The Arts and Crafts of Older Spain, Volume 1 (of 3)

The Arts and Crafts of Older Spain, Volume 1 (of 3)

Leonard Williams
Leonard Williams

Author: Williams, Leonard, 1871-
Decorative arts — Spain — History
The Arts and Crafts of Older Spain, Volume 1 (of 3)


Gold, Silver, and Jewel Work 1–119
Iron-Work 120–159
Bronzes 160–191
Arms 192–289



  Reja of the Choir; Seville Cathedral Frontispiece
I. Treasure of Guarrazar; Royal Armoury, Madrid 22
II. The Cross of Angels; Oviedo Cathedral 36
III. The Cross of Victory; Oviedo Cathedral 43
IV. Moorish Casket; Gerona Cathedral 46
V. Altar-Front in enamelled Bronze; Museum of Burgos 50
VI. “The Crucifix of the Cid”; Salamanca Cathedral 52
VII. The “Virgen de la Vega”; San Esteban, Salamanca 54
VIII. Saint James in Pilgrim’s Dress; Santiago Cathedral 57
IX. Mudejar Triptych; Royal Academy of History, Madrid 60
X. The “Tablas Alfonsinas”; Seville Cathedral 62
XI. “The Cup of Saint Ferdinand”; Seville Cathedral 64
XII. Ship; Zaragoza Cathedral 65
XIII. Moorish Bracelets 77
XIV. Morisco Jewellery 83
XV. Silver-Gilt Processional Cross 85
XVI. Gothic Custodia 95
XVII. The Custodia of Seville Cathedral 100
XVIII. Early Chalice and Cross in Filigree Gold 114
XIX. Old Keys; Seville Cathedral 131
XIXa. Decorative Nail-Heads; Convent of San Antonio, Toledo 134
XX. Door-Knockers 136
XXI. Ceremonial Maces and Lantern 138
XXII. Iron Pulpit; Avila Cathedral 140
XXIII. Reja of Chapel Royal; Granada Cathedral 148
XXIV. The same (View from Interior) 149
XXV. Reja; Casa de Pilatos, Seville 155
XXVI. Reja of the “Casa de las Conchas,” Salamanca 156
XXVII. “Meleager’s Hunt” 164
XXVIII. A Candil 166
XXIX. A Velón 168
XXX. Bronze Lion 171
XXXI. Bronze Stag; Museum of Cordova 173
XXXII. Bronze Temple; Museum of Granada 174
XXXIII. Moorish Lamp and Mortar; Museum of Granada 176
XXXIV. Lamp of Mohammed the Third; Madrid Museum 178
XXXV. Abbot Samson’s Bell; Museum of Cordova 180
XXXVI. Bronze Crucifix 182
XXXVII. The Puerta del Perdón; Seville Cathedral 184
XXXVIII. The Weathercock of the Giralda Tower 186
XXXIX. Crest of Jousting Helmet; Royal Armoury, Madrid 198
XL. Spanish Crossbowman; Royal Armoury, Madrid 202
XLI. The Battle of La Higueruela; El Escorial 206
XLII. Parade Harness of Philip the Third; Royal Armoury, Madrid 210
XLIII. Moorish Crossbow and Stirrup; Museum of Granada 214
XLIV. Moorish Sword; Casa de los Tiros, Granada 218
XLV. Sword of Boabdil el Chico; Museum of Artillery, Madrid 222
XLVI. Dagger of Boabdil el Chico; Museum of Artillery, Madrid 226
XLVII. Moorish Sword 230
XLVIII. War Harness of Charles the Fifth; Royal Armoury, Madrid 234
XLIX. Jousting Harness of Charles the Fifth; Royal Armoury, Madrid 238
L. Jousting Harness of Philip the Handsome; Royal Armoury, Madrid 242
LI. Moorish Buckler; Royal Armoury, Madrid 246
LII. Armour made at Pamplona; Royal Armoury, Madrid 250
LIII. Adarga; Royal Armoury, Madrid 254
LIV. Spanish Swords; Royal Armoury, Madrid 258
LV. Spanish Sword; Royal Armoury, Madrid 262
LVI. Spanish Sword 266
LVII. Spanish Swords; Royal Armoury, Madrid 270
LVIII. Sword Marks 272
LIX. Bridona Saddle; Royal Armoury, Madrid 274
LX. Hanging Jaeces for Horses 278
LXI. Travelling Litter attributed to Charles the Fifth; Royal Armoury, Madrid 282


The hyperbolic language of the ancients spoke of Spain as filled throughout, upon her surface and beneath her soil, with precious stones and precious metals. Old writers—Strabo, Pliny, Aristoteles, Pomponius Mela, and Diodorus Siculus—declare that once upon a time a mountain fire, lighted by shepherds in the Pyrenees and fanned into a conflagration by the wind, heated the earth until the ore within her entrails came bubbling to the top and ran away in rivulets of molten gold and silver, spreading all over Spain. The indigens of Lusitania as they dug their fields were said to strike their implements on nuggets half a pound in weight. The heart of the Peninsula, between the Bœtis and the Annas rivers—that is, the country of the Oretani and the Bastitani—was fabled to abound in mines of gold. The traders from Phœnicia, we are told, discovered silver to be so abundant with the Turdetani that “the vilest utensils of this people were composed thereof, even to their barrels and their pots.” Accordingly these shrewd Phœnicians, offering worthless trinkets in exchange, loaded their ships with silver to the water’s edge, and even, when their cargo was complete, fashioned their chains and anchors of the residue.

In spite of their extravagance, upon the whole these legends are not utterly devoid of truth. “Tradition,” said so careful an authority as Symonds, “when not positively disproved should be allowed to have its full value; and a sounder historic sense is exercised in adopting its testimony with due caution, than in recklessly rejecting it and substituting guesses which the lack of knowledge renders insubstantial.” So with the legends of the gold and silver treasure of the old-time Spaniards. Besides, it seems unquestionable that those fanciful assertions had their origin in fact. Spain stood upon the western border of the ancient world. Year in, year out, the sanguine sun went seething down into the waters at her western marge. Mariners from distant countries viewed those sunsets and associated them with Spain herself. Thus, hereabouts in the unclouded south, would gold and silver be suggested by the solar orb; or emerald and jacinth, pearl and amethyst and ruby, by the matchless colours of the seldom-failing sunset.

Then, too, though not of course in fabulous amount, the precious metals actually existed in this land. Various of her rivers, such as the Calom or Darro of Granada, the Tagus, the Agneda, and the Sil, rolled down, together with their current, grains of gold. “Les Mores,” wrote Bertaut de Rouen of the first of these rivers, “en tiroient beaucoup autrefois; mais cela a esté discontinué depuis à cause de la trop grande dépense qu’il y faloit faire. Il est certain que souvent on prend dans le Darro de petits morceaux d’or, et il y a des gens qui sont accoûtumez d’y en chercher.”

Centuries before this abbot wrote his book, the Arab author of the geographical dictionary known as the Marasid Ithila had made a similar remark upon this gold-producing stream; and in the sixteenth century I find an Ordinance of Granada city prohibiting the townspeople from digging up the river-bed unless it were to look for gold.[1] Probably, however, and in spite of what some chroniclers suppose, the title Darro is not in any way connected with the Latin words dat aurum.

“Two leagues from Guadarrama,” wrote the mineralogist William Bowles, about the middle of the eighteenth century, “opposite the town and in the direction of San Ildefonso, is a deep valley where one notices a vein of common quartz containing some iron. Here, without the use of glasses, I perceived a good many grains of gold…. In Galicia grains of gold are found on sandy hills, and one is astonished to observe the wonderful works carried out by the Romans to bring the sands together, wash them, and extract the precious metal. Local tradition affirms that this precious sand was destined for the purses of three Roman empresses—Livia, Agrippina, and Faustina…. I know a German minister who employed his spare time in washing these sands and collecting the gold.”

The Romans, it is true, profited very greatly by the native wealth of the Peninsula. Helvius enriched the treasury with 14,732 pounds of Spanish silver bars and 17,023 pounds of silver money; Cornelius Lentulus, with 1515 pounds of gold, 20,000 pounds of bar-silver, and 34,550 pounds in coin. Cato came back from his pro-consulship with five-and-twenty thousand pounds of silver bars, twelve thousand pounds of silver money, and four hundred pounds of gold. Seventy thousand pounds of coined silver fell to the share of Flaccus, while Minutius exhibited at his triumph eight thousand pounds of silver bars, and three hundred thousand pounds of silver coin.

Mines of silver,[2] gold, and precious stones were also fairly numerous in Spain. Moorish authors wrote enthusiastically of the mines of precious metals in or close to the Sierra Nevada. “Even at this day,” said Bowles, “the Moorish mines may be distinguished from the Roman. The Romans made the towers of their fortresses of a round shape, in order to avoid as far as possible the blows of the battering-ram; and their miners, whether from habit or intentionally, made the mouths of their mines round also. The Moors, as strangers to this engine, built their towers square and gave a square shape also to the mouths of their mines. The round mouths of Roman mines are yet to be seen at Riotinto and other places, and the square mouths of Moorish mines in the neighbourhood of Linares.”

Emeralds were formerly extracted from a mine at Moron, in the Sierra de Leyta; white sapphires and agates at Cape de Gata,[3] at the eastern extremity of the Gulf of Almeria; amethysts at Monte de las Guardas, near the port of Plata, “in a precipice (sic) about twenty feet in depth.” According to Laborde, garnets have been discovered down to modern times “in a plain half-way on the road from Almeria to Motril. They are very abundant there, particularly in the bed of a ravine, formed by rain-torrents, at the foot of a little hill, upon which a great number of them are likewise found. The emeralds are in the kingdom of Seville, all the others in that of Granada. It has been said for some time that a pit in the mountain of Bujo, at Cape de Gata, contains a great many precious stones; but none could be found there, notwithstanding the prolonged and careful searches that were lately made.”

Silver mines exist, or have existed, at Benasque, Calzena, and Bielza, in Aragon; at Cuevas, near Almeria; at Almodovar del Campo; at Zalamea, in Extremadura; at Puerto Blanco, in Seville province; in the Sierra de Guadalupe; at Fuente de la Mina, near Constantina; and near Almazarron, in the province of Carthagena. Not far from this latter city was another mine, that sent to Rome a daily yield of five-and-twenty thousand drachmas, and was worked by forty thousand men. Twenty thousand pounds in weight of pure silver proceeded yearly from Asturias, Lusitania, and Galicia. Hannibal extracted from a Pyrenean mine three hundred pounds a day. The fair Himilca, wife of Hasdrubal, was owner of a silver mine at two leagues’ distance from Linares. Laborde wrote of this mine: “It was reopened in the seventeenth century, when a vein five feet in breadth was found, from which many pieces of silver were taken; the working of it, however, has been neglected. It belongs to the town of Baeza.”

The same author, who wrote about one hundred years ago, gives curious and instructive notices of several other Spanish silver mines. “The mountains of the kingdom of Seville, on the confines of Extremadura, towards Guadalcanal, Alanis, Puerto Blanco, and Cazalla, which form a part of the extremity of the chain of Sierra Morena, contain several silver mines, which have been worked. There is one of these in the Sierra Morena, three miles from Guadalcanal, which to all appearance must have been very rich: there were three shafts for descending, the mouths of which are still to be seen: it was worked in the seventeenth century, and given up in 1653. It is believed that it was inundated by the workmen, in revenge for a new tax that was laid upon them. Another silver mine was also worked formerly, a league and a half from the other; it has a shaft, and a gallery of ancient construction; the vein is six feet in circumference, and is composed of spar and quartz. There is also a third mine, a league and a half from Guadalcanal, and half a league south-east of the village of Alanis, in the middle of a field; it is two feet wide; the Romans constructed a gallery in it, from south to north; a branch of it running eastward has been worked since their time: it originally contained pyrites and quartz, but it is by no means rich; there is lead at the bottom.”

Gold mines, or traces of them, have been found in the neighbourhood of Molina in Aragon, San Ildefonso in Old Castile, and Alocer in Extremadura; in the Sierra de Leyta; in the valley of Hecho in Aragon; and at Paradeseca and Ponferrada—this latter town the Interamnium Flavium of the Romans.

It is said that the chieftains of the ancient Spaniards adorned their robes with rude embroidery worked in gold, and that the men and women of all ranks wore gold and silver bracelets. These statements cannot now be either proved or controverted. Gold or silver objects older than the Roman domination have not been found abundantly in Spain. Riaño describes a silver bowl, conical in shape and evidently fashioned on the wheel, engraved with Iberian characters on one of its sides. A similar bowl was found in Andalusia in the seventeenth century, full of Iberian coins and weighing ten ounces. Gold ornaments, such as earrings, and torques or collars for the neck, have been discovered in Galicia less infrequently than in the other Spanish regions, and may be seen to-day in private collections, in the Royal Academy of History at Madrid, and in the National Museum of Archæology.[4] Villa-amil y Castro has written fully of these torques (Museo Español de Antigüedades, Adornos de oro encontrados en Galicia). In nearly every case, he says, they consist of a plain gold bar, C-shaped and therefore not completely closed into a ring, and with a knob at each extremity, as though their pattern were suggested by the yoke of cattle. One or two are de

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