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ART

Walking around the town is a true pleasure. Something new can be discovered in every visit: a hidden corner, a small square, some overhanging eaves, etc. The streets are clearly laid out and well conserved, and have particular charm thanks to their twists and turns. Elciego is one of the towns in Rioja Alavesa with the greatest urban tradition. Some of its streets, for example those to the North, have the same layout as in the 16th century.

• PARISH CHURCH

San Andrés de Elciego parish church is located on the banks of the Río Mayor, far from the town's main square; to level it, it was necessary to build a large platform, which is hugely impressive when seen from the river.
The parish church brings together different architectural styles, ranging from Gothic in the first sections through to neoclassical in the new vestry.

The stonework building, built in the 16th century, presents traditional orientation with the apse orientated towards the east; on the outside it appears to be uniform, although chronologically this is not the case. The stylistic evolution and chronology of the building can be best seen inside the building. The church has a single nave, of significant size, measuring 40 m long and 16 m wide, whilst with the transept it measures 26 m and 18.5 m high.

The architectural styles used are varied. The first two sections, closest to the towers, are Gothic with ribbed columns and pointed side arches, whilst the third section is more classical, with columns covered by pilasters with cornices from which the ribs of the vaulted domes sprout. The most clearly Renaissance part is the transept area, where four Renaissance pilasters support rounded transversal arches, thus supporting the complex upper vault. The apse is semicircular with intricate stonework, completely fluted. Access to the vestry is via the right side of the transept; this neoclassical vestry was the final construction in the parish.

Main altarpiece
Constructed in the mid-17th century, the main altarpiece is from the Baroque period and conserves Renaissance influences, as can be seen throughout the site, whilst the paintwork dates back to just after the start of the 18th century.
The altarpiece has a predella, three horizontal rows and a crowning piece, and is divided into three vertical sections with four separations. The predella is a Renaissance structure with reliefs of Saints and two panels with scenes of the arrest and crucifixion of Christ. The predella also includes a tabernacle of the same period, although more elaborate, where the two most important images of the altarpiece are located, namely two semi-freestanding representations of St Peter and St Paul.
The Apostles are represented in all the separations, whilst the vertical rows include, in addition to the 19th century monstrance in the first horizontal row and the representation of St Andrew in the second, scenes of the Annunciation and the Birth in the first horizontal row, the Adoration of the Three Wise Men and the Escape to Egypt in the second horizontal row, the Visitation in the third horizontal row, with the whole composition crowned by the Eternal Father on the curved front, and over it, the Calvary.

Other altarpieces

In the church there are other altarpieces which have been continuously changed and modified. Those of the transept date from the same time as the Main Altarpiece and have the architrave structure. The one dedicated to Santo Cristo is of greater quality, with the predella showing a representation of the flagellation and the crown of thorns, whilst the other is dedicated to Virgen del Rosario.
The first section has two Rococo altarpieces, one of which was presumably dedicated to St Joseph although nowadays there is another image in its place, and one dedicated to Dolorosa, which was originally dedicated to St John and then reworked; the predella includes the figure popularly known as the "Tumbado" (the Recumbent), namely a fine sculpture of Christ with articulable arms, which, following its recent restoration, is now positioned next to the door which leads to the choir.
The second section includes the altarpieces of the Archbishop and the so-called San Antonio altarpiece, which in the parish archives appears as San Joaquin; the first one is located underneath the organ and has two paintings and two isolated figures installed at a later date, and was paid for by Mr Manuel Francisco Navarrete y Ladrón de Guevara, who was born in the town and was the Bishop of Mondoñedo and the Archbishop of Burgos.

Choir and Choir Stalls
Elciego choir is of plateresque style and is positioned on a segmental arch. Its iconography counts on medallions of busts corresponding to classic individuals and some saints.
In keeping, the construction is simple and elegant, built in two stages using walnut:
in the 16th century most were constructed with plain chairs with simple backs, separated by fluted columns in the upper section, with vegetal decoration in the lower section.
In the 18th century there was some minor remodelling when the side panels were added, two of them with golden panel decoration.

Pulpits
The pulpits were completed in the 18th century, one in the image of the other, and have a series of balconies with iron balustrades covered with golden sheets and a high sounding board.

Organ

The classical-style organ dates from the beginning of the 18th century, and still works today despite many pipes being missing. It is the result of the restructuring of previous ones, which were of no less importance. Given its large size, it was necessary to construct a line of balconies for access from the choir.

Paintings

The walls of the apse, the transept and the first section were polychromed in the 18th century, as were the canvases of the transept, although the poor state of one of them meant it could not be recovered following restoration.

Towers

The towers are located on both sides of the facade and are characterised by their irregular pentagonal layout and the fact that they are joined by a large arch crowned by a "loggia" with seven segmental arches. The upper section of the one to the right has a row of balconies with stone balustrades where the bells are located, crowned with toothed-edge pinnacles; the one on the left is narrower and also irregular, whilst the upper section has a cornice with a row of balconies and a spire which was modified in order to install a bell.

• PLAZA MAYOR

This urban, well proportioned square is one of the most beautiful in the province. In it we find the 18th century Basque phenomenon of confrontation of civil elements (the Town Hall) and religious elements (Virgen de la Plaza Hermitage). The two long sides of the square are taken up by houses which date back to the 16th and 18th centuries. In the centre is the bandstand, which has been refurbished and reduced in height. The sides have been clad with stonework and decorated with the Coats of Arms of Álava, Elciego and the Basque Country.

• TOWN HALL

This was conceived basically like the typical Basque administrative buildings of the 18th century. The result was a first-floor with a portico, the arcade of which contains six round arch windows with imposts, overlooking the square; the second floor contains the areas which open on to the Square by way of four bays and two extensive balconies which include the Imperial Coat of Arms of Felipe II. The sides of the building conserve two round arch access doors, which may have previously been a town hall or a similar building.

• NUESTRA SEÑORA LA VIRGEN DE LA PLAZA HERMITAGE

Virgen de la Plaza Basilica is an 18th-century construction, built on the site of a previous construction (possibly Gothic from the 14th century); all that remains from the previous era is a beautiful "Andra Mari" 14th century sculpture of Virgen de la Plaza.
The dome is semi-spherical, segmented by ribs which are almost Baroque in style and which come together in a medallion with a dove depicting the Holy Spirit, framed with eight small angels.
The construction has an irregular layout with an octagon in the interior, the upper level of which is formed by 4 narrow pointed arches alternating with 4 wide round arches. Inside are three decadent Baroque altarpieces, almost Rococo in style, with Corinthian columns; the side ones are dedicated to St Anthony and St Joseph, and the central one is in honour of Virgen de la Plaza. Virgen de la Plaza is widely worshipped in Elciego and the town festivities, on the 8th September, are dedicated to her.

• PILLORY AND CROSS

The Pillory
The Pillory was located in the area known as "El Rollo". It is the highest part of the town; this is due to the fact that this column represents the power enjoyed by the town of Elciego to exercise social and civil justice when independence from Laguardia was achieved in the 16th century. Along with independence, Felipe II allowed Elciego to count on a pillory, gallows and stocks as signs of authority of the towns of the time.
The justice column is cylindrical and, as is common, rounded off with a truncated cone.
Cross
A few details are necessary before explaining about this square:
1.- The current location of what is today known as "El Crucero" (The Cross), known formally as "Crucifijo" (Crucifix), is not the original location since the crucifix was found at the crossroads between Villabuena, Navaridas and Laguardia.
2.- The location of the crucifix does not correspond to the existence of a crossroads but rather the existence of a Calvary in which the cross formed part of the Villabuena road.
3.- Along the Villabuena road there is another component of this Calvary which is in a poor state; it could be a small funerary chapel located between the fourteenth and final cross of the Stations of the Cross and used for praying, known in Elciego as "the Bones of Jesus Christ". It is a solid stonework construction which is in somewhat of a poor state, measuring 3.36 x 1.54 y 1.82 m high and crowned by a roof in the shape of an inverted trough. With regards to its exterior decoration, only a few small alcoves, flanked by two circular orifices on all sides, remain, the functions of which are unknown. It has been refurbished and transferred to the gardens close to the cemetery, given its funerary nature.
Plaza del Crucero
The pedestal which supports the Crucifix is located on three stone steps in the centre of Plaza del Crucero, although the current cross dates back to the Republic, when the original was destroyed. Nowadays the most interesting part is the pedestal, since its four faces show the figures of the evangelists with their representations, although this is now in a very poor state due to the effects of the weather.
The possibility of the reliefs being of Mannerist style was considered, although this cannot be confirmed. In any case, in 1705 there was news of the need to embellish the crucifix.
This square is found in the area where the representative, the Lord Mayor and the parish priest received the churchman with the edicts of the Primate of Spain.

• TYPOLOGY OF THE HOUSES

Elciego was a Laguardia village until well into the 16th century Some buildings from this time remain today, although they now present a very different appearance; they conserve the entrance with its round arch, and in some a Coat of Arms with the cross of St Andrew can be seen in the keystone. This Coat of Arms seems to indicate the dwelling of the members of the brotherhood who constituted the foundational core of the town. It is said that formerly there were thirty-three, although currently no more than eleven or twelve remain.
In the 17th century "Palatial Houses" began to be built, with very similar characteristics. They all fulfil the same economic and residential functions of their owners.
These are block houses, compact and cubic, with a hip roof; in the best conserved ones the eaves, which are usually no older than the 18th century, comprise modillions carved with stylised vegetal motifs.
The Baroque constructions are classified in three kinds: agricultural or craft houses, manor houses and palatial houses. The latter generally have the same distribution. On the ground floor are the areas dedicated to the economic exploitation of the estate (stables, equipment areas and general storage). The staircase is of great importance and occupies an extensive area, and is often crowned by a skylight, providing a connection between the two floors. The first floor is laid out around a staircase. The kitchen was important on the first floor, although less than in the most popular dwelling models, where it was a fundamental; also notable is the extensive bedroom-dining room which opens onto the main facade on the portal; the bedroom-living area system is also common and functional for the time. Some of them also include a gallery which is open at midday.
Exterior decoration throughout the Rioja Alavesa area uses Coats of Arms and, above all, interesting ironwork cast using previous models and dating back, at most, to the 18th century. Elciego also has magnificent examples, such as the House of "Los Hierros".

Navarrete Ladrón de Guevara Palace or "Casa de los Hierros"

This is situated on the north side of Plaza Mayor. This house was the birthplace of Mr Francisco Manuel Navarrete Ladrón de Guevara, who was the Bishop of Mondoñedo and Archbishop of Burgos, and who ordered the construction of an altarpiece in the parish church, which is located under the organ.
It is commonly known as the House of the Hierros, a magnificent Baroque mansion with two floors and a basement, which counts on an impressive elongated and corner balcony which is hugely impressive when seen from the main square. The balconies rest on splendid iron gussets which in some cases reach down to the floor. The ironwork is considered excellent, not only around Rioja Alavesa but also in the Basque Country.
On the outside the notable carpentry work is conserved in the carved modillions of the eaves, supported on the carved cornice in the part which belongs to nº2, the best conserved one. Internally it is possibly one of the constructions which has been most affected by the passage of time; it is currently divided into three dwellings which occupy numbers 2, 4 and 6 of Calle del Norte, which has led to its interior restructuring. The original access was through nº 4, where the staircase starts underneath a segmental arch supported on carved imposts; this staircase culminates in an impressive dome with a skylight in the centre. The corner Coat of Arms covers two facades: south and west, this is posterior and is the Coat of Arms of the Bishop, although it counts on elements of his home highlighted in a simple and stylised manner.

Ramírez de la Piscina Palace

The manor house of the Ramírez de la Piscina family is located in numbers 1 and 3 of Calle del Barco, on the S-E corner of Plaza Mayor. These are two Baroque palaces from the 17th and 18th centuries, which on the exterior are in a good state. These are two outstanding two-floor buildings which, as with others in the town and area, are built from stone. The grillework is of good quality in the two buildings, with the balconies having ringed dual-spindle balustrades, sheered metal handrails and spiral gussets. The woodwork is also notable, as can be seen in the carved modillions which are supported on a carved cornice. The main facade has two Coats of Arms, with the side Coat of Arms belonging to the Ramírez de la Piscina family.
It fulfils all the characteristics of this type constructions in terms of the interior distribution, whilst the staircase is crowned by a skylight in the shape of a polychrome dome.
They also count on a wine cellar in the basement, which comprises a series of round and pointed arches crowned with elongated stone voussoirs; the wine cellar has galleries which run from underneath the building, crossing the street and finishing at the opposite block, where wine is not yet prepared. Moreover, the original layout has been respected in the rear of the buildings, where the patios are found.
This palace was recently declared a Monument in the category of Classified Cultural Heritage by the Regional Government of the Basque Country.

Zarate Nabar Palace

This is a palatial house located at numbers 14 and 16 of Calle Capitán Gallarza. On the outside it is a two-floor stonework building with significant ironwork such as the side balconies which are positioned on embossed gussets; the attractive central balcony rests on a magnificent stone bracket, whilst the main facade also has a Coat of Arms positioned asymmetrically with the legend of Zarate Nabar.
The interior fulfils the canons for this type of buildings (upper floor as a dwelling and the lower floor as a storage area for cattle and equipment of the estate), the charming portal forms a motif with the Coat of Arms which presides over the palace, whilst the wide staircases start up through a segmental arch. It is currently divided into two dwellings, which has led to interior changes, although these are not as radical as in Casa de los Hierros.
 



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