(active 1161-1217)

Portico de la Gloria

Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela

The art of the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela reaches its climax in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. In the Cathedral, begun in 1075, superior carving is evident in the decoration of the apse, but the most interesting and varied work is to be found in the transept, completed early in the 12th century. Great refinement alternates with simple competence and laborious craftmanship. Viewed as a whole, this is one of the most important examples of Romanesque sculpture in Europe.

In the second half of the 12th century the plastic arts fell under the influence of certain strongly naturalistic tendencies which rapidly displaced the older styles. During this period the art of the pilgrim route rose to a peak in the sanctuary of the Cathedral, thanks to the emergence of one of the most important sculptors of the European Romanesque, Master Mateo, the first reference to whom occurs in 1161 and the last in 1217. He designed and executed the superb sculpture that adorns the Portico de la Gloria in the Cathedral. The groups of majestic statues, more lyric than hieratic, clearly reveal the artist's impulse to humanize and the value he placed upon narrative elements. The subtle stylization and avoidance of strict frontality that define Gothic art are also apparent in the carvings of Master Mateo.

It is clear that from about 1200 Galician sculpture was strongly influenced by the work of this master.