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Pórtico de la Gloria gateway into Divine Revelation


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The Santiago Enigma - clues 2 - breathtaking culmination of the Camino

Following our recent post The Santiago Enigma - clues on miscellaneous-about-santiago/topic6469.html we here quote some interpretations of the faces of the Christ in Majesty, Jabobus Major, Jacobus Minor and the prophet Daniel that have our special interest in defining the message of the Pórtico as we saw it a quarter of a century ago. See more pictures on , and .

All these faces are [unless mentioned otherwise] cut out of pictures of the plaster copy in the Victoria & Albert Museum at London of the Pórtico de la Gloria in Saint James's cathedral at Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Courtesy and © (permission given on 22-5-9) of Mr. Gareth Thomas who took these on the eve of his pilgrimage on foot from England through France to Santiago.

- Re: The Santiago Enigma by Gareth Thomas on March 29th, 2008, 11:37 pm on miscellaneous-about-santiago/topic3794.html#p20890 - The viewing gallery in the V&A places the visitor on a height level with the central tympanum, which is an advantage you do not get in the real portico. tympanum4.jpg picture © Gareth Thomas (…)

I have just come back from a remarkable experience. Astonishing really, to be standing in front of Maestro Mateo's 'Portico de la Gloria' today in London. I was in the Victoria & Albert Museum, so of course I refer to the copy: a full-size plaster cast. (…)

The evangelists gathered around Christ in glory in the great tympanum [first picture below], and on the central pillar, St James, looking remarkably like Christ and indeed - being closer to our level - seeming like the human presence of the divine himself. Even in the copy, it is a remarkably galvanizing figure. (…)

I must explore the photos and send some off to Geert. I'll put one here now. But I will come back to it soon and continue. Next time the sun comes out (rare in London!) I shall return to that copy of the Portico de la Gloria and continue the study I have only just begun. When I set off on my Camino in May, I will be walking from this copy to the real thing, and that is quite a privileged position to be in.

- Re: The Santiago Enigma by Gareth Thomas on April 5th, 2008, 10:32 pm on miscellaneous-about-santiago/topic3794-25.html#p21128 - Daniel_john_angel.jpg picture © Gareth Thomas (…) John the Evangelist, the prophet Daniel, and an angel [middle picture below]

I was in the V & A Museum again today in Kensington, where I finally had my permit arranged to use a tripod, so have taken 300 photos of the Portico de la Gloria. What really struck me today was the similarity between Daniel and John the Evangelist (see photo). It is as if the theological connection between them (Daniel's prophecy and John's Revelation) has been emphasised by the close facial types. But then, I just wondered if it is an accident of the particular masons who were given the different figures to sculpt; for the angel above Moses, in the grouping of four Old Testament figures that includes Daniel, again looks very similar to both Daniel and John. I think we have to be a little cautious when remarking on the close facial similarity between the Christ in Majesty and James Major.

Surely, if the sculptors wished to draw our attention to family connections through facial similarity, then James and John (twins, the "sons of thunder") should look identical? They don't. If the facial similarity between Christ and James Major reflects the mistaken belief that this James was the one referred to as 'the brother of Jesus' (a phrase with a huge range of interpretation anyway, but definitely not this James), then the sculptor was mixing up his James's. I cannot believe for a moment that those who were directing the theology behind the iconography here could have made such an elementary confusion. Therefore I begin to wonder whether the connection between facial similarities is anything more than the favoured physiognomy of particular artists and their preferred human models.

- Re: The Santiago Enigma by PILGRIMSPLAZA on March 30th, 2008, 1:16 am on miscellaneous-about-santiago/topic3794.html#p20893 with a surprising black and whithe picture of Daniel in the Pórtico de la Gloria in Santiago de Compostela - Also see Gareth's picture of the London copy below; what a difference!

- Re: The Santiago Enigma by Gareth Thomas on April 1st, 2008, 11:29 pm on miscellaneous-about-santiago/topic3794.html#p20977 : PILGRIMSPLAZA wrote: You have already seen what struck me but you do not yet interpret it my way, but that may only be a matter of time now... Please send another one of Daniel [last picture below] for he is important in this story. Isn’t this great! Congratulations!

Gareth: Here you are then, the smiling prophet Daniel. - I have spent this evening re-reading the book of the prophet Daniel in the Navarre Bible which has a very good commentary, but I have a long way to go before I'm ready to 'read' the story of these stones with any confidence.

- The Santiago Enigma - we're closing in! by PILGRIMSPLAZA on April 7th, 2008, 11:05 am on miscellaneous-about-santiago/topic3794-25.html#p21166 : Today I posted this message in some Yahoo Pilgrim Groups:
The Santiago Enigma – we’re closing in!
Hi all,
The Santiago Enigma is a ‘hot’ topic on the Santiago Forum; we’re closing in! Last week I asked all my friends who know the answer or were (getting) close what they would prefer: an open discussion or not? They all asked me not to publish the answer! We all agreed on giving more pilgrims a fair chance of making their own discoveries in the Gloria and letting them enjoy their moments of Glory. *

- Re: The Santiago Enigma - we're closing in! by Gareth Thomas on April 7th, 2008, 3:18 pm on miscellaneous-about-santiago/topic3794-25.html#p21177 : (…) I have heard it said by some pilgrims that their arrival in Santiago has been an 'anticlimax', and I think it is a shame when some people walk away from Santiago without realizing that the opportunity was there for a real encounter with the divine.

We have to be careful not to marginalize this discussion, to see it as a rarified topic for 'devotees'. It is for all. Yes, sure it is important to focus on sensible practical arrangements: what boots to wear; which rucsack to use and how much weight to put in it; and this is an excellent forum for that. But spend a little time studying the Gloria before making your pilgrimage.

Maybe you don't need to be familiar with every one of the twenty-four musicians in the apocalyptic orchestra! Just the main figures and what they symbolize, and above all who they are to you, pilgrim! How do you respond to their message to you? For this is what they were sculpted for: as a gateway into Divine Revelation for the sancta plebs dei, God's holy illiterates who lived in a world before the printing press. Now the story has come full circle and Maestro Mateo's Portico de la Gloria is there to speak to us, if only we will pause a while and let it. It is not enough to glance up for a brief minute or two at the Gloria on the way into the cathedral and see it as interesting medieval decoration: it is the key into a mystery which can be the breathtaking culmination of the whole journey.

- Re: To me it works like a mirror. by Gareth Thomas on April 9th, 2008, 3:36 am on miscellaneous-about-santiago/topic3794-25.html#p21225 - PILGRIMSPLAZA wrote: 'To me it works like a mirror.'

Good. (Reminds me of St Clare's letters to Agnes of Prague, on the divine mirror.) Well, here's homage to Maestro Mateo's 'mirror': photos of the V & A copy, set to Allegri's Miserere. It has taken me half the night to do this, so enjoy!

For more pictures showing the message together:

Thank you, Gareth!

** Highlighting of titles and names by yours truly!
* In a couple of days we'll close this thread with a last post.


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