Ruesga: Abandonment defeats Saint George painted in a hermitage in Cantabria | Culture

In the cemetery of the municipality of Ruesga, in Cantabria, a medieval hermitage is barely standing. The abandonment is total, despite the fact that there remain some striking Gothic paintings that represent Saint George and his dragon, the 12 apostles at the Last Supper or a knight in armor and mount saving his beloved, among other characters. Now, our Spain, an association for the defense of heritage integrated into an international network, has included them in its Red List, that is, its inventory that reflects the almost 850 Spanish cultural assets that are about to disappear forever.

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The Cantabrian temple was built in the second half of the 15th century. Currently only the main chapel remains, preceded by a pointed arch and a ribbed vault. In it you can distinguish two stars and a shield with the fleur de lis. In the middle of the 18th century, a polychrome wooden altarpiece, in the Baroque style, was placed and the walls were whitewashed. But the passage of time made the altarpiece disappear and the repaints on the walls fell, revealing the original Gothic images that embellished the temple. Thus, the saint and his dragon, some figures related to the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian and a maiden rescued by a knight, came to light. The church, given its state, was abandoned to build another one and its grounds were turned into a cemetery.

The archeologist Enrique Campuzano Ruiz described in 2013 what he appreciated at that time: “On the front wall [el opuesto a la entrada], towards the Epistle side [a la derecha mirando al altar]On a pictorial background of false ashlar masonry, there is a representation of a Saint George, in armor and on horseback, spearing a dragon whose head and tail are preserved, the stones on which the rest of the body was painted having been detached. Above, there is a female figure: a maiden facing the front, but with her feet in profile, wearing boots (…). His youth can be seen in his long golden hair and in his own white wardrobe with fine folds like silk, which descend parallel and are tied with a belt. The hands seem to be together in front of the chest ”.

Cemetery and apse of the hermitage of Ruesga, in Cantabria.
Cemetery and apse of the hermitage of Ruesga, in Cantabria.our Spain

And he continues: “To his left there is a window through which a female character appears, and perhaps another male, who could correspond to the kings, parents of the maiden (…). Due to the position that the maiden occupies on the dragon, it is also possible to understand the scene as an allegory of the Virgin, according to the vision of Saint John in the Apocalypse, the woman clothed with the sun about to give birth, who is harassed by the dragon, who will later be interpreted as the Immaculate Conception. “

Similarly, on the left side of the Gospel, the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian is depicted: “A man in profile dressed in medieval clothing, stretches a crossbow whose arrows are directed towards a half-naked figure that appears tied in front of a tree. Its dimensions are significantly higher than those of the archer. You can see some arrows stuck in his legs and torso ”.

Chapel of the hermitage of the Ruesga cemetery (Cantabria).
Chapel of the hermitage of the Ruesga cemetery (Cantabria).our Spain

A 5.50 meter wide frieze that represents the Last Supper also survives: “In the center of the composition is Christ, with long hair, who looks to his right in an attitude of speaking with Saint Peter, characterized by his round head , beard and incipient bald head (…). Here are five other apostles. On the left of Christ is, lying on his chest and on the table, his beloved disciple, John.

Campuzano, what is director of the Diocesan Museum, in Santillana del Mar, He calls the situation “shameful.” “The bishopric, who is the owner, re-roofed the apse about five years ago to prevent water from entering the chapel. But it cannot carry out the restoration and consolidation work. The builders ask for unaffordable amounts. The regional government does nothing. It’s embarrassing. Everybody looks the other way ”. However, article 36 of the Heritage Law of 1985 obliges the owners of the property to maintain it, and only in the event of non-compliance “the competent Administration, upon request to the interested parties, may order its subsidiary execution.”

For its part, Hispania Nostra denounces that the state of progressive deterioration will finally cause “the collapse of the roof and cracks in the walls of the hermitage”, while the paintings will end up disappearing “. The entity reminds that some of them can never be recovered.

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