Church of San Agustín: Historical Introduction.
The Church of San Agustín is considered of "Cultural Interest" since its declaration as Historical Artistic Monument on the 19th January 1983. It is located in the square of the same name, known as "Compás" of San Agustín, a very wide and regular space which was urbanized in 1854. As for its origins as a convent, once the city was reconquested by Fernando III the Saint, an Augustinian congregation settled in the area known as "Campo de San Julián", today called "Campo de la Verdad", but due to the attacks suffered, they requested a location in the walled city. Fernando IV gave them water in 1308, and the community asked Pope Clemente V a bull in 1313 in order to settle in the space where the Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs is today. Finally, they were transferred in 1328 to a field in the southeastern area of the old neighbourhood of Santa Marina, where the building is located nowadays. Back then, the convent triggered the urbanization of a neighbourhood which was scarcely populated, as the Augustinians had numerous properties they sold or rented. Their properties spread throughout a wide surface in the area up to Dormitorio de San Agustín Street (currently called Obispo López Criado), Huerto de San Agustín and La Piedra Escrita (today Moriscos Street).
From this moment on, the oldest works in the church started, dating back to 1328. Former mayor of Cordoba, Fernando Díaz, Lord of Santa Eufemia, and his wife María García, founded the Main Chapel, and they named it as their own burial place in 1335. After this, the Church of San Agustín kept on being transformed all along the 16th century through the building of numerous chapels. But it was actually in the 17th century when the temple experienced the most important reform. Among the most outstanding works, we can highlight the restoration of the Main Chapel, the arms of the transept, as well as the building of the central nave and the choir, the cloisters, sacristy, offices and other rooms.
Unfortunately, this period of apogee was followed by a complete decadence with the French invasion in the capital in 1808, since the Napoleonic troops took the building and made it their headquarters, and the church was turned into stables and barn. On the ceiling of the nave of the Epistle we can see a notice reminding us of this event. The damage caused was terrible, but it was not until the 20th century when they decided to repair it. Besides, the community suffered their expulsion during the expropriation ordered by Mendizábal, which meant the obvious deterioration of the building after being closed for some time.
We will have to wait until the year 1903, when Bishop Pozuelo gave the ownership of the convent and church to the Dominican Order and, with the help from the government and some private sponsors, the restoration and maintenance of the building started, and for a quarter of a century a praiseworthy work was carried out. For this reason, we can see the emblem of the order in some places of the temple. However, during the Spanish Civil War there was a fire that damaged the apse and the Main Altarpiece, made in marble, which was reproduced with wood and plaster and it was slightly decorated in the 1960s. Nevertheless, one day, while a Mass was being celebrated, a big angel fell from the plasterwork of the vaults, without causing any personal damage, although the building was closed to the public due to the bad condition of its conservation.
In the 1980s and 1990s, first the Ministry of Culture through the General Direction of Artistic Heritage (years 1981 to 1984), and later the Department of Culture of the Junta de Andalucía (Regional Government) (years 1989 to 1992) carried out some works to help maintain, preserve and restore the Church of San Agustín. In the year 2003 the Bishopric, the Department of Culture and the bank Cajasur joined forces to achieve the opening of the building. Since 2006-2007 they invested around 3.6 million euros, through the Programme "Baroque Andalusia", which has meant the complete recovery of the building and its inside heritage to carry on with its religious activity and cultural spreading. It was finally opened on the 9th October 2009. As a contribution, some renovations were implemented, such as the installation of electricity, lighting, plumbing, communications, sound system, anti-theft and fire systems.
In March 2014, during the Holy Week, the oldest brotherhood in Cordoba, Nuestra Señora de las Angustias (Our Lady of Anguish), founded in 1558 in the Church of San Agustín and where it stayed until 1961, will give back a very representative sample of Andalusian imagery, which was kept in the Royal Church of San Pablo (Saint Paul). We are talking about the "Virgen de las Angustias” by Juan de Mesa, with a purple cape which has not been shown in procession since 2008, next to the Evangelists, from the 18th century, restored by Enrique Ortega and the small angels from the 19th century, restored by Antonio Bernal and to which their Passionist attributes were given back.
If you wish to know the Fernandine Churches, do not hesitate to hire one of our guided tours. We will pay special attention to the Church of San Agustín. We are experts in the interpretation of the historical heritage from Córdoba. If you have chosen to do sightseeing in Córdoba, choose a high quality option, choose ArtenCórdoba.
Text: Jesús Pijuán