Santos Justo y Pastor church

Olleros de Pisuerga, Palencia, Castilla y León.
Special mention / Diploma in the category Conservation in the year 2010.

Dating of the building: 10th - 18th century.

Applicant: Jesús Castillo Oli, Santa María la Real Foundation, North Romanesque Plan.

Reason for the award :

For the restoration of this church, integrated into the group of cave churches of Valderredible, which follows the line of Christianization in Spain, upstream of the Ebro river, and for the communication system that facilitates the understanding of this monument to its neighbours and visitors.

The church is part of the “Romanesque North” intervention plan, an innovative heritage management plan, financed by the Castile and Leon Regional Government, which obtained the Europa Nostra award in 2013.

The church of Santos Justo y Pastor is one of the best examples of rock architecture of the upper Ebro and Pisuerga rivers. The temple, with a possible pre-Romanesque origin, accurately imitates the usual type of free-standing Romanesque church despite being excavated in the natural rock. It thus presents two naves finished in semicircular apses crowned with a furnace vault and carved ceilings in the form of a pointed barrel vault, with simulated transverse arches. On the outer face of the sandstone rock mass which houses the temple, we can see several excavated graves, in the form of a necropolis cave. In the vicinity of the temple, there is also a kind of habitat or caves excavated in the rock, whose origin is unknown but must have been related to religious rites. It is also striking that the bell tower is not an integral part of the church, as it is situated a few dozen meters to the south.

The restoration aims to preserve the church and its use, plus adding to its value. It was also intended to promote its use for cultural and tourist purposes, seeking sustainable management. The Santa María la Real Foundation, in collaboration with the Castile and Leon Regional Government, the Bishopric of Palencia, and local organizations, executed all the steps of this project, consisting of carrying out historical and architectural studies before drafting the restoration project, its execution on the church and its movable treasures, the intervention in the environment and a fitting public communication campaign. In addition, they faced the challenge of developing pieces of furniture specially designed for the interior, and of integrating technological advances in a space as unique as a cave church. Some of these design solutions are steel and alabaster luminaires and lights, ergonomic backless benches, and a bronze screen for the windows. Outside, a monolith constructed in steel serves as an information point about the monument and the work carried out.

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