SIGÜENZA (Fermín Santos, 1968)


This work of art was created by the artist Fermín Santos (1909-97). It is one of his many drawings of Sigüenza, in this case a panoramic view of the city taken from its outskirts. Fermín Santos is considered in Campoy´s work as one of the hundred masters of contemporary painting. He was an artistic chronicler of Sigüenza, appointed as an adoptive son and awarded with the silver medal of the City Council. No part of the city was left unpainted by the artist. His work consists of a great pictorial diversity such as oil painting of vivid colors with-dark and somber themes, which were characteristic of Goya´s work. We also can find multiple drawings done with charcoal, felt-tip pen nib, and toothpick. This type of painting centered its attention on the urban landscape and its buildings.

The origins of the city of Sigüenza go back to the Celtiberian period. The Celtiberians were suppressed by the Romans, and they decided to create their own city in the fertile plane, next to the river Henares. The Islamic influence on Sigüenza still remains as it can be appreciated in its irregular urban layout and its tortuous and narrow streets. The location and the morphology of this medieval city coincide with the general characteristics of the medieval period, choosing the hill where the old Celtiberian settled as an strategic place, as it was a period of war. The Muslim city was organized by giving priority to the hose and not to the street, and this is why there are so many dips and protruding spaces. Since they were times of fighting, from this location they could monitor the city and its points of access.

Starting from the top of the hill, there is a castle with a huge coutyard in its center and a series of buildings around. A High Street connects the castle, at the top, with the cathedral, in downtown. We can also see some streets traversing the High Street, such as the Hospital street or the Travesañas. The area of buildings closer to the castle keeps the characteristics of the medieval cities too. There are low houses of two floors. There was no type of street plan because most of the houses were not constructed following any town planning.

In the picture we can appreciate some of the most important buildings in that area. The city was organized around the cathedral and the castle. In there occurred all the commercial, civil and religious activities. At this moment Sigüenza played a powerful role as a fortified city and it housed an important Episcopal See. In the right margin, we can appreciate the cathedral. Inside there a many examples of works of art such as Sacristy of the Heads, the Major Altarpiece and the Arces’ Chapel with the famous reclining statue of the Doncel of Sigüenza. In the background we can see the Church of San Vicente. On its facade there are richly decorated archivolts. We can also find the image of a small sculpture of a Gothic Virgin Mary and a polychrome carving of a crucified Christ from the 12th and 13th centuries. At the bottom, next to the Episcopal Palace we can observe another important element of the city, the Hospice. In this building people were educated, feed and they learned different trades. They were taught in its workshops, baizes, tailoring etc. We can also highlight the church of Santa Maria.

Some of the historical buildings that we cannot see from the perspective of this drawing are the Infants Palace and the Convent of San Francisco. The Infants Palace is a significant work from the Baroque period that was assigned as the headquarters of the cathedral choir. The convent of San Francisco was built in 1606; important features of this building include its facade which is ornamented with legends, barred windows and the Franciscan coat of arms. This Covent was occupied by a Franciscan community until its expropriation in 1835-1837. Nowadays, it is a Church and the Ursulines School.

Another important building that we cannot see in the picture is the Clarisas´ Monastery. This monastery is a building from the 16th century, constructed in Gothic style. The facade is adorned by a segmental arch and has impressive gargoyles. It outdoor courtyard was used as a public cemetery until 1906. Another significant building of the city is the Humilladero Hermitage that was built in 1568. It was located at the entrance of the city, in a strategic point to provide a resting place for pilgrims and travelers.

Sigüenza means the one that dominates the Valley. For that reason we have to take into account its geopolitical importance. In general, the municipality of Sigüenza is characterized by the rural environment, with the peculiarities that it entails. It is a core point for trade and administration of its region. Nowadays the most important economic activity is tourism but Sigüenza also has an economic inheritance based on agriculture and livestock.

Marta Ruiz Pallán

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