Master Mateo – Skilled Artist or Medieval Engineer?

Master Mateo – Skilled Artist or Medieval Engineer?

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Master Mateo – Skilled Artist or Medieval Engineer?

Annette Münchmeyer, Sönke Kruse (Brandenburg University of Technology, Cottbus, Germany)

Proceedings of the Third International Congress on Construction History, Cottbus, May (2009)


The research presented here is part of the integrative project “Bauphasen und Bauverlauf der romanischen Kathedrale von Santiago de Compostela” led by the Chair of History of Buildings (BTU Cottbus) under direction of Prof. Dr. Ing. Klaus Rheidt in co-operation with the Department of History of Art (University Bern – CH). The analysis of the tachymetric-based survey and the stratigraphic investigation are discussed in an interdisciplinary team, an architectural historian and a civil engineer. The results lead to a new insight into the building process. Based on the structural analysis of the fabric, further knowledge of the different phases of the development are obtained. The investigation of the flow of stresses in the historic masonry in relation to the assumed material properties of the granite stonework offer new conclusions. As a result, the first stages of construction of the famous Portíco de la Gloria can be revealed and Master Mateo’s role in its design and development is more closely examined.

Santiago de Compostela (Spain), the destination of St. James’ way, houses the great Romanesque pilgrimage
cathedral. Designed between 1075-78 the construction came to a first completion towards 1130 – 1140. Archaeological evidence shows that the westernmost bays of the nave are related to the fabric from the building phase of the archbishop Diego Gelmírez (reg.1100 –1140). Master Mateo received his contract as superintendent of the works of Saint James in 1168. He undertook in the following decades several major changes in the cathedrals design, the most spectacular of which was the insertion of the famous Portíco de la Gloria, diverging fundamentally from the clear structure of the Gelmírez-cathedral.

Stratigraphic research indicates that the Portíco de la Gloria is the product of different building phases. The present wide central opening between narthex and nave, covered by an approx. 7.70m long triangular granite lintel, replaces a former double arcade, similar to the south portal of the transept.The Portíco de la Gloria with its archivolts and tympanum is cut into Gelmírez’ opus, consisting not only of an accomplished inner double-arched porch, but also finished with an outer western façade, today hidden by a Baroque encasing.

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