Such is the reja thought, both then and now, to be the finest ever made. The style is pure Renaissance. Two tiers of equal height consist of four-and-twenty ornamented rails or balusters disposed, above, between four columns; below, between four pilasters. An attic is upon the cornice, and contains two central, semi-naked, kneeling figures which support a large, crowned shield. This is surmounted by a bust of God the Father, enclosed in a triangular frame, and raising the hand to bless. On either side of the attic are S - shaped crests sustaining circular medallions with the likenesses, in bold relief, of Christ and Mary. Along the friezes are the legends; ego sum alpha et
Ego Sum Lux vera; and ecce ancilla domini, together with the words, referring to the artist, ab andino, and the date a.d. mdxxiii. The decorative scheme is spirited and delicate at once, whether we observe it on the railing, pilasters, and columns, or on the horizontal parts and members of the reja. The attic which surmounts the double tier and cornice is finally surmounted by a gilt Saint Andrew's cross; and the entire screen is lavishly painted and gilded throughout.
Here is a thing - almost a being - created out of iron, so intensely lovely that the eye would wish to contemplate it to the end of time; and, as we linger in its presence, if perchance the dead are privileged to hear their earthly praises echoed in the silence of the tomb, surely from his marble sepulchre Cristobal de Andino listens to such praises at this hour. For yonder, in the neighbouring parish church of San Cosme, beside a wife devoted and well-loved the great artifieer is laid to rest, where Latin words (although of idle purport while the reja of the Constable remains) are deep engraved to thus remind us of his worth: -
Christophorus andino egregius artifex et in architectura omnium sui seculi facile princeps monumentum sibi ponendum le gavit et caterina frias ejus uxor honestissima statim mari-ti votis et suis satisfaciendum b enigne christianeque curavit urnam cu jus lapides solum amborum ossa tegunt sed admonet etiam certis annui he bdomade cujusque diebus sacrificia pro eis esse perpetuo facienda.
But if these splendid rejas of her temples constitute to-day a special glory of this nation, her private balconies and window-gratings were in former times, though from profaner motives, almost or quite as notable. Between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries, few of the foreigners who visited Spain omitted to record their admiration of these balconies, crowded upon a holiday with pretty women. "Il y avoit," wrote Bertaut de Rouen in 1659, "autant de foule a proportion qua Paris; et mesme ce qu'il y avoit de plus beau, c'estoit que comme il y avoit des balcons a toutes les fenestres et qu'elles estoient occupees par toutes les dames de la ville, cela faisoit un plus bel effet que les echaffauts que l'on fait dans les rues de Paris en semblables rencontres."
Pinheiro da Veiga, in his queer Pincigraphia, or "Description and Natural and Moral History of Valladolid." written earlier in the same century, and published twenty years ago by Gayangos from a manuscript in the British Museum, is more plain-spoken than the Frenchman on the various merits and peculiarities of the Spanish balconies and rejas. "All of these churches have the most beautiful iron balustrades and iron openwork doors (cancelas) that can be found in Europe, for nowhere is iron worked so skilfully as here in Valladolid. These objects are made by the Moriscos with turned balusters, foliage, boughs, fruits, war-material, trophies, and other contrivances, which afterwards they gild and silver into the very likeness of these metals. I say the same of window-balconies; for nearly every window has its balcony. There are in Valladolid houses up which one might clamber to the very roof from balcony to balcony, as though these were a hand-ladder. So too from balcony to balcony (for the distance from one to other is never greater than a palm's breadth) one might climb round the whole Plaza. By reason of this, we Portuguese were wont to say-that if there were as many thieves or lovers in Valladolid as in Portugal, verily both one and other of this kind of folks would have but little need of hand-ladders. Yet here the thieves content themselves with stealing by the light of day, while as for the women (crafty creatures that they are!), they perpetrate their thefts away from home; and, having all the day at their disposal, prefer to thieve while daylight lasts, rather than pass the night uncomfortably. To this I heard a lady of Castile declare, when one of my friends, a Portuguese, petitioned her for leave to speak with her at night across her reja: 'That would be tantamount to passing from one hierro to another yerro;1 and in my house (which is also your worship's) it would not look well for you to seem a window-climbing thief.'
It is curious, in the foregoing narrative, to read of Morisco craftsmen working as late as 1600, and as far north as Castile. Perhaps the notice of Moriscos doing Spanish iron-work may be traced to certain Ordinances of Granada, published about three-quarters of a century before. On October 14th, 1522, the councillors of that town confabulated very lengthily and seriously as to the damage caused by "balconies and rejas in the streets, fixed in the basements and the lower rooms of houses, or projecting portals which extend beyond the level of the wall. For we have witnessed, and do witness daily, numerous mishaps to wayfarers, alike on horseback and on foot, whether by day or night, because the highways, narrow in themselves, are rendered yet more narrow by such balconies and rejas. Whereas in winter persons seeking to escape the filth by keeping to the wall are thwarted, or at night-time injured, by these rejas. Or yet in summer, when the waters swell, and conduits burst and overflow the middle of the street, then neither can they keep the middle of the way, nor pass aside (by reason of the balconies aforesaid) to its edges."
1 Hierro means iron; yerro, a fault, faux fas. Thus glossed, the somewhat feeble pleasantry or pun is able to explain itself.
Reja Of The Case De Las Conchas (Salamanca)