The author of this admirable screen was Francisco de Villalpando, whose plans and estimate were approved by Cardinal Tavera in 1540. "The reja consists of two tiers resting on different kinds of marble. Attic columns ornamented with handsome rilievi and terminated by bronze caryatides, divide these tiers into several spaces. The upper tier is formed by seven columns of ornate pattern, containing, on a frieze of complicated tracery, figures of animals and angels, and other delicately drawn and executed objects in relief. Upon the cornice are coats of arms, angels, and other decoration; and in the centre, the imperial arms of Charles the Fifth, together with a large crucifix pendent from a massive gilded chain. On the frieze of the second tier are the words, adorate dominum in Atrio Sancto Ejus Kalendas Aprilis 1548, and on the inner side, plus ultra."1
The other of the larger rejas in this temple - that of the choir - is not inferior in a great degree to Villalpando's masterpiece. It was made by "Maestre" Domingo (de Cespedes),2 who, in his estimate of June 18th, 1540, engaged to finish it at a total cost of 5000 ducats, " he to be given the necessary gold and silver for the plating" [Archives of Toledo Cathedral, quoted
1 Rosell y Torres; La Reja de la Capilla del Condestable en la Catedral de Burgos, published in the Museo Espanol de Antiguedades.
2 He is called Domingo de Cespedes by Cean Bermudez, although, as Zarco del Valle remarks, the surname does not appear in any of the documents relating to this craftsman which are yet preserved in the archives of Toledo cathedral. These documents merely tell us that Domingo was his Christian name, that his own signature was Maestre Domingo, and that he and Fernando Bravo were required to find surety to the value of 375,000 maravedis for the faithful and expert performance of their work, which they were to complete within two years, receiving for it the sum of six thousand ducats.
Reja Of Chapel Royal (Granada Cathedral)
Reja Of Chapel Royal (View from interior. Granada Cathedral) by Rosell).
This Maestre Domingo was aided by his son-in-law, Fernando Bravo, and both of them, says de la Rada y Delgado, were probably natives of Toledo.1 In the same city they also made the rejas for the Baptismal Chapel, and for the chapels of the Reyes Viejos and Reyes Nuevos.
Excellent Plateresque rejas are those of the Capilla Mayor and Coro of Palencia Cathedral-the latter from the hand of Gaspar Rodriguez of Segovia, who finished it in 1571 at a cost of 3400 ducats. In the same city is the reja of the chapel of Nuestra Senora la Blanca, finished in 1512 by Juan Relojero, a Palencian, who received for his labour 25,000 maravedis and a load and a half of wheat.
The noble and colossal gilt and painted2 reja of the Chapel Royal of Granada Cathedral was wrought between the years 1518 and 1523 by one Master Bartholomew, whose name is near the keyhole. This was a person of obscure life though mighty powers as a craftsman. We know that he resided at Jaen, and, from a document which still remains,1 that he petitioned Charles the Fifth for payment (sixteen hundred ducats) of this grille, because the clergy had continually refused to liquidate it. He made, besides the work I herewith describe, the reja of the presbytery for Seville cathedral,2 and possibly, as Sentenach suggests, the iron tenebrarium, ten feet high by five across, for the cathedral of Jaen. The reja of the Chapel Royal of Granada, "of two faces, the finest that was ever made of this material,"3 has three tiers. "The first tier contains six Corinthian pilasters and a broad frieze covered with Plateresque ornamentation, as are the pedestals on which the pilasters rest. In the second tier are the arms of Ferdinand and Isabella within a garland supported by two lions, and other crowns together with the yoke and arrows;l all intertwined with stems, leaves, and little angels of an exquisite effect. Before the pilasters of this tier and of the one immediately above it are figures of the apostles on Gothic brackets - a style we also notice on the fastening of the gate and on the twisted railing; but every other detail of the grille is Plateresque. Upon the top are scenes of martyrdoms and of the life of Christ, the whole surmounted by a decorative scheme of leaves and candelabra, and, over this, a crucifix together with the figures of the Virgin and Saint John. The designing of the figures is only moderately good, but all remaining detail and the craftsmanship are admirable"2 (Plates xxiii. and xxiv.).
1 Conde de Cedillo, Toledo en el Siglo XVI. Reply to the Count's address, by J. de Dios de la Rada y Delgado.
The painting of a reja was commonly executed by the "image-painter" (pintor de imagineria). As the term implies, it was this artist's business to gild or colour sacred furniture, such as altars, panels, images, and decorative doors and ceilings.
1 Archives of Simancas. Descargos de las R.C.; Legajo 23 prov. Valladar, Guia de Granada (1st ed.), p. 302, note.
2 "To Master Bartholomew, rexero, twenty gold ducats for the days he took in travelling from Jaen, and for those on which he was at work upon the reja of the high altar here in Seville." On March 18th, 1524, the same craftsman was paid 13,125 maravedis for making the " samples and other things belonging to the reja of the high altar." - Libro de Fabrica of Seville Cathedral. Gestoso, Sevilla Monumental y Artistica, and Diccionario de Artifices Sevillanos, vol. xi. p. 362.
3 Pedraza, Historia de Granada (1636), p. 40.
Last on my list of Spanish reja-makers I place the greatest and most honoured of them all - Cristobal de Andino, who, as a modern writer has expressed it, "uttered the last word in the matter of giving shape to iron." Cristobal, son of Pedro de Andino - himself an artist of no mean capacity - excelled in architecture, sculpture, rejeria, and probably in silver-work as well. "Good craftsmen," wrote his contemporary, Diego de Sagredo, "and those who wish their work to breathe the spirit of authority and pass without rebuke, should follow - like your fellow-townsman, Cristobal de Andinc - ancient precepts, in that his works have greater elegance and beauty than any others that I witnessed heretofore. If this (you think) be not the case, look at that reja he is making for my lord the Constable, which reja is well known to be superior to all others of this kingdom."
1 The yoke and sheaf of arrows were the emblems of these princes the yoke, of Ferdinand; the arrows, of his queen. Shields of their reign, whether employed in architecture or on title-pages, almost invariably include these emblems and the well-known motto, Tanto Monta.
2 Gomez Moreno, Guia de Granada, p. 291.