In the latter half of the sixteenth century, Bartolome Morel, a Sevillano, produced some notable work in bronze.2 Three objects by his hand - namely, the choir lectern and the tene-brarium of Seville cathedral, and the weathercock or Giraldillo which crowns the celebrated tower of the same enormous temple - are specially distinguished for their vigour and effectiveness.
The least important of these objects is the choir lectern, for which Morel was paid six hundred ducats. The decoration is of statuettes and rilievi, well designed and better executed. The tenebrarium, aptly defined by Amador as "an article of church furniture intended to make a show of light,"3 is more ambitious and original.
1 Libro de las Tablas, pp. 17, 18. See Madrazo, Cordova, pp. 273 et seq.
2 In documents which relate to him (see Gestoso's Dictionary of Sevillian Artificers) Morel is often called an artillero. His father, Juan Morel, was also a founder of cannon, and signed a contract in 1564 to cast two bronze pieces or tiros, with the royal arms on them.
3 The efficacy of light in illuminating, or may be in dazzling and confounding, Christian worshippers is too self-evident to call for illustration. The symbolic meaning of church candles is, however, neatly indicated by the wise Alfonso in his compilation of the seven Partidas. "Because three virtues dwell in candles, namely, wick, wax, and flame, so do we understand that persons three dwell in the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and we may understand three other things that dwell in Jesus Christ; to wit, body, soul, and godhead. Hence the twelve lighted candles manifested to each quarter of the church exhibit unto us the twelve apostles who preached the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ through all the earth, and manifesting truest wisdom illumined all the world."
"It was designed and made by Morel in the year 1562. Juan Giralte, a native of Flanders, and Juan Bautista Vazquez helped him to make the statues at the head of this candelabrum, and Pedro Delgado, another noted sculptor of Seville, worked at the foot of it. It is eight and a half yards high, and the triangular head is three yards across. Upon this upper part are fifteen statues, representing the Saviour, the apostles, and two other disciples or evangelists. In the vacant space of the triangle is a circle adorned with leaves, and in the centre of this circle is a bust of the Virgin in relief, and, lower down, the figure of a king. All of this part is of bronzed wood, and rests upon four small bronze columns. The remainder of the candelabrum is all of this material, and the small columns are supported by four caryatides, resting upon an order of noble design decorated with lions' heads, scrolls, pendants, and other ornamentation, the whole resting upon a graceful border enriched with harpies."
The Puerta Del Perdon (Seville Cathedral)
This description of the Seville tenebrarium is translated from Cean Bermudez, and is the one most commonly quoted, though Amador complains that it is not precise, and fails to dwell upon the symbolism of this mighty mass of bronze.1 Thus, what Cean affirms to be the bust of a king is declared by Amador to be the head of a pope, probably Saint Gregory the Great. Metal, as Cean remarks, is not employed throughout. In order to preserve its balance, the upper part of the tenebrarium, containing the triangle which is said by some to symbolize "the divinity of Jesus as God the triple and the one," is merely wood bronzed over. Amador adds that the foot and stem are intended to represent "the people of Israel in their perfidy and ingratitude." He also says that the statue in the centre of the triangle is that of Faith, and that which crowns the entire tenebrarium, of the Virgin Mary.
Morel, like Brunelleschi, was an architect as well as a craftsman in bronze.2 He completed this tenebrarium in 1562, and the chapter of the cathedral were so contented with it that instead of paying him the stipulated price, namely, eight hundred ducats, they added of their own accord a further two hundred and fifty. They also commissioned him to make a handsome case to keep it in; but the case has disappeared, and the naked tenebrarium now stands in the Sacristy of Chalices of the cathedral.1 It is still used at the Matin service during the last three days of Holy Week, and still, in the Oficio de Tinieblas, the custom is observed of extinguishing the fifteen tapers, one by one, at the conclusion of each psalm.
1 The English rendering of Cean's description inserted by Riano is inaccurate throughout.
2 As architect, he made a monument (which exists no longer) for the festivals of Holy Week at Seville.
The title of the object which surmounts the famed Giralda tower of Seville is properly "the Statue of Faith, the triumph of the Church" (Pl. xxxviii.); but it is known in common language as the Giraldillo (weathercock), which name has passed into the word Giralda, now applied to all the tower. The populace of Seville also call it, in the argot of their cheerful town, the muneco or "doll," the "Victory," and the "Santa Juana."
This statue, made of hollow bronze, rotates on account of an engine which he made of iron for moving the tenebrarium of the cathedral, and other heavy things." - Gestoso, Diccionario de Artifices Sevillanos, vol. i. p. 313.
1 In 1565 Juan del Pozo, an ironsmith, received one hundred reales"
The Weathercock Of The Giralda Tower (16th Century. Seville Cathedral) upon an iron rod piercing the great bronze globe which lies immediately beneath the figure's feet. The globe is nearly six feet in diameter. The figure itself represents a Roman matron wearing a flowing tunic partly covering her legs and arms. Sandals are secured to her feet by straps. Upon her head she wears a Roman helmet crested by a triple plume. In her right hand she holds the semicircular Roman standard of the time of Constantine, which points the direction of the wind and causes the figure to revolve, excepting when the air is very faint, in which case it is caught by two diminutive banners springing from the large one.1 So huge are the proportions of this metal lady that the medal on her breast contains a life-size head which represents an angel.
1 The statue, which looks so tiny from the street, measures nearly fourteen feet in height, and weighs more than two thousand two hundred pounds. The banner alone weighs close upon four hundred pounds. The figure was raised into its place in 1568, in which year I find that eighteen Moriscos were paid seventy-eight reales between them all for doing the work of carriage (Gestoso, Diccionario). Gestoso also mentions a large bronze plate made by Morel for the pavement of the cathedral, and which has disappeared. It weighed 2269 pounds, or about the same as the weathercock of the Giralda, and Morel was paid for it the sum of 289,361 maravedis.