This lecture offers an overview of the results produced during the first phase of the Santiago Cathedral Project – a project of research and conservation focusing on the magnificent 12th-century western narthex of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, also known as the Portal of Glory. Since 2009 multi-disciplinary teams of experts from Spain, Italy, and Germany have worked developing several lines of investigation, ranging from archival research and structural studies to the comparative analysis of pigments and techniques in illuminated manuscripts and monumental sculpture using X-ray fluorescence (XRF), and the assessment of the efficacy of water-based nanoparticle gels and Nd:YAG lasers in the cleaning of polychrome stone sculpture. Salient among the results in the area of conservation is the first complete sequencing of the various layers of polychromy applied to the Portal of Glory over the centuries, as well as the identification of the historical events that could have prompted some of the re-paintings, such as coronations and knighting ceremonies.
The results of the art historical investigations have also been of great consequence for a new understanding of the original conception and effects of the Portal of Glory, and an assessment of its key historical significance, culminating in the first complete reconstruction of the iconographic program of its dismantled exterior façade, which was once decorated with a group of sculptural masterpieces that had remained until recently anonymous and forgotten in small museums and private collections. Additionally, the lecture will touch on a variety of theoretical issues raised by the new vision of this monument that emerges from these investigations as they pertain to the challenges of translating the "enargeia" of eschatological textual imagery into monumental sculpture.
Francisco Prado-Vilar is Scientific Director of the Andrew W. Mellon Program for the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and Director of Cultural and Artistic Projects at Harvard’s Real Colegio Complutense. He received his PhD from Harvard University and has subsequently held academic positions at Princeton University, where he was a postdoctoral fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, the University of London, and the Complutense University in Madrid as Ramón y Cajal research professor, where he directed the international project "Medieval Art and European Culture: Classical Heritage and Impact on the Discourses of Modernity." His research and publications have focused on diverse aspects of the arts and cultures of medieval Europe, covering topics of wide chronological, thematic, and methodological range.
Free and open to the public.