EVOLUTION OF SCULPTURE
Master Mateo (active 1168-1188)
Master Mateo (or Mateo de Compostela) is the name given to the anonymous Spanish medieval Romanesque sculptor that derives from his greatest work of Romanesque art, dating to 1188 - the triple doorway known as the Portico de la Gloria, of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, itself one of the great pilgrimage churches of Romanesque architecture (1000-1200).
Scholars of medieval art consider this to be the greatest work of Spanish Romanesque sculpture of the age, and was a major point of reference for Galician sculptors until the 15th century and the unification of Castile and Aragon.
Santiago de Compostela
Reputed to be the burial place of the apostle St James, Santiago de Compostela was the terminus of one of the great pilgrimage routes of the Middle Ages. The Portico de la Gloria is one of the few sections of the original Romanesque church still visible; most of the rest of the Cathedral has been rebuilt in the ensuing centuries. Like the column figures at Chartres Cathedral, the column statues at Santiago de Compostela include Old Testament kings and prophets. Also included are the apostles, depicted along with their attributes. Like a good deal of medieval sculpture, the figures were originally decorated in polychrome paint, which has now all but disappeared.
The Portico da Gloria
The central tympanum presents an image of Christ in Majesty as Judge and Redeemer, revealing the sacred wounds in his feet and hands. He is accompanied by the tetramorph, and flanked by a gathering of angels holding the symbols of the Passion. In the archivolt we see the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse, with their musical instruments.
The central pier depicts Saint James, in a mood of serenity. Pilgrims would commonly touch the left foot of this column-statue to reflect the fact that they completed their pilgrimage, and so many pilgrims have rubbed the pillar that a hollow has been worn in the stone.
The left tympanum shows scenes from the Old Testament, while the right tympanym is divided in three parts and celebrates the salvation of the souls after Judgement. Christ and St Michael are positioned in the centre, flanked on either side by Heaven and Hell. Purgatory is depicted on the side.
Statue of Mateo the Sculptor
Behind the portico is the statue of the master architect and sculptor Maestro Mateo. According to legend, whoever hits their head three times against the freestanding sculpture will receive a tiny part of Mateo's genius, and an improved memory. As a result, it is usual to see a long line of visitors waiting to butt their head against the statue.
More Articles on 12th Century Romanesque Art
For more about progressive Romanesque art in Western Europe, please see the important school of Mosan Art, centered around Liege in present-day Belgium, which was exemplified by the outstanding metalwork and goldsmithery of Nicholas of Verdun (1156-1232) and Godefroid de Claire (1100-1173).
For the history and types of sculpture, see: Homepage.
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCULPTURE