SANTA MARÍA DE LOS ARCOS
To our collaborators Juan Antonio and Diego Alonso, lovers of Spanish Pre Romanesque Art, who have provided us with part of the information and photographs used in this file.
- Historical Artistic National Monument.
- The church suffered three important modifications along its history; the first one in the 13th century, the second one in the 18th and the last one in the 20th century when it was necessary to rebuild the western facade and the last stretch of the naves.
- It has been studied and restoresd in the 80’s in a project in which an Archeology team of the University College of La Rioja participated.
We find in the church of the Virgen de los Arcos de Tricio one of the three Visigothic basilics that are still preserved in good shape and the only one prior to the 7th century. The others are San Juan de Baños and St. Lucía del Trampal, of a later stage and with very different characteristics.
Located in the proximity of what had been the most important Roman city of Tritium Magallum – Tricio the Great- its looks at present are very different of what must have been originally, much altered after the restructuring that took place in the 18th century, when externally the three nave structure was hidden increasing the height of the laterals to cover it wit a gabled roof and its only square apse surrounded by three compartments. All of that under the same roof of the rest of the building. More impactful is the modification of its interior, with the covering of all the spaces with a plaster vault, a material that was also used to add in a large part of its surfaces a far from discreet decoration, although it is fair to acknowledge that internally this disaster becomes original and with a more attractive aesthetics than those of other monuments restored lately, where new even less “discreet” material has been added.
At this moment there is not a definite criterium about the dating of this monument that appears for the first time documented in 1094 in the Cartulary of Albelda, considering options so far off as to suggest it was an Early Christian basilic of the 5th century or that we are in front of a building from mid 10th century, during the resettlement of the area, that is to say, in the middle of the Mozarabic phase.
From our point of view, Santa María de los Arcos does not meet any characteristc of the Mozarabic constructions of the area, which most meaningful example is St. Millán de Suso. Among other details we can point out:
- Its main access is on the eastern facade, whereas one of the characteristics of the Mozarabic churches is to have it on a lateral nave.
- The cover of the apse is a conventional dome upon pendentives, very different from the usual Caliphal domes of that period. It is also quite unusual to have a square apse, both in and out,
- The church had a single apse, whereas the rest of the Mozarabic constructions of basilical type have three.
- The arches are just slightly protruding, far different from all in Mozarabic art.
Notwithstanding, we may establish a very clear relationship between Tricio and the basilics Cabeza de Griego and Eio in Minateda, as in the three cases we find a three nave basilic with covers in wood, with a central nave with width and height twice as large as the lateral ones, separated by rounds of arches upon columns and with an apse for burials. But the coincidences do not end with the features of the building: they are also evident when we compare the surroundings: Both, Tritium Megallum as well as Segóbriga and Ilunum were Roman cities, relatively important that suffered a severe decay in the fourth and fifth centuries, partly recovered in the 6th century. These basilics were built in the proximity of the two latter cities; if we pay attention to the dates on the sepulchres of the bishops found in Cabeza de Griego, they correspond to the Arian phase of the Visigothic monarchy, with a similar structure, the chevet upon a mausoleum of earlier date and reutilized materials in the Roman buildings of the environmnt.
In view of everything above said, we understand it would be interesting to study in St. María de los Arcos, the possibility that it may have been a Visigothic construction of the first half of the 6th century and, therefore, dedicated to the Arian worship and prior to the beginning of the replacement of the classical basilical plans by cruciform ones, that we begin to find in Recópolis, possibly the last church built for that worship.
Other interesting information
Access: Exit from Logroño through A-12 to Burgos. At some 23 Km take L-427 towards Burgos/Nájera (East)/Tricio. After 1.2 Km, follow through L-136 for 1 Km. The church is at 500 metres from the centre of Tricio towards east. GPS Coordinates: 42º 24′ 7.480″N 2º 42′ 39.599″W.
Telephones: Tricio City Council 941 36 10 57. Guide Nuria 620 923 644.
Visiting hours: Guided tours. Ask for timetable
Historia de España de Menéndez Pidal: Tomo III
SUMMA ARTIS: Tomo VIII
L’Art Preroman Hispanique: ZODIAQUE
Historia del Reino Visigodo Español: José Orlandis
Ars Hispanie: Tomo II
Vallenajerilla: Tritium Megallum
Jdiezarnal: Basílica de Santa María de Arcos
S.A.Valero: Excavaciones en Sta María De Arcos,Tricio (La Rioja)
Santa María de los Arcos, Santa Coloma y San Vicente del Valle. Tres miembros de una familia arquitectónica