San Isidoro exposed: the vicissitudes of research in Romanesque art

San Isidoro exposed: the vicissitudes of research in Romanesque art

Williams, John (Henry Clay Frick Department of History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh)

Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, March (2011)


Some forty years ago, by chance, the author’s campaign of recording through drawings the earliest parts of the church of San Isidoro de Leon coincided with the exposure of the ground upon which that church rested, allowing observations of previous structures. Unfortunately, these observations, briefly noted in a postscript to an article of 1973, were not subsequently made public. San Isidoro has become an object of recent studies, and conclusions have been drawn that would not have been possible had the evidence uncovered by the removal of the floor been published. This article reports the drawings of the two campaigns, and the finds unexpectedly made visible in 1971. It also raises a methodological issue: observations published by myself and others that contradict the idea that the pantheon was erected in the middle of the eleventh century have in recent literature been ignored when an earlier date is favored. Finally, it questions the belief in a tradition of Spanish pantheons and treats skeptically the assumption that this tradition dictated the design of the so-called Pantheon of the Kings. The role of the Leonese palace may have been the more important.

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