Puerta de la Asunción de la Catedral de Sevilla


The Puerta de la Asunción, on Avenida de la Constitución, is the main entrance to the Cathedral of Seville. However, its completion was not addressed until well into the 19th century, at the initiative of Cardinal Cienfuegos Jovellanos. In a first phase, between 1827 and 1831, the façade was built according to a project by the architect Fernando de Rosales. It was made in a neo-Gothic style, with the aim that it would marry well with the rest of the cathedral and specifically with the doors that are on each side, the Baptism and San Miguel doors, which are Gothic from the 15th century.

The lack of budget to continue the works meant that for the sculptural decoration it was necessary to wait even fifty more years. It was commissioned to Ricardo Bellver, one of the most prestigious sculptors in the country at that time, author of "El Ángel Caído" which is in El Retiro in Madrid.

In 1885 he finished the sculptural decoration of the tympanum, for which he made the Assumption of the Virgin ensemble, and in later years he would carry out the series of sculptures of apostles and saints located in the niches on the sides of the door. A total of 40 were commissioned, but only managed to carry out 39, since, once again, the budget was exhausted again.

The set of the tympanum was made of Monóvar stone and presents the theme of the Assumption of the Virgin following quite classic schemes, with the aim of not clashing with the Gothic and Renaissance decoration of the rest of the doors of the Cathedral. It represents the Virgin in the center of the composition, framed in a mandorla, in an attitude of ascending supported by angels, who raise her from the open sepulcher at her feet to the figure of God the Father, who appears at the vertex. On both sides, between clouds, a series of angels appear, some of them playing musical instruments.

At the far right from the viewer's point of view, one of the most endearing aspects of the composition appears. The female angel that appears playing a portable organ is the representation of the sculptor's wife, Pilar Ferrant, who died in 1880 when she was only 23 years old, this circumstance coinciding in time with the making of the preparatory sketches for the work. The following year, their first-born son, Luis Bellver, also died at a very young age. The sculptor decides to represent him also as a little angel in the final composition. And so mother and son appear, looking at each other, represented as angels next to the Virgin, on the main portal of the Cathedral of Seville.

As we already mentioned, in the following years, between 1885 and 1899, the sculptor would carry out the series of saints located on both sides of the door. The realization of these sculptures was not without controversy, except for their style, for the material in which they were made. The funds available to the Cabildo de la Catedral to carry out the works were limited, so they commissioned the artist to use Portland cement, which was much cheaper, instead of stone.

As soon as the first sculptures were placed, criticism began to spread among artists and scholars of the city, who considered this material unworthy of being used for the ornamentation of the doorway of a cathedral. It was argued that if it was not possible to carry out the works in stone, at least they should have opted for fired clay, a material that was chosen for the decoration of the doors of the cathedral of the 15th and 16th centuries. The issue reached the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts, which finally supported the good work of the artist, although regretting that the material was not of a dignity more appropriate to the monument.

Regardless of the materials imposed by the circumstances, it must be said that the quality of the sculptor is evident in his work for Seville. It should not be forgotten that there was another important determining factor: the Gothic framework in which the works had to be framed and with which they could not clash. This circumstance undoubtedly reduced the author's creative freedom and made him have to adapt to very rigid compositional schemes. However, the sculptures are made in great detail and are well documented in terms of the symbols or attributes that each saint carries. Despite the dark color to which the cement tends, it is possible to appreciate the sculptural quality both in the treatment of the clothes and in the careful and restrained expression of the faces.

The initial idea for the cover included many more sculptures, with the idea of ​​also filling the archivolt canopies, but finally the project was stopped and the set has remained unfinished to this day. However, with the conjunction of the Neo-Gothic style and the sculptural work of Bellver, it was possible to give a quite dignified solution to the question, achieving that the main portal is currently shown as an element in harmony with the rest of the Hispalense Cathedral.

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