Spain: Unknown Salamanca Frescoes on Exhibit

April 28, 2020

A few days before the general confinement of the country, the ecclesiastical and civil authorities proceeded to reopen the Saint Barbara chapel of the Cathedral of Salamanca, a place decorated with a series of murals that have remained hidden from the eyes of the faithful for centuries.

The murals, dating from the 15th century, underwent restoration work for more than a year before being presented to the faithful or the simply curious by Msgr. Carlos Lopez, the Bishop of Salamanca.

The frescoes date from the foundation of the chapel, built to be the burial place of Bishop Juan Lucero. The fifteen scenes which are represented there evoke the principal events of the life of St. Barbara; their conservation was made possible by a ventilated space between the altarpiece and the wall which allowed natural ventilation.

The replacement of the murals with the altarpiece—which can still be admired—took place during the reorganization of the University of Salamanca. The scenes in this altarpiece, in the Renaissance style, compare the martyrdom of St. Barbara with the sufferings endured by Christ in His Passion.

In order to show simultaneously the artistic and religious richness of the murals and the altarpiece, the two elements were exhibited side-by-side on February 26, 2020, by means of a mechanism allowing the altarpiece to slide.

A short-term discovery for the curious, since in mid-March the Covid-19 epidemic plunged the country into general confinement.

The gradual reopening of the country, starting in May, should allow the Salamanca frescoes to once again reveal their brilliance to visitors.