid-20th century that replaces both the lost plates and the original ones..

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