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|Written by apocarthinic|
|Monday, 17 August 2009 01:51|
ONE main proof that the Santo Nino Church in Cortes is not as young as its dated walls would tell is its unmistakable baroque altar.
Although its wall etchings bare dates in the late 18th century, a brief peek at the insides of the church would reveal an altar that is an anomaly when placed inside a late 18th century coral stone building, if the date etchings were really correct.
For when one considers the massive retablo mayor (main altar) of the Cortes Church, what immediately would come to mind is a Jesuit art, which would not come inside that church later than 1768 or the time when the Jesuits were recalled and the Augustinian Recollects took over.
At a quick glance, art critics would consider two things upon seeing that old baroque altar in Cortes.
First, that altar came from an older church and was given as a gift to a daughter parish sometime in the late 17th century.
By reckoning, the altar could come from Maribojoc, a 17th century “mother parish” as what the Augustinian Recollects would want Cortesanons to believe.
Maribojoc altar, a classic example of a gothic art in Bohol is a very unique one. Its two side altars in fact, perfectly match the gothic retablo mayor. Even its wing altars are a match.
Or it could come from the “mother parish” of Baclayon or Loboc, where pueblo de Cortes separated.
If it had, those churches would without doubt put up not just one altar to match with the altar now in Cortes. Chances are if this was true, there still could be similar altars like ours in any of these mentioned “daughter” or mother parishes. The fact is, there is none.
Baclayon’s distinct altar is a baroque rococo. Its side altars are classic Spanish baroque and without doubt, of Augustinian Recollect provenance.
Loboc’s main altar is neo-classical. Its side altars are baroque. And so are its wing altars.
Two, that the altar was inherently carved for Cortes, for that old church named Malabago de Paminguitan, which is present day church but with the dates being “tampered” or being later affixed by the later missionaries.
Personally, I would rather believe on the second theory.
Why? Because this altar is a solo one, not one like it in any older churches in Bohol. Meaning it was solely made for a purpose, maybe for Cortes Church.
The retablo mayor or the main altar is a classic Jesuit influenced Spanish baroque art.
The altar’s major elements are the double solomonic columns, the classic baroque flanges, the simplistic neo-classical crown with the usual eye or dove and the profuse use of acanthus leaves, the major decorative element of the Corinthian columns.
But first, let’s settle the question. What is baroque?
Baroque is a movement that was later translated into art forms. It proliferated in Europe after artists there were later deeply affected by the discoveries of Galileo Galelei.
The Italian scientist and astronomer, in support of the Copernican Revolution proved that the long held belief that the earth was the center of the universe was wrong.
Galelei’s astronomic discoveries had very deep implications in the church.
A shift from the geocentric (world as center) belief would necessarily affect the belief that man is also the center of the world, which was what the church preached then.
The drastic movement from the old belief to the newer “scientific belief” troubled a whole lot of people and the artists eventually started to depict an art, which portrays movements.
These styles of the irregular, the elaborate and the swaying from the usual balance took the center focus.
This too became the basis for a movement, a revolution in ideas, which seeped into the highly conservative church.
In time between the early 16th to late 18th century, the Church, which at the beginning persecuted Galelei has to accept after the Council of Trent promoted the use of the baroque arts as an expression of religious themes in direct and emotional involvement.
Baroque, roughly from the Spanish and Portuguese “perola barroca” or uneven pearl, display an “eccentric redundancy” and “noisy abundance of details.”
In Cortes altar, these major baroque elements are portrayed by the double solomonic columns.
Solomonic columns are characteristic of the columns put up at the temples of Solomon. The spiral design, which portrays the movement, is depicted in the helical or twisted shaft, which conveys the baroque movement. It also projects the profuse use of it in the Cortes altar. And if it were not intended to be seen, the altar builders would, I say, not mess with putting up 8 of these helical columns, right?
In fact, the altar sport 12 of these columns. This would include four semi-solomonic columns are prominently displayed on the top niche.
Now, these columns, in the tradition of the Corinthian capitals are also topped with simple approximation of acanthus leaves ornament.
Then, consider the elaborately decorated outward flanges that show the unmistakable movement of moving out from the center niche, a movement so incorporated to form a huge mass.
These outward flanges, often called the wings of the altar clearly manifest here. Flanges that are hand carved from five-inch thick molave boards, we should note.
Then, there are two hand-carved torches with flaming motifs decorating the pediments of the second tier of the altar. These torches also show another Spanish baroque element, the light, which was later translated in paintings by the skillful play of lights. This later became popularly known as the chiaroscuro.
At the altar niche pediments, there is that organic cherub design seen at the foot of each statue in the niche. When seen from below, the design hides among the panels, a delightful “peek-a boo” one could say.
It is just too bad that not many Cortesanons realize the value of their altar in their midst.
Then a central element in the Cortesanon Christian life, the altar has become an inspiration in the local life that many would simply dream of bringing the same altar home, impossible it may be.
Until the trend of the Urna, the miniature altars that we usually have at a prominent place at home now will the Cortesanons realize the role of that retablo mayor in the lives of our forefathers.
Why would I say that?
Altars like that in the past were monumental structures. And they were often kept in very dark inner sanctum of the church or the home.
In Cortes church for example, you could easily pick the details of the original window of the church, especially the part where you will see the altar now. The new windows we have now are almost twice as tall as the original windows.
There are also practical reasons why they have to do that. The piratical raids that hit the Spanish occupied towns then discourage the pirates from climbing on the windows and loot the church.
Then, there is the belief that masses would be celebrated in catacombs. These are underground cemeteries, all to hide from the traditional persecution of the Christians.
Imagine those small windows all blotted out by stained glasses?
The altar now becomes a dark spot.
It would rather be impossible to imagine why the friars go the length of carving the altars elaborately when it can only be admired up close.
And the Pre-council of Trent times do not allow laymen from entering the holy of holies. (that again is precisely the reason why that metalwork of a railing would mark the confines of the no-mans-land and the place for the lay)
SO the altar becomes invisible from afar Even perhaps by lighting it with a camp fire of candles, it remains to be partly too far from the beautiful carvings we see now.
To solve the problem, the Spanish builders used a technology called gilting.
Putting up precious elements in the altar to make it glow in the dark is how they did it. And gold or silver to gilt or coat the altar does the trick.
And that is why we hypothesize that beneath the dark brown and modern golden mast of paint of the Cortes retablo mayor could be gold gilt or silver plates.
I am putting my two cents worth on it.
And I swear by that altar.
Want to check it out? Want to bet?
|Last Updated on Friday, 09 April 2010 10:49|