(active around 661 in Palencia)

Exterior view

San Juan Bautista, Baños de Cerrato (Palencia)

At the beginning of the 5th century, Spain was invaded by several waves of Germanic tribes, but it was the Visigoths who established supremacy and, after their conversion to Catholicism by King Recaredo in 589, went on in the 7th and 8th centuries to develop an original art and architecture that was closely linked to Hispano-Roman aesthetics.

A surviving votive offering by the Visigothic King Recceswinth (reg 649–72) is a small church, San Juan Bautista, at Baños de Cerrato, in the province of Palencia. As the name implies, Baños was once a Roman establishment where people sought cures from the waters. The King, healed of some malady, fulfilled his vow of building a church on this spot, appropriately to St John the Baptist. It is a low ashlar building with a three-aisled nave and originally three square-ended chapels with barrel vaults; the outer apses have been destroyed.

The building is now devoid of all church trappings. Enlivening the arch over the small entrance porch is some carved decoration, an even-armed cross in a circle from which descend traditional chip-carved motifs, in which the flat planes of the carving meet at sharp angles. Chip-carving was not an invention of the Visigoths, but they seem to have favoured it, at least in the 7th-century monuments. The same type of decoration can be seen along the extrados of the main apse arch, and the technique was used for the nave capitals. Derived from the Early Christian interpretation of the Corinthian order, they are smaller in scale than their prototypes, the acanthus leaves are less three-dimensional in appearance, and they are much more 'colouristic', dependent on light rather than on surface modelling to create form.

View the ground plan of the building.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.