"陶芸と人々 "。テラサにあるサン・フランセスク修道院のタイルについて、サラ・ゲレロさんが語ってくれました。

"Ceramics and people" . We interviewed Sara Guerrero to find out about the tiles of the convent of San Francis of Assisi in Terrassa.

(This interview was originally written in Catalan. We have used an automatic translator and made some corrections manually.)

"Ceramics and people" is a series of interviews that aim to bring the world of clay closer to all those who want to know different perspectives on ceramics: how it is worked, how it is related to culture, gastronomy, our daily life, etc.

We would like to dedicate the first interview to some little-known murals made of painted tiles, located in Terrassa (Barcelona), the city where Anna was born. We do it with Sara Guerrero, an art historian who devotes much of her time to disseminating the history and culture of the city of Terrassa through her project Cultura a tope (@culturaatope).

We talked to Sara to find out more about the painted tile panels found in the convent of Saint Francis and also to get to know her passion as a communicator of culture and art, two fields in which ceramics are always present.

If you want to know more about Sara Guerrero's project, you can do so by visiting her Instagram profile @culturaatope.

Why do you dedicate yourself to disseminating the history and culture of Terrassa?

I am passionate about art, history and culture. Since I was a child I liked films and documentaries that talked about historical figures and relevant events of the past, I studied History of Art and I was able to work as a tourist information officer at the Tourism Office of Terrassa and in all the museums of the city.

But I also have a role as an informer that goes beyond borders and I like to share with people the great variety of cultural proposals of the city.

Due to life's circumstances, I gradually moved away from this aspect of my work, which I loved and which fulfilled me so much. But I continued to organize tourist outings with the families of my children's classes, as a volunteer with the Red Cross, etc.

Then came the pandemic, and my children were unable to study the history of Terrassa at school, and a new desire awoke in me to explain all this history to them myself. As they didn't pay much attention to me, I decided to do it in an original way and I opened a youtube channel "Sara Guerrero: Terrassa with History" where I explained a bit of everything about the cultural heritage of Terrassa.

Taking advantage of the rise of the networks, I also opened an Instagram: @culturaatope where I continue to share information of cultural and tourist interest of the city, always in a personal capacity and because I want to do it. I enjoy sharing this passion.

In your research for information, do you come across many objects related to the world of ceramics (murals, vases, tiles, crockery, etc.)?

In Terrassa we have remains from many past eras and most of them can be found in some sections of the Museums of Terrassa. There are the mosaics on the pavement of the monumental complex of the churches of Terrassa (Egara's headquarters) or those in the courtyard of the Casa Alegre in Sagrera. There are also decorative mosaics in the chapels of Can Colapi or in the Audiovisual Park of Catalonia.

We can also see Modernist trencadís (a type of mosaic devised by Antoni Gaudí) in many buildings in the city, remains of Carthusian crockery in the Cartoixa de Vallparadís castle, etc.

In terms of tiles, there is a jewel to be discovered in the cloister of Sant Francesc. In short, yes, there are many vestiges of ceramics in Terrassa.

Is pottery important to know our roots?

Texts were not accessible to the population for many centuries, only certain social classes had access to them and were in charge of transcribing and sharing them. This meant that the message, tone or ideology was conditioned to a particular way of thinking or social class.

The way this message, story or facts reached the lower social classes was through painting or sculpture. In a church, for example, people would look at the stained-glass windows where characters from the church or the monarchy appeared, and on the capitals of the columns there were biblical passages that could frighten them...

All the iconography was expressed in mural paintings in the apses, in tempera or oil paintings, in tapestries... and in ceramics.

At first, the ceramics had more geometric, floral, decorative motifs... but they also ended up having an informative function and all kinds of scenes were depicted.

Why is the world of ceramics more highly valued now than it was a few years ago?

I think that, as happened during Modernism, there is a historicist and somewhat eclectic view that wants to recover past techniques and give them more value because they are handcrafted pieces. Craftsmanship is rooted in our most ancient past and many people rediscover it with nostalgic eyes.

Let's focus on the ceramics of the convent of Saint Francis. Who was Saint Francis of Assisi and why is his life represented on the cloister panels?

Francis of Assisi was the founder of the Franciscan religious order under the authority of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. He was the son of a wealthy merchant in his youth and came to live under the strictest poverty and observance of the Gospels. His religious life was austere and simple and he encouraged his followers to live in the same way.

A monastery of the Franciscan order was established in Terrassa and for this reason the cloister is dedicated to explaining the life of Saint Francis. The four galleries of the cloister show real and legendary episodes of his life.

If you want to learn more about the life of a Franciscan order, I recommend you read the book The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco or watch the film version.

What is the function of the tiles depicting the life of St. Francis?

As I said before, people went to the church and saw religious images constantly. These representations were the only access they had to the thinking of the time, and people in power used them to indoctrinate the population and spread religion as they saw fit.

Why is this display of ceramic decoration so important?

It is one of the most important examples of 17th-century Catalan ceramics due to its state of preservation and quality. It is attributed to the Barcelona workshop of Llorenç de Passoles, who was capable of building a work of this size in a short space of time: twenty-six panels, each with around 120 tiles, very well painted and with a notable quality in the design.

In addition, in the religious scenes depicted, we can see many techniques that show us how Catalan art had already made a great change with respect to medieval art, such as perspective or the inclusion of windows that allow us to see the landscape.

What was the construction process of this work like?

The work began in 1671, was financed by the lord of the castle of Terrassa, Pere de Fizes, and was finished in 1673.

Ceramic decoration is a complex production that requires a long process. The tile has to be molded with clay, fired and the design and colour applied. Before painting the tile, it has to be covered with tin oxide to achieve a white surface to cover the porosities. The next step is to make the drawing using the quadrature technique, which copies the drawing previously made on the tile.

The design was made on cardboard, often copied from reproduced models, prints or engravings.

The different pigments were then applied, painting the designs, and the tiles were fired again. Finally, they were placed in the chosen location.

Can you tell me about any curiosity related to the convent and the ceramics?

In 2001, the cloister was excavated. Many well-preserved pieces of ceramics from that period were found, including entire pieces of kitchen crockery. This material was used to fill the space between the vault and the floor of the upper floor, which lightened the weight that the vault had to support.

These pieces give us an idea of the type of ceramics used, the monks' diet and that of the population of the time: they ate a lot of soup and vegetables, but little meat.

If you had worked on the construction of the panels, what part of the process would you like to have been involved in?

I suppose that more than participating in the creation process, I would have participated in the part of explaining the images, the history of St. Francis of Assisi.

This interview has been written with the support of the following sources:

-El convent de Sant Francesc. Quaderns del Museu, 4. Museu de Terrassa. Year unknown. -La vida de Sant Francesc d'Assís a les rajoles del claustre de Terrassa (1673): un exemple de recolliment, humilitat i ascesi. Sílvia Canalda i Llobet. Terme 19, 2004.

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