Church of San Agustín: The Building.
The Church of San Agustín has a rectangular floor divided in three naves, the central one being wider and higher than the side ones. Each of them has six sections separated by pillars, lined transept and triple octagonal apse. Of the whole structure, only the apse and transept are preserved from medieval times. The original floor was probably made of a polygonal triple apse. The apse consists of a central one and two side apses, with a Gothic ribbed vault with central rib, which shows the influence from Burgos and proves its closing in the 14th century. The thinnest and most pointed parts of the ribs and round arches finish in much more concave spaces, something which can be clearly seen in the main covering chapel, built later than the side ones, and whose original keystones are preserved, whereas the openings are Chartres type.
As for the vaults of the chapels of the Gospel and Epistle, they have six spaces, and in the preceding section, as well as in the arms of the transept, there are only four. The chapel of the Epistle has a set of rose windows with an interesting tracery which provides the complex with greater originality. The transept has a ribbed vault on its sides, and in the centre, most probably, there was a ribbed and starred vault. The pillars used in the apse and the transept have the shape of a cross, and we must also add the originality of having columns in the angles of the polygon. The capitals in this section are rustically carved and decorated with vegetable motifs, where leaves and birds abound. The arches are pointed, bended and chamfered. The main entrance, at the foot of the temple, dates back to the 15th century.
At the end of the 16th century the front of the choir was modified with clear Mannerist traces. From it, we can highlight a structure called serliana, with a circular opening in the centre and rectangles on the sides, which was frequently used by Hernán Ruiz III. The tower must have also been built with two bell sections; the first one with a rectangular floor and the second section, a square one, with twelve alcoves framed by Tuscan pilasters and finished with decorating hanging elements. However, it was between 1617 and 1630 when the medieval church experienced a deep remodelling to be adapted to the aesthetics of the time, while Brother Pedro of Cordoba was prior of the order. He commissioned the works to one or several architects related to the circle of the Cathedral or, at least, he took into account the architectonic planning of the Main Church. The structural elements in the apse and the arms of the transept were kept, although modified with mural paintings representing angels carrying musical instruments. In the transept, the Gothic ribbed vault was preserved and decorated with representative paintings of saints belonging to the order of San Agustín. The central space was covered by an ovoid vault divided in sections supported by pendentives decorated with representations of the Fathers of the Church. The choir was located at the foot of the church and in an elevated place, occupying three of the last sections and it is supported by rich corbels extended all along the central nave and part of the arms of the transept with a luxurious balustrade. The choir loft stands out because of its plasterwork and paintings, among which we can highlight an "Inmaculada" attributed to Cristóbal Vela. The two-sectioned tower has twelve alcoves framed by Tuscan pilasters finished with decorating hanging elements.
The three naves divided in six sections were preserved, but the pillars were transformed into the current rectangular ones with rich decoration and mural paintings, among which we can highlight the ones representing "Los Profetas”, (The Prophets) by the artistic circle of Cristóbal and Antonio Vela. The ceiling of the central nave was substituted by a barrel vault with lunettes divided in squares and decorated with mural paintings attributed to Juan Luis Zambrano. The figures on the vault reproduce the Apostles together with some sentences related to the creed, whereas the lunettes have different pairs of saints perfectly recognizable from their names, showing half their figure. The sides have flat ceilings, richly decorated with plasterwork and mural paintings representing some scenes of the life of Santo Tomás de Villanueva on the left nave, whereas on the right one they are barely preserved.
Nowadays, the main façade consists of three entrances and it has the shape of a cut gable end. Over these three entrances there are three openings crowned by oculus which remind us of the formal language used by Hernán Ruiz. A lintelled opening has a basket arch, over which we can see a trilobed one surrounded by a round arch. The ensemble is framed by Corinthian columns on which an entablature crowned by a parted pediment is supported. "San Agustín" is at the front of the alcove right in the middle and at the top there is a curve pediment flanked by crests. The façade is completed with two lintelled doors, finished with a parted pediment with decorating hanging elements and a console in the centre with a crest. These doors are connected to the side naves.
If you are wondering what to visit in Córdoba, a good option would be the Fernandine Churches, choosing one of our guided tours. This way you will learn everything about the Church of San Agustín. Choosing to do high quality sightseeing is choosing ArtenCórdoba.
Text: Jesús Pijuán