Iglesia del Juramento de San Rafael (Church of San Rafael’s Oath)
Córdoba was lashed by a strong plague epidemics in 1274. At that time Bishop Pascual built a hospital and a cemetery for those affected, located in the current Triunfo Square, where the monumental Triumph of San Rafael by Verdiguier is.
Archangel San Rafael’s first appearance was before Brother Simón de Sousa, back then Commander of the Convent of La Merced: "…You will tell Bishop Pascual that God is very satisfied with his vigilance and care, that thanks to his prayers and other people’s prayer and the intercession of His Holy Mother, he has taken pity on this people; that he should put my image at the top of the tower of the Cathedral and exhort all the parishioners to become my devotees and celebrate my day every year…".
The second time San Rafael appeared was before Simón de Sousa, who told the Bishop, and he commissioned an effigy of the Archangel to be put at the top of the Church of San Pedro. He also appeared several times before a priest, Andrés de Roelas, popularly known as "Father Roelas"; the last one in 1578, the famous appearance of the oath: "I swear to Crucified Jesus Christ, that I am Rafael, to whom God has appointed as guardian of this city”. This oath can be read in all the cartouches of the images of the Archangel in the city.
This is how the cult to San Rafael started in our city. The Bishop and the Cathedral Chapter headed for Rome in order to request a day of own prayer, which they were granted the 7th of May, day of the last appearance. There were many festivals in the city to commemorate the decision taken in Rome, and there was even a bullfight held in Corredera Square.
In 1652, Councilor José Valdecañas raised the proposal that the house where Father Roelas lived should be dedicated to God, and he also requested that the building should belong to the city council itself. That was when the Brotherhood of San Rafael was created and its statutes were passed in 1655. A few years passed until the chapel was erected in 1735.
Shortly after consecrating and blessing the chapel, the brotherhood considered that the size of the temple was very small and decided to raise funds to erect a church in the same place. They raised up to 61,148 reales (old Spanish coin), which were enough for architect from Córdoba Vicente López Carder to erect the current Church of San Rafael’s Oath between the years 1796 and 1806. This architect had been trained years earlier in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando), where the taste for the Neoclassical was predominant, and he was influenced by the works of Ventura Rodríguez and his disciples.
The façade has a scheme with three parts and up to seven sections, where there is an alternation of openings and walls, as well as architectonic orders. In the first part, we can highlight three lintelled openings, the side ones with a triangular pediment, and over them there is a restrained frieze with triglyphs, clipeus and crests, which substitute the metopes. In the second part we can see a similar scheme, but the central opening does have a triangular pediment and the side ones are windows and not entrances. The third part has only three sections and it is finished by a great triangular pediment, which is in turn crowned by three sculptures: "San Acisclo" and "Santa Victoria" on both sides, and "San Rafael" at the front of the ensemble. On the sides, and separated by small balustrades, there are three-sectioned towers. The two first ones have a square floor, the bells are in the second one and it opens outside through round arches. The third part has an octagonal base, and over it there is a vault finished with a pinnacle.
The inside of the Church of San Rafael’s Oath is very original. It has three naves, the central one being wider and higher than the rest, with a high choir and a gallery with platforms. The central nave has a circle where the transept is usually located, with two big arches and a tambour supporting the lobed vault. The side naves surround the central one in the circle, and in its centre we can see the tabernacle with the figure of Archangel San Rafael.
If you are wondering what to visit in Córdoba, a good option would be the Church of San Rafael’s Oath, choosing one of our guided tours. Choosing to do high quality sightseeing is choosing ArtenCórdoba.