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The Catholic Historical Review 87.2 (2001) 316-317
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Arte Sanjuanista en Castilla y León:
Las Encomiendas de la Guareña y su entorno geo-histórico
Arte Sanjuanista en Castilla y León: Las Encomiendas de la Guareña y su entorno geo-histórico. By Olga Pérez Monzon. ([Madrid?]: Junta de Castilla y León, Consejería de Educación y Cultura. 1999. Pp. 271; many unnumbered illustrations.)
The provincial art of the military orders has attracted little attention. This excellent work is devoted to a relatively minor topic but it provides an outstanding methodological model. The author follows other recent scholars in finding that, apart from the major centers of an Ordensstaat such as those on Hospitaller Rhodes or in Teutonic Prussia, the military orders largely adapted regional styles and local iconographies without developing a significant characteristic art of their own. Indeed, they themselves did not necessarily construct many of their castles, churches, and other buildings. There was little sign in the art of the Castilian Hospitallers of influences from Jerusalem, Rhodes, or Malta.
This study, which concerns a strictly limited geographical area, is divided into two parts, supplemented by detailed notes, bibliographies, maps, and illustrations. The second part is a well-documented catalogue, which is based on extensive archival research and topographical investigations, of the history, buildings, and other aspects of each encomienda or commandery in the region. The historical information, town plans, and photographs which it contains form the basis for the discussions in the shorter opening section of the book, which begins with a clear historical survey of the development of the Hospital in Castile. That is a valuable contribution in itself, since recent archival discoveries [End Page 316] have made possible a much more detailed picture of the topic. Attention is given to the geography and to the castle-building which resulted from the division of Castile and León into two kingdoms between 1157 and 1230. Also considered are the properties of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre which were incorporated into the Hospital in 1498. There are studies of parish churches, hospitals, rural hermitages, and minor chapels, and of the sumptuous palaces of early-modern commanders. Initially donations were important in providing many of these buildings, while the Hospital itself created others. Then, from the fifteenth century onwards, patronage came to depend increasingly on the intervention of individual commanders. That was partly because the Hospital's benefices came under the control of a nobility whose members were in part freed from the technical constraints of their vows of poverty and were concerned to ensure themselves comfortable living conditions, to advertise their family wealth, to secure ostentatious burial, and to display their family arms. The author's awareness of such historical factors informs her artistic appreciations making this a useful and attractive work.