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Románico Atlántico publishes a digital book about the restoration of the paintings of Muga de Sayago

Románico Atlántico publishes a digital book about the restoration of the paintings of Muga de Sayago


The Director General of Heritage of the Junta de Castilla y León, Juan Carlos Prieto Vielba, and the President of Fundación Iberdrola España, Fernando García Sánchez, attended today in the Zamora town of Muga de Sayago the presentation of the book "La ermita de Nuestra Señora de Fernandiel. La restauración de sus pinturas murales. Innovación y memoria en el patrimonio transfronterizo".

The work, in digital format, has been published as part of the Atlantic Romanesque Plan, to collect and disseminate the history, evolution and restoration process of the set of mural paintings that houses the building. The book is now available for downloading and viewing on the plan's website

The 143 pages are fully illustrated and provide a detailed account of the history of the building and its paintings, the context and theoretical framework in which the work was carried out, the intervention criteria, the preliminary studies and the restoration process. It also includes an article on the work carried out to improve the lighting, sustainability and energy efficiency of the church. The work is completed with a section dedicated to the Atlantic Romanesque Plan, presentations by the entities promoting the plan and conclusions.

A dozen experts and technicians have participated in the preparation of the different articles, most of them linked to the previous studies and the restoration process of the mural paintings. Some of them attended the presentation of this new digital book today, in which it was recalled that the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de Fernandiel dates back to the 13th century, although numerous alterations and modifications took place in subsequent centuries.

Mural painting from the 16th century

The building is notable for the large expanse of mural painting it preserves. As stated in the book, several teams of painters were responsible for its execution at different times in the 16th century. The front wall is dominated by a pictorial altarpiece with scenes and decorative motifs referring to the life of the Virgin Mary. The side walls of the chancel depict characters from the Old Testament; in the second section of the church, two pictorial altarpieces dedicated to Saint Anne and Saint Bridget stand out, and the side walls depict Gospel passages, several Fathers of the Church and four saints.

Conservation State

The paintings were executed on lime and sand mortar, applied in two layers. Most of the work was done dry, using egg tempera or casein, although the existence of an earlier fresco work has not been ruled out. The palette is made up of ochre, yellow, orange, red, brown, charcoal black and blue.

Before the restoration, the ensemble showed generalised dirt: surface dust, more compacted greasy dirt and localised stains of various kinds. In addition, the pictorial layers showed visible alterations such as cracks, loss of union between the layers, bagging, decohesion and sandblasting, as well as numerous losses of polychromy. On the other hand, the successive alterations carried out on the building had affected the whole. To ensure the suitability of the intervention, various analyses, tests and information gathering were carried out.

Restoration Process
The work began with the elimination of the surface dust, previously fixing the polychrome areas. The consolidation treatments were based on the mineralisation of the decohesioned areas of mortar, the adhesion of the separated layers by injecting adhesives and using precision props, and the filling of the hollow areas with deep-injection mortar. Subsequently, cleaning was undertaken, aimed at the removal of foreign substances. The last step was to restore the correct reading of the paintings by applying mortar to regularise the walls and reintegrate the lost areas with colour, always following the criterion of minimum intervention.

In parallel to the mural paintings, work was also carried out on the altarpiece and the sculpture of Nuestra Señora de Fernandiel, as the publication reminds us. The intervention focused on settling the polychromy, material consolidation, structural consolidation, cleaning, elimination of repainting and additions, and volumetric and chromatic reintegration.

Renovation of the electrical installation and lighting
To enhance this unique set of mural paintings, the intervention of the Atlantic Romanesque Plan was completed with the installation of new ornamental lighting, more in keeping with the temple, which provides it with the optimum levels of light, through the application of LED technology with a design that respects its heritage and spiritual values.

In addition, photovoltaic solar panels and stationary batteries that accumulate energy were installed in the annex building. A more sustainable and efficient system than the old diesel generator. This space was also fitted out for possible use as an information point for the Plan.

Románico Atlántico publishes a digital book about the restoration of the paintings of Muga de Sayago
Románico Atlántico publishes a digital book about the restoration of the paintings of Muga de Sayago
Románico Atlántico
Junta de Castilla y LeónFundación Iberdrola EspañaGoverno de PortugalFundación Santa María la Real del patrimonio históricoDiócesis de SalamancaDiócesis de ZamoraDiócesis  de AstorgaDiócesis de Ciudad Rodrigo