The Book of the Humble: Main Altar

(Note: Upper photo, Altar of the Regrets, Chapter House of the Cloister)

The main altar of the Cathedral of Oviedo is one of its most beautiful works. Giralte of Brussels started it in 1512, commissioned by the Bishop Valeriano Ordóñez de Villaquirán, and Juan of Balmaseda, Guillermo of Holland and Esteban of Antwerp collaborated in the works. It was concluded in 1517.

It was painted by León Picardo, during the times of the Bishop Diego de Acuña. His style fits within the traditions following the Gothic period, called the Spanish-Flemish style.

By admiring this “sample” of the life of Christ, anyone who is familiar with the bible is reminded of the grateful worship that Jesus paid to God, and that the secrets of the Kingdom are revealed to simple people.

This beautiful work of art was constructed for humble people, who did not know how to read. Its purpose is to initiate those with faith about the secrets of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus Christ dedicated his entire life to announcing the Kingdom of God, which is the first scene on the left of the first level, and concluded with the coming of the Holy Spirit, which is the last scene on the right, on the fifth level. He announced it with his words and made him present with his acts of salvation, some of which are contained in the altarpiece.

In the central part, there are three scenes that stand out from the rest: the crucifixion, the assumption of the Virgin Mary and Christ in Majesty. They come to receive His message. The life of Jesus led to the cross, on which he sacrificed his life. It was not a ritual sacrifice, but an existential one. That is, a life that is obedient, by loving God, who wishes to establish a new humanity among the creations. The first member of this new humanity is the Virgin Mary, in the mystery of her Assumption to the heavens. Jesus was transformed by love, which was revealed on the cross.

Jesus the Savior would rule this new humanity, which is represented in the Pantocrator of the last scene of the central section.

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