San Narciso is patron of the city of Gerona; which explains the presence of his image here. From the treasury of the same cathedral was stolen, during the War of Spanish Independence, a magnificent altar-front of wrought gold and mosaic, a gift of Countess Gisla, wife of Ramon Berenguer, count-king of Barcelona. It had in the centre a bas-relief medallion representing the Virgin, another medallion with a portrait of the donor, and various saints in niches, interworked with precious stones.
The great armchair of Don Martin, called by Baron Davillier a "beau faudesteuil gothique," which possibly served that monarch as a throne, and was presented by him to the cathedral of Barcelona, dates from the year 1410. The wooden frame is covered with elaborately chiselled plates in silver-gilt. This most imposing object is carried in procession through the streets upon the yearly festival of Corpus Christi.
1 Street, Gothic Architecture in Spain. 64
The Cup Of San Fernando (13th Century. Seville Cathedral)
Ship (15th Century. Zaragoza Cathedral)
The guion de Mendoza, now in Toledo cathedral, is a handsome later-Gothic silver-gilt cross, and is the same which was raised upon the Torre de la Vela at Granada on January 2nd, 1492, when the fairest and most storied city in all Spain surrendered formally to Ferdinand and Isabella. Many other interesting crosses, of the character known as processional, are still preserved in various parts of the Peninsula, at South Kensington, and elsewhere. The more remarkable are noticed under various headings of this book. Their workmanship is generally of the fifteeenth or the sixteenth century.
The Seo or cathedral of Zaragoza possesses a handsome ship (Plate xii.), presented to this temple, towards the end of the fifteenth century, by the Valencian corsair, Mosen Juan de Torrellas. The hull is a large shell resting on a silver-gilt dragon of good design, with a large emerald set in the middle of its forehead, and a ruby for each eye. Ships of this kind were not uncommon on a Spanish dining table of the time, or in the treasuries of churches and cathedrals. Toledo owns another of these vessels (in both senses of the word), which once belonged to Dona Juana, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella.
Hitherto I have confined my notice almost wholly to the treasure of the Spanish temples. Turning from ecclesiastical to secular life, we find, all through the Middle Ages, the humbler classes kept by constant penury and war aloof from every form of luxury. Jewellery and gold and silver work were thus essentially the perquisite or, so to speak, the privilege of princes, nobles, and the Church. The mediaeval kings and magnates of this land were smitten inveterately with a passion for display, and chronicles and inventories of the time contain instructive details of the quantities of gems and precious metals employed by them to decorate their persons and their palaces. The richness of their bedsteads will be noticed under Furniture. Quantities of jewellery and plate belonged to every noble household. For instance, the testament of the Countess of Castaneda (a.d. 1443) includes the mention of "a gilded cup and cover to the same; a silver vessel and its lid, the edges gilt, and in the centre of both lid and vessel the arms of the said count, my lord; a silver vessel with a foot to it; a diamond ring; a silver vessel with gilt edges and the arms of the count, companion to the other vessels; a jasper sweetmeat-tray with silver-gilt handles and feet; four coral spoons; a gilt enamelled cup and lid; a small gilt cup and lid; two large silver porringers; two French cups of white silver; two large plates of eight marks apiece; two middling-sized silver vessels; two silver-gilt barrels with silver-gilt chains."1
On each occasion of a court or national festivity, the apparel of the great was ponderous with gold and silver fringe, or thickly strewn with pearls - the characteristic aliofar or a/jofar-work (Arabic chawar, small pearls), for which the Moors were widely famed. Towards the thirteenth century unmarried Spanish women of high rank possessed abundant stores of bracelets, earrings, necklaces, gold chains, rings, and gem-embroidered pouches for their money. Their waist-belts, too, were heavy with gold and silver, and aljofar.2 The poem of the Archpriest of Hita (1343) mentions two articles of jewellery for female wear called the broncha and the pancha. The former was an ornament for the throat; the other, a plate or medal which hung to below the waist. An Arabic document quoted by Casiri, and dating from the reign of Henry the First of Castile, specifies as belonging to an aristocratic lady of that time, "Egyptian shirts of silk and linen, embroidered shirts, Persian shirts with silk embroidery, Murcian gold necklaces, ear-pendants of the same metal, set with gems; finger-rings and bracelets, waist-belts of skins, embroidered with silk and precious stones; cloaks of cloth of gold, embroidered mantles of the same, coverings for the head, and kerchiefs."
1 Count of Clonard. 2 Ibid.
For all the frequency with which they framed and iterated sterile and exasperating sumptuary pragmatics for their people, the Spanish kings themselves went even beyond the nobles in their craze for ostentatious luxury. Upon the day when he was crowned at Burgos, Alfonso the Eleventh "arrayed himself in gold and silver cloth bearing devices of the castle and the lion, in which was much aljofar-work, as well as precious stones innumerable; rubies, emeralds, and sapphires." Even the bit and saddle of the monarch's charger were "exceeding precious on this day, for gems and gold and silver covered all the saddle-bows, and the sides of the saddle and its girths, together with the headstall, were curiously wrought of gold and silver thread."