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The Pastrana tapestries.
1st cloth in Conquest of Asilah and Tangier by Afonso V of Portugal. Tournai workshops, a likely manufacture by Passchier Grenier.
Recently restored thanks to the intervention of the Carlos de Amberes Foundation.
Collegiate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Pastrana, Spain.


In the 19th century painting took over as the leading art form and tapestry making came to be viewed as a lesser art – a mere handicraft. Despite the fact that tapestries accentuated the wealth and luxury of their owners, the new aesthetic ideas of the time meant that these panels were often put away and many were lost forever. Fortunately, the bulk of the royal collection was preserved and today, thanks to its status as National Heritage, we can still view magnificent series made in the 15th to 18th centuries. Thus, the collections open to viewing in the Royal Palace in Madrid, the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial and the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso are unparalleled in the world.

The tapestries owned by the nobility and clergy suffered a worse fate. Many were destroyed with the passing of time and, until well into the 20th century, others were put up for sale; some are currently on display in museums in the United States of America. Nevertheless, some magnificent examples have been preserved in cathedrals, for example, four panels depicting the Trojan War formerly belonging to the Counts of Tendilla are now kept in the Cathedral of Zamora. There are also some spectacular tapestries in the Cathedrals of Burgos and Palencia, bequeathed by Bishop Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca. The collection in the Cathedral of Toledo is extraordinary, although some tapestries are only displayed on feast days such as Corpus Christi. Other tapestries are safeguarded in the Museum of Santa Cruz in Toledo, although only the Astrolabe Tapestry is on display. Special mention should also be made of four panels depicting the conquest of Asilah and Tangiers by Alfonso V of Portugal, owned by the Collegiate Church of Pastrana (Guadalajara) and recently restored thanks to the intervention of the Carlos de Amberes Foundation. It is even possible, in a place as remote from the larger cities as Oncala (Soria), to find a splendid series such as the Apotheosis of the Eucharist, the cartoons for which are a replica of those made by Rubens for a series of the same name kept in the Convent of the Descalzas Reales in Madrid.In Albarracín (Teruel) it is also viable to contemplate a magnificent tapestry serie on the Story of Gideon.

Miguel Ángel Zalama

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