Turismo Prerrománico > Countries > España > SAN ROMÁN DE MOROSO


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Thanks: To our contributor Javier Pelaz Beci, member of 4AsE, who has provided a great part of the information and photographs used for this file.

Previous notes

  • Declared Heritage of Cultural Interest in 1931.
  • At the beginning of the 20th century it still preserved its columns and capitals of the door, but during the last third of the century it was in ruins.
  • It has been excavated and restored as of 1980.

Historic environment

The hermitage of San Román de Moroso is a beautiful and genuine example of the Mozarabic art or Repopulation art in the region of Cantabria.

This small hermitage erects in a remote gulley of the hills of Bostronizo, in the middle of a lovely setting, riddled with oak trees and a silent brook passing by. It scarcely reaches 12 metres long and six metres wide. Its dating is possibly from the 10th century, although there is not any document to confirm it. However, the first document that proves the existence of the monastery of Moroso is of 1119, the year in which the queen Doña Urraca donates the property to the monastery of St. Domingo de Silos. Maybe this small construction formed part of the old monastery, a religious emblem of the valley of Iguña during the Middle Ages. The tradition recalls that the queen, during her retirement,  lived in the monastery and after her death she was buried there. D. Ramón Morais, major of Arenas de Iruña, tells us that apparently Doña Urraca was banished by her father and came to Anievas with his entourage, but the inhabitants of the village did not stand her and bothered by ringing the bells of that village's church all day long and it is for that reason that she went to live with the monks; then the lads of Anievas added another floor to the bellfry so that the noise could reach Moroso. He also tells us the Juan de Herrera, the architect of El Escorial, said that Román de Moroso was one of Spain's magic places. 


It is a construction of regular proportions and perfect adaptation to its volumes. The building, gabled, is made of ashlar stone with pieces well squared in corners San Román de Moroso. Plantaand jambs of the spans, put together with mortar. In the rest of the solid walls, the course of ashlars was placed in headers and stretchers, that is, alternating the pieces of stone across and lengthwise.

The chevet faces east and a door in the horseshoe arch on the northern wall gives way to the temple's inside. This orientation is unusual, probably determined by the uneven morphology of the soil. The apse is quadrangular and the gable finishes off a bell gable of later construction. The eaves stands up with foiled modillions decorated with swastikas, sun disks and four and six petal flowers. The origin of the vegetal motifs as well as the geometrical ones were profane representations though christianized later by the Visigoths and finally adopted by the Mozarabics.

The inside is formed by a single rectangular and remarkably high nave with wooden frame. The natural illumination is scarce San Román de Moroso. Detalle del arco de herradura de acceso al ábside.as it only comes from two loopholes opened on the southern wall. A triumphal horseshoe arch with stepped cymatium gives way to a meager almost quadrangular apse covered with a barrel vault. Lampérez believes that the apse had a horseshoe shaped plan. A keyhole window framed in cross pattée opens on the front wall.

The triumphal arch has been rebuilt so it lacks inner door and iconostasis, that in Mozarabic worship separated the presbitery from the nave with curtains so that the faithful would not see the officiant at the moment of consacration. The cymatia are the original ones, however, both the capitals as well as the columns that supported them have disappeared. A High Medieval necropolis and a capital, that could have been the triumphal arch, were found in the excavations that had been practised in 1980.

Although it is considered a Mozarabic church of the 10th century and has been related with St. María de Lebeña, also located in Cantabria but much to the west of Bostronizo, theSan Román de Moroso. Ventana en forma de truth is that there are stylistic differences between them, excepting the similarities of the modillions that support the roof; formed by nine compartments separated by columns and capitals that support horseshoe arches in a complex design that recalls the Visigothic cruciform churches and St. María de Wamba, St. Román de Moroso is formed by a single nave and a rectangular apse. The nave is wooden covered. However, the quality of its construction can be compared with that of the best Visigothic and Mozarabic buildings.

On the other hand, while the decoration of Lebeña connects with the whole sculpture of the Mozarabic Asturian-Leonese school, where we find such meaningful monuments like St. Miguel de Escalada or Santiago de Peñalba, the scanty decoration  preserved in this hermitage is a very different one, excepting the modillions. Another subject to bear in mind when we analyse this church is that it has the door on the northern side, what we only find in another very special Mozarabic construction - St. Baudelio de Berlanga- wheras in all the rest the door is located on the southern side. It is not even possible to know the original structure of its two horseshoe arches, that have been restored with a large extension, like in Mozarabic Leonese art, but they could have been more open. 


The final result is that we find ourselves in front of a building very different to the Mozarabic created in the western area of the Reconquest and with a stucture very similar to a great part of the repopulation art of the eastern area, like the hermitages of Sts. Céntola and Elena an the Virgen del Cerro or St. Vicente del Valle; all of them in the province of Burgos. However, the modillions are of the same family than those of the Mozarabic Leonese. All of this leads us to consider the possibility of a reconstruction of a former building in the 10th century, like we suggest in the case of the mentioned churches from Burgos, or at least, a reconstruction in two phases, starting in the plain repopulation style and using modillions of the most pure Mozarabic in the cover.

Other interesting information

Access: Starting in Torrelavega, take the Autovía de la Meseta and leave it in the exit to Arenas de Iguña; follow to Raicedo, take the detour to Bostronizo and follow the concentration road until the sign that indicates the location of this Mozarabic church. GPS coordinates: 43°13'10,488"N 4°3'19.0008"O.
Telephone: Ayuntamiento de Arenas de Iguña: 942 82 60 19.
Visiting hours: Open in summer. The rest of the year, contact the Ayuntamiento de Arenas de Iguña.



Catálogo monumental de Cantabria. II. Valles del Saja y Besaya: Campuzano Ruiz, E. Santander 1991, pp. 341-342
Historia de Cantabria. Prehistoria. Edades Antigua y Medi: García Guinea, M. A. Santander 1985, pp 324-325
L'Art Préroman Hispanique - L'Art Mozarabe: Jacques Fontaine(ZODIAQUE)


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