un recorrido por el arte mudéjar aragonés
webmaster: José Antonio Tolosa (Zaragoza -España-)


The old Hospital de la Misericordia was located on the little Calle de los Desamparados, which runs from the Plaza of San Andrés to the Calle de los Amparados where the church of Santa María la Mayor is located. It was demolished at the end Of the 18th century when it was moved to what was the Seminary of Nobles of the Company of Jesus, today the Palace of Justice. Of the hospital’s dependencies, only what was its chapel, situated at number 5, survives.

It is known that in the middle of the 17th century the notary and Mayor of the city, Don Clemente Paciencia, left in his testament on his death in 1654 part of his goods to build in the Hospital a “decent chapel, where the Holy Sacrament can be kept, and the sacred oils be housed.” It can be guessed that the said donation was made because of the bad condition of the previous medieval chapel. The new church was put under the sponsorship of San Clemente, the name of its benefactor.


Although the exact date is unknown, it appears that the church-chapel was sold and converted into a dwelling at the beginning of the 19th century. Since then it has passed through different people by sale or inheritance, and is presently still private property.

Fortunately, the division into separate floors did not change its basic structure, retaining its cupola and a Roman arch which probably allowed access to a high choir.


The cupola, 6.20 meters in diameter, is sustained by pendentives and had a central lantern that was cut off and sealed up in the 19th century remodeling when it was transformed into a dwelling, although its spring line is still preserved below the roof. The interest in this church is mainly concentrated in its Baroque-Mudéjar interlaces that cover this cupola, similar to those in the churches of San Benito and the Chapel of San Joaquín in the Collegiate Church of Santa María.

These interlaces stem from an octagonal symmetry that here combine straight and curved lines, the straight ones of which form an octagon without vertices at some distance from the center, although to see it, as Agustín Sanmiguel says, “you have use something of your imagination.” A second differentiating feature from other cupolas is the absence of figural elements among the interlaces, such as cherubim or vegetal motifs.


A second interesting element is found in the intrados of the wide arch that serves as support for the cupola on its southeast side, which gave access to a space that was surely originally occupied by a high choir. Its 50 cm. width is decorated by an interlace based on a motif of an interlace pattern of four that generates two kinds of eight pointed stars, a popular motif in 14th and 15th century Mudéjar.


Given the narrow width of the space, this bay is now converted into a border limited by two parallel lines and the interlaces, originally straight, curve and return towards the center of the band. On curving, they fuse in pairs in four points of the big stars, leaving six points, although with a somewhat peculiar form. The little eight pointed stars don’t change their shape. The peculiarity of this design is that that it is only duplicated on the intrados of two of the side chapels in the Church of San Benito, something that suggests the same Master of Works for both structures.


As for the chronology of this stuccowork, Taking into account that the church was constructed with a testamentary donation by Don Clemente Paciencia, and since the painting representing the deceased is dated 1654, the dating would have to be made after this, in the second half of the 17th century; this accords with the decoration of the Church of San Benito.


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