Press Releases


The Cathedral, a source of poetry in “El Ámbar Gótico”

07/10/06 This publication represents a “warm, intimate introduction to the beloved city symbol" for author José Ignacio Besga.

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 7 October 2006. For centuries, the Santa Maria Cathedral has been a limitless source of artistic and literary inspiration, like a muse, even attracting the attention of Victor Hugo. More recently, the restoration project has drawn in globally renowned writers, including Ken Follett, Paulo Coelho, Mario Vargas Llosa and Arturo Pérez-Reverte, to name a few. However, there was a void between the Cathedral and the world of poetry.

This void has now been filled with the book of poems, “El Ámbar Gótico” (“Gothic Amber”), written by José Ignacio Besga Zuazola (Vitoria-Gasteiz, 1948). “El Ámbar Gótico” contains forty poems. It is a single work, perhaps even a long poem; an entire piece in and of itself, in which time, feelings and the Catedral Vieja become more and more interwoven throughout the course of this ten-chapter journey.

For as long as the author can remember, the Santa Maria Cathedral of Vitoria-Gasteiz has enchanted him with an inescapable force. The long strolls to the top of the hill to be able to see the Cathedral up close, the portico swimming in the afternoon sunlight, and the triforium watching over the naves. All these experiences stirred up feelings that have finally materialised in “El Ámbar Gótico”.

It is an amber that holds the memories, emotions and whispers that the poems exist to convey. In Besga´s opinion, “with the restoration, this symbol of the city, the Santa Maria Cathedral, has been made larger than life, and the vision of the struggle for survival that takes place within those sacred walls has been the poetic complement to my personal experience”.

“The passage of time has converted the memories and dreams caught in the resin of the Cathedral into glowing amber. In the Gothic amber, we can make out the whispers, recover the past and find truth. Despite its bulging pillars, the Cathedral survives, century after century, patiently watching the passing of the seasons. The restoration is like a gust of wind breathing new life into her spirit: the dream of survival”, explains the poet.

José Ignacio Besga Zuazola has a law and business studies degree from the University of Deusto. Presently, he is the Deputy Managing Director and Secretary General of the Vitoria and Alava savings bank, Caja Vital Kutxa, as well as a board member of its foundations. Representing Caja Vital, he has recently been appointed Vice President of the Vitoria-Gasteiz Social Council.

Besga has collaborated on poetry publications and served on the panel of judges for various poetry contests. He has also promoted the Fundación Mejora poetry contest and the Fundación Caja Vital young poet´s contest.

Illustrations by Miguel González de San Román
The poetic essence of “El Ámbar Gótico” is complemented by the quality of its illustrations by painter Miguel González de San Román, who has used his own photographs as well as those of other renowned photographers such as Navia, Quintas Fotógrafos, César San Millán, Joserra Santa María and Isidro Lázaro Mateos.

“I have designed this book for my friend José Ignacio Besga. It has been a pleasure to contribute to his poetry project and add the stroke of the brush to the literary form closest to painting. The book depicts the Cathedral in a vertical fashion, as a true expression of the Gothic style. And the poems, like images framed within my own graphic strokes, convey the emotion that lives in the poems and the value, like poetry, of personal creation”, explains Miguel González de San Román.

The relationship between the Santa Maria Cathedral and poetry goes beyond the publication of the book, “El Ámbar Gótico”. As part of its “Encuentros con la Catedral” series, the Cathedral has planned a poetry and music recital for this Friday, 10 November, at 8:00pm at the Santa Maria Cathedral.

The event will feature poetry from “El Ámbar Gótico”, recited by: Pilar Corcuera; Ricardo Fernández Deu, well-known lawyer and journalist who participates, together with Javier Nart, in the programmes “Tribunal popular” (TVE) and “Audiencia pública” (Antena 3); Laura Marinas; Jesús Manuel Maroto; Ángela Serna; and Carmela Vicente. The Manuel Iradier Choir will share its extraordinary musical quality with the following programme:

“Ave Maria, 16th century” – anonymous - bass voices
“Maitia nun zira” (mouth closed) - Basque folk
“Monastery ruins” – Sthele - bass voices
“Barcarola” (B.C.) - Weber- children´s voices
“Lord, you seek my love” (BBC.) - spiritual
“La Virgine d´Angelis”- Verdi
“Beti penetan” (B.C.) - Basque folk - children´s voices
“Aita gurea” - P. Madina
“Lullaby” (B.C.) - Brahms
“The old bell” - Kubik
“Goizan argi” (B.C.) - Basque folk
“Hosanna” - Ginastera

Soloists: Mª Cruz Ormazabal, soprano
Javier Fernández, tenor
Director´s asst.: Estitxu Delgado
Director: Emilio Ipinza

The Manuel Iradier Choir is once again giving a concert at the Santa Maria Cathedral, since its closure to the public in 1994. The Gothic church has hosted numerous musical performances since the reopening in 2000, including: the Gregorian Chant Choir, directed by Ismael Fernández de la Cuesta; Judith Cohen, Canadian ethnomusicologist; and the Cathedral of Toulouse Boy´s Choir (France).

Invitations (one per person) to attend the recital/concert this Friday, 10 November, may be picked up beginning today, Tuesday, 7 November, at the Santa Maria Cathedral Visitor´s Centre (Plaza de la Burullería, w/out. no).

Poetry recital featuring “El Ámbar Gótico”, by author José Ignacio Besga Zuazola and concert given by the MANUEL IRADIER CHOIR.
Date: Friday, 10 November
Place and time: Santa Maria Cathedral, 8:00pm