SAN PEDRO DE ARGÉS
Thanks: To our friends Diego and Juan Antonio Alonso, lovers of Pre Romanesque Art, who have allowed us to know this hermitage and have furnished most part of the information and photographs contained in this file.
- Its most ancient reference is from 1237, when it is mentioned in a document like Faracjes, that by then was under the monastery of Rioseco.
- El Becerro de las Behetrias says that in the 14th century it belonged to Pedro Fernández de Velasco, member of one of the historic lineage of Las Merinades. But still then the monastery had brownfield sites in the church's surroundings.
- The plaster with lime, of which there are traces on the chevet, seems to be of recent time.
Located on a crag bordered to the left by the Arroyón river's brook, at a maximum height of 788 metres. On the other side of the access road flows the river Ebro. In the surroundings of the church there are traces of several chambers and rows of putlog holes, as well as rests of a masonry wall. In the rock platform above the church there are remnants of a small necropolis. They are signs of the existence of a village that, according to the mentioned documentary news, they mighy correspond to a recent settlement.
The church opens to the south, where there was the door of which only the traces of the left jamb are left. It is formed by two naves facing east with a total width of 6 m and a length of 15. The larger one, on the southern side, has lost a great part of the external wall and the cover. The naves have very different chevets : the northern one ends in a simple apse and the southern one counts with a presbytery and an apse somewhat elevated and with rests of inner doors.
The southern, or the Epistle nave has a rectangular plan. There is a funerary chapel at its feet with a 80 cm high step where the two graves are excavated, one as a bathtub and the other one is antropomorphic. On the closing wall thee are two blind arches, the one on the right sheltering the step. The two arches are semicircular and they project themselves upon a carved, much eroded pilaster. The sector was covered with a barrel vault lower than the nave's and it was separated from it by two horseshoe arches, today disappeared.
In the centre of the main nave there is a rectangular hollow that suggests the ritual of baptism by immersion. After that we find a step of around 20 cm and from the right wall springs out what remains of a small carved inner door that delimits the space in height. There is a space of one metre deep by three metres wide, that could have been used as antechoir, covered with a widened barrel vault widened at the springings, forming a sort of an iconostasis framed by a larger arch as a triumphal arch.
The access to the presbytery is through the second inner door tha has niches on the side walls and also rests of a continuous bench, with flutings and putlog holes to accomodate a wooden inner door. Finally, a new step gives way to the altar through a third inner door that has a niche on the end wall with a Latin cross on a carved plinth on the rock.
The covers are of semi dome vaults in the altar and pointed barrel vaults in the choir and antechoir. Of the cover of the main nave, only remains the base of a square pilaster, nearer the chevet than the second nave, and a pilaster that delimits the space for the feet.
The northern or the Gospel nave was supposedly built in a second phase. It has a similar size but its chevet is much simpler, formed by an apse with a plan of covered circumference covered by a semi dome vault. The nave, irregular, is covered with a barrel vault that has remains of transverse arches.
The two naves were separated by means of three formeret arches of Asturian inspiration, that would point out the barrel vault. The transverse arches lean upon corbels that are at one metre above the floor, in the secondary nave the step of the chevet extends up to the second nave and the pilaster's base serves as the limit of the step in the second nave.
Considering the typology, the church presents a bizarre mix of styles and architectural solutions. The existence of Asturian elements, like the barrel vaults with transverse semi circular arches and horseshoe arches, of which we cannot know whether they are from Visigothic or Mozarabic descent, poses a big variety of possibilities with regard to its dating. The most spread out opinion considers that the southern nave was built during the resettlement, between the 9th and 10th centuries and that it was enlarged in the 12th century by building a second nave and remodeling the triumphal arch replacing the iconostasis that gave way to the presbitery to create the present triumphal arch.
However, we think that the construction of horseshoe arches in the first phase of the resettlement and, given that the enlargement presents characteristics of Asturian art, another possibility to take into consideration would be to locate the origin of the church in the blooming of Visigothic hermitage building at the beginnings of the 7th century, that would lead in that century to the construction of the southern nave with row of horseshoe arches and that the mentioned modifications would have occurred during the resettlement phase between the 9th and 10th centuries.
Other interesting informationAccess: Upon arrival in Incinillas, south of Villarcayo, take the detour to Manzanedo. After the sign of Rioseco, at around 30 metres from the detour to Argés, you will find th church in the crag, to the left of the road, at an altitude of around 630 metres After climbing through a path you reach the medium height of the crag. GPS coordinates: 42º 53'27.26" N 3º 40' 1.73" W.
Trueba Longo J.: Eremitorios rupestres en la comarca de Las Merindades (Burgos).
Rubio Marcos E.: Eremitas en el Norte de Burgos.
Rubio Marcos E.: Eremitas en el Norte de Burgos.