The sum of my remarks upon the Visigothic jewel-work is this. Distinguished by a coarse though costly splendour, we find in it a mingled Roman and Byzantine source, although it was upon the whole inferior to these styles, being essentially, as Amador observes, "an imitative and decadent art." Yet it did not succumb before the Moors, but lurked for refuge in the small Asturian monarchy, and later, issuing thence, extended through the kingdom of Leon into Castile. We find its clearest characteristics in such objects as the Cross of Angels and the Cross of Victory. Then, later still, it is affected and regenerated by the purely oriental art of the invader; and lastly, till the wave of the Renaissance floods the western world, by Gothic influences from across the Pyrenees.
A similar sketch may be applied to other arts and crafts of Spain - particularly furniture and architecture.
The Cross Of Angels (Oviedo Cathedral)
The pious or superstitious kings and magnates of this land have always taken pride in adding (at the instigation of the clergy) to the treasure of her churches and cathedrals. Such gifts include all kinds of sumptuous apparel for the priesthood; chasubles and dalmatics heavily embroidered with the precious metals, gold or silver crowns and crosses, paxes,1 chalices and patines, paraments and baldaquinos, reliquaries in every shape and style and size, and figures of the Virgin - such as those of Lugo, Seville, Astorga, and Pamplona - consisting of elaborate silver-work upon a wooden frame. Visitors to Spain, from leisurely Rosmithal five hundred years ago to time-economizing tourists of our century, have been continually astonished at the prodigal richness of her sanctuaries. Upon this point I quote a typical extract from the narrative of Bertaut de Rouen. "The treasure of this church," he said of Montserrat, "is wonderfully precious, and particularly so by reason of two objects that belong to it. The first is a crown of massive gold of twenty pounds in weight, covered with pearls, with ten stars radiating from it also loaded with large pearls and diamonds of extraordinary value. This crown took forty years to make, and is valued at two millions of gold money. The second object is a gold crown entirely covered with emeralds, most of them of an amazing size. Many are worth five thousand crowns apiece. The reliquary, too, is of extraordinary richness, as also a service of gold plate studded with pearls, donated by the late emperor for use in celebrating Mass."
1 The pax or oscillatory used in celebrating High Mass is commonly, says Rosell de Torres, " a plate of gold or ivory, or other metal or material, according to the time and circumstances of its manufacture. The priest who celebrates the Mass kisses it after the Agnus Dei and the prayer ad petendam pacem, and the acolytes present it, as a sign of peace and brotherly union, to all the other priests who may be present. This usage springs from the kiss of peace which was exchanged, prior to receiving the communion, between the early Christians in their churches. The pax has commonly borne an image of the Virgin with the Holy Infant, the face of Christ, or else the Agnus Dei." Its Latin name was the dcosculatorium.
Similar accounts to the above exist in quantities, relating to every part of Spain and every period of her history.
Reverting to the earlier Middle Ages, a few conspicuous objects thus presented to the Spanish Church require to be briefly noted here. Famous chalices are those of Santo Domingo de Silos (eleventh century), made to the order of Abbot Domingo in honour of San Sebastian, and showing the characteristic Asturian filigree-work; and of San Isidoro of Leon, made in 1101 by order of Urraca Fernandez, sister of the fourth Alfonso. The latter vessel, inscribed with the dedication of Urraca Fredinandi, has an agate cup and foot. A remarkably handsome silver-gilt chalice and patine (thirteenth century) belong to Toledo cathedral. The height of this chalice is thirteen inches, and the diameter of its bowl, which has a conical shape, eight and a half inches. Inside and out the bowl is smooth, but midway between the bowl and the foot is a massive knot or swelling in the stem, and on the knot the emblematic lion, eagle, bull, and angel are chiselled in high relief. Below the knot is a ring of graceful rosettes. The patine which accompanies this chalice measures twelve inches in diameter. It has upon it, thinly engraved within a slightly sunk centre with a scalloped edge, the figure of Christ upon the cross, between the Virgin and St John. This central group of figures and the border of the plate are each surrounded with a narrow strip of decoration.
The cathedral of Valencia has a beautiful and early cup asserted to be the veritable Holy Grail (great, gara/, or grada/, in the old Castilian), "of which," wrote Ford with his accustomed irony, "so many are shown in different orthodox relicarios." However this may be, the chalice of Valencia is particularly handsome. According to Riano it consists of "a fine brown sardonyx which is tastefully moulded round the lip. The base is formed of another inverted sardonyx. These are united by straps of pure gold. The stem is flanked by handles, which are inlaid with delicate arabesque in black enamel. Oriental pearls are set round the base and stem, which alternate with rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. This chalice is a work of the Roman imperial epoch, and the mounts are of a later date."
A series of Spanish chalices, beginning chronologically with specimens which date from the early Middle Ages, and terminating with the chalice, made in 1712, of Santa Maria la Blanca of Seville, was shown in 1892 at the Exposicion Historico-Europea of Madrid. Among the finer or most curious were chalices proceeding from the parish church of Jativa, Las Huelgas, and Seville cathedral, and the Plateresque chalices of Calatayud, Granada, and Alcala de Henares. Another chalice which is greatly interesting because of the date inscribed on it, is one which was presented to Lugo cathedral by a bishop of that diocese, Don Garcia Martinez de Bahamonde (1441-1470). The workmanship, though prior to the sixteenth century, is partly Gothic. An article by Jose Villa-amil y Castro, dealing with all these chalices, will be found in the Boletin de la Sociedad Espanola de Excursiones for April, 1893.