Apotheosis of the Eucharist Series (Apoteosis de la Eucaristía)
In the parish church of Oncala, a town in the north of Soria, eight tapestries are displayed with scenes about the Eucharist. They were woven from copies of the cartoons which Rubens designed for the sets kept in the Convent of the Descalzas Reales of Madrid. This tapestry series was donated by a prelate native to the town, along with others surviving to this day. Restored between 1988 and 1993, they are now displayed in all their original splendour.
According to tradition, the church of San Millán de la Cogolla of Oncala received a set of sixteen tapestries in the early 18th century as a donation by Juan Francisco Ximénez del Río, native to the town and former bishop of Segovia and Valencia.
The prelate probably acquired them when they were auctioned by the Cathedral of Valencia. Of the set which arrived at Oncala, six tapestries of an unknown theme were sold in 1876. Of the rest, two show gallant scenes and the other eight make up the Apotheosis of the Eucharist series: ‘Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek’, ‘Harvesting of Manna’, ‘Sacrifice of Mosaic Law’, ‘Elijah and the Angel’, ‘Triumph of Divine Love’, ‘Triumph of Faith’, ‘Triumph of the Eucharist’ and ‘Triumph of the Church’.
The first edition of the Apotheosis of the Eucharist series was comprised of twenty tapestries and was manufactured in 1628. It was commissioned by the Governor of the Netherlands, Isabella Clara Eugenia, daughter of Phillip II, who asked Rubens for the cartoons. This editio princes for the Convent of the Descalzas Reales of Madrid was repeated on several occasions, from copies of the original cartoons, so that the end result was rather different. The Oncala pieces were made in Brussels in the mid-17th century, in Frans van den Hecker’s workshop, as stated by his mark: F·V·H.
Rubens devised a magnificent ‘Triumph of the Eucharist’, which opposed the Protestant doctrine rejecting transubstantiation and abolishing communion as a sacrament. Isabella Clara Eugenia, Governor of the Netherlands during the war between the Reformed northern provinces and the Catholic southern provinces, wanted to extol the dogma rejected by the rebels. The array of characters and animals framed by Solomonic columns, as devised by Rubens, quickly became popular in the Catholic nations, and several series were made from cartoons imitating those of the painter from Antwerp.
J. L. Argente Oliver (coord.), Los tapices de Oncala (Soria), Valladolid, 1995.
M. Á. Zalama, “Triunfo de la Iglesia (Paño de la serie la Apoteosis de la Eucaristía)”, in Las Edades del Hombre. Paisaje interior (exhibition catalogue), Soria, 2009, pp. 537-539.
Series Apotheosis of the Eucharist
Models Cartoon copied from an original by Rubens
Manufacture Brussels. Manufacture by Frans van den Hecke. Mid 17th c.
Fabric Silk and wool, 7/8 warps per cm
Size 405/430 x 410/755 cm
Origin A donation by Bishop Juan Francisco Ximénez del Río, c. 1800
Location Church of San Millán de la Cogolla, Oncala (Soria)