Master Mateo

Are you in front of the Portico of Glory now? Then enjoy looking at the work of Master-builder Mateo. Cast your eyes over the capitals, columns and archivolts, covered in saints and biblical images, hand-carved 900 years ago.

Thanks to the Codex Calixtinus, we know that, before this portico, there was another one, built in the mid-12th century. It only lasted 40 years before being demolished so that the old church could be enlarged. Thanks to the description in the Codex, some of the statues that were relocated around the cathedral were able to be identified. They are magnificent, and we know from various sources that they were greatly admired in their own day.

When extending the central nave, Master Mateo found there was a difference of about 6 metres in the level of the ground as regards the Plaza del Obradorio. This slope had to be spanned in order to build the new doorway. The solution was a crypt. This was not a new idea, but it was superbly done.

The portico was originally painted in polychrome to make it more realistic, as you can see. Today, only a few traces remain of subsequent repainting.

Although the finest carvings are attributed to Master Mateo himself, they were obviously carried out by a workshop where several artists were employed, because they are not all of the same quality. Very little is known about the life of the master sculptor himself, who is among the greatest artistic geniuses in history, except that he left his name carved on the lintels of the central doorway.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Diego Laforga Marcos

Source: Own work
Author: Diego Laforga (2013)