Puerta Nueva (New Gate) and Valdés Leal
At the roundabout of Puerta Nueva, there is a small column holding a sculpture which reproduces the old gate, which unfortunately disappeared in 1895, and which had been the main entrance to the city through the so-called Camino Real until the busy Paseo de la Ribera was built. The gate, built in the wall, had a lintelled opening flanked by pilasters that supported a frieze decorated with circular elements, and over it, there was the triangular pediment at the top of an elegant and classical ensemble.
The origins of the Puerta Nueva go back to 1569, as its construction was promoted by Monarch Felipe II visiting the city. In spite of its disappearance in 1895, like other gates and walls with the aim of “helping” the city spread outside the walls, this historical location is still remembered as the main entrance of the city for almost three centuries, and it received numerous monarchs and personalities with great honours.
It is well known that the fountain decorating and supplying with water the garden Jardín del Alpargate, in Cristo de Gracia Square, was originally located here. And it was paid with the money collected at a bullfight celebrated in 1747, whose remains were used for part of the triumph in the centre of the garden.
Luis María de la Casas Deza tells how the French armies entered the city through the Puerta Nueva, on 7th June 1808: “…the French pointed their cannons at the Puerta Nueva, which they quickly opened without great effort“. In 1956 the statue of the archangel at the top of the triumph was restored by brothers García Rueda, who curiously have had their workshop opposite it for many years. On the head of the statue, we can see up to three bullets shots, probably by the French. In 1999 brothers García Rueda restored it again and it was finished for the day of San Rafael in 2002.
Despite the importance of the location, let me stop at the Conventual Church of Carmen Calzado, popularly known as “Carmen de Puerta Nueva“. The church, annexed to the current Facultyof Law in Córdoba, has barely remained its main façade, today bricked up, and another one through which we can usually access nowadays, located on the side of the Gospel. The main façade, very badly preserved, has a round entrance opening with projected keystone, flanked by pairs of columns and finished by a parted triangular pediment. The façade on the side of the Gospel is much simpler, with an image of “Virgen del Carmen” at the front in an alcove.
But our objective when stopping in this temple is to pay attention to its apse, where there is a pictorial altarpiece made by the great painter from Seville, Juan de Valdés Leal, who lived in our city back then.
The altarpiece is crowned by a canvas representing the “Virgen del Carmen“, who is covering with her cape several monks of the order with the help of one of the angels, a similar composition to the “Virgen de las Cuevas” (Virgin of the Caves) by Zurbarán in 1655. On both sides there are two canvases representing “San Acisclo” and “Santa Victoria“, patron saints of the city. In a lower section we can see the central canvas, the biggest and most impressive of the altarpiece, “Elías y el carro de fuego” (Elijah and the fire chariot), where the saint is represented ascending to heaven in his chariot, while he is throwing his mantle to Eliseus. Whereas in the higher part the canvas of the Virgin was flanked by the patron saints, now the archangels “San Miguel” and “San Rafael” (the latter, guardian archangel of Córdoba) accompany the round opening closing Elijah’s painting. Further down, we can see two more canvases, “Elías y el Ángel” (Elijah and the Angel), where the saint is sleeping under the shade of a juniper while an angel descends to give him bread and water, and “Elías confundiendo a los profetas de Baal en el Monte Calvario” (Elijah confusing the prophets of Baal in Mount Calvary). Very close to it, on the intercolumns, there are two more canvases, but smaller: “La cabeza de San Juan el Bautista” (Saint John Baptist’s Head) and “San Pablo Apóstol“. On the base there are four saints represented in pairs: “María Magdalena de Pazzis y Santa Inés” (Mary Magdalene of Pazzis and Saint Ines) on the left, and “Santa Polonia y la Beata Juana Scopeli” (Saint Apollonia and the Blessed Juana Scopeli) on the right; these canvases remind us of the painting by Antonio del Castillo, from Córdoba, who was his master.
As for the altarpiece in general it is important to highlight the great expression Valdés Leal gave the figures, such as the Angel descending from heaven, even violently, or the horses of Elijah’s chariot, which gives the impression of being about to disappear from the canvas. We are really lucky to preserve this high quality heritage. The priest of the church told me not long ago: “it is very frequent to see teachers coming from Granada or Seville to explain this to their students“.
If you are wondering what to do in Córdoba, we recommend you visit the altarpiece by Valdés Leal in Puerta Nueva hiring one of our guided tours. Choose to do high quality sightseeing with qualified staff. Do not hesitate, ArtenCórdoba is the best option.
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