Triumph of San Rafael
All along the 18th century, the devotion the people of Córdoba felt for San Rafael filled the squares of the city with images of the archangel; these images were called triumphs.
The first of these triumphs was located in the Roman Bridge around 1651 as gratitude when the plague outbreak that lashed the city years earlier finished. Years later, sculptors Pedro de la Paz and Bernabé Gómez made a San Rafael to finish the Tower of the Cathedral, to dominate the city.
As we mentioned earlier, during the 18th century the squares of the city were full of a great number of these triumphs, such as the one located in Compañía Square in the year 1736, the one erected at the entrance of the Alcázar in 1743, the one in Aguayos Square in 1753 or the one located in San Hipólito Square, among others.
This trend of erecting this kind of constructions could have caused the Cathedral Chapter to decide to build a Triumph of San Rafael dedicated to the Guardian Archangel of the city in 1736. At the beginning, the project was commissioned to an Italian artist. It consisted of a fountain with a waterfall, where water symbolised the spring of Guadalquivir, but it was soon rejected due to problems with the water. Secondly, the project was commissioned to the Italian priests Domenico de Escroijs, court painter of the King of Portugal, and Simone Martín, sculptor of the King of Sardinia.
The location chosen was the area next to the southern façade of the Cathedral, next to the Seminary and the Southern Gate of the city. In the Middle Ages, this had been the location of the old Hospital de los Apestados (Hospital of the Plague-Infested), founded by Bishop Pascual, which was later also dedicated to those drowned in the river.
When the works had just began, we have proof that they were interrupted, either by lack of funds or technical direction, but until the arrival of Bishop Barcia in the city in 1972 there was no activity carried out. During the foundation works, a great deal of human remains were unveiled, which belonged to the cemetery of the mentioned hospital, and even the lid of Bishop Pascual’s sepulchre was found.
Bishop Barcia commissioned the direction of the works to artist Miguel Verdiguier, who was from Marseilles but lived in Córdoba and who had been drawing and painting teacher of Duke of Rivas, among other merits. The truth is that we barely have any documented proof of the works, except for some writings by Ramírez de las Casas Deza; therefore we cannot certainly claim what changes Verdiguier could have introduced compared to the initial project by Escroijs.
The Triumph of San Rafael resembles a steep stone hill, pierced by a small grotto, with a cylindrical tower at its top. The door, which is a round opening, is decorated with the crest of Bishop Barcia, and next to it a legend in Latin reads: "Only virtue distinguishes the man from the man". At the entrance of the grotto, we can highlight two decorative elements, a lion with a sphynxed face which has a crest under its claw and represents the weapons of the city. On the other side, on the keystone of the arch, there is an eagle holding a marble board under its talon as a cartouche, where we can read the Archangel San Rafael’s oath before Father Roelas: "I swear to Crucified Christ that I am Angel Rafael to whom God has commissioned to guard this city".
Over the steep hill mentioned there are three leaning sculptures representing San Acisclo and Santa Victoria (on the northern side), patron saints of the city, and Santa Bárbara (southern side), where we can highlight the excellent treatment of the folding in their clothing. The cylindrical tower we mentioned earlier is the base for a grooved and tall column of compound order, which in turn works as a plinth for the image of San Rafael, also in marble. The image is carrying the pilgrim’s stick while pointing at the city.
The Triumph of San Rafael is surrounded by an iron fence, interrupted by ten pedestals decorated with Latin inscriptions mostly decorated to Córdoba and its Guardian Angel. Besides, in the centre of the area there is a fountain in which a kid is ridding a dolphin.
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