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Fundación Catedral Santa María is organising guided tours around the Cathedral’s newly-restored sacristy during the Christmas season

A neo-Classical nativity scene by Esteban de Agreda, which has also been restored, is on display in the sacristy

Vitoria-Gasteiz, December 17, 2008 - Next Saturday, Fundación Catedral Santa María will open to the public the Cathedral’s recently restored main sacristy, which now boasts its original Baroque chromatic appearance once again. Reservations for visits, which are free of charge, must be made in advance and are available until January 5. A newly restored neo-Classic nativity scene is also on display.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria has undergone painstaking restoration work for almost a year to solve its conservation problems and recover its Baroque look. The layers of paint that had accumulated have been stripped off and the space’s image is now closer to its original chromatic look.
Opening this space to the public during the Christmas season will also allow visitors to enjoy a glimpse of the newly-recovered neo-Classical nativity scene with Neapolitan influences made up of the figure of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child, St. Joseph, three shepherds and three animals. Created by San Esteban de Ágreda in 1780, the shapes in this delicate series are purifed and restrained, yet replete with the conservative religiosity characteristic of the weighty Baroque tradition.
Free guided tours are available between December 20 and January 5; reservations must be made in advance at the Cathedral’s Visitor Reception Centre (Plaza de las Brullerías) or at 945 255 135.

The Cathedral’s main sacristy

Although references to an earlier building date back to the sixteenth century, most of the Cathedral of Santa Maria’s main sacristy was built between 1734 and 1736, when the building was still a collegial church. The sacristy, with its rectangular layout and tapering angles beneath a semi-circular elliptical vault, was used by clergymen in the olden days. Part of the wall at the front of the cathedral was broken to build it.
Studies indicate that the sacristy was painted on seven different occasions, although the original layer is the most interesting and boasts the highest quality. In addition to a thorough-going restoration of the inner vaults and walls, the details of the reliefs and coats of arms have also been restored to approximate their original chromatic Baroque appearance.
The sacristy contains four enormous chests of drawers with their corresponding back rests and a large table in the centre, elements made to hold all the liturgical adornments, ornaments, and sacramental chalices used in religious services. The construction techniques used in these chests of drawers have been traced to the nineteenth century, which leads us to assume that they were replacements for earlier, eighteenth-century pieces. The back rests date from before that to 1734 and correspond to the sacristy’s original Baroque furnishings.
Now that the sacristy furniture has been restored, the original polychrome of the back rests, the earliest and most daring work in Álava in this decorative line, can be enjoyed once again. Blue, silver and golden-toned drawings are the main protagonists of the series of Chinese scenes that cover the shafts of the columns and backgrounds.
Between the columns, the back rests are complemented by a series of depictions of an apostolate that includes St. Bartholomew, St. Philip, St. James the Greater, St. Thomas, St. Paul, St. Matthew, St. John, St. Simon, St. Peter, St. Peter the Younger and St. Andrew. The central urns on each one of the four back rests also display a series of images of St. Anthony of Padua, St Vincent Ferrer, a painted crucifixion and St. John Nepomucene.

Other outstanding artistic pieces are the eight medallions that feature church fathers and scholars. An English clock that probably dates from the mid-eighteenth century has also been conserved.