COLLEGIATE CHURCH OF SANTO SEPULCRO (CALATAYUD)
When King Alfonso I died in 1134 without issue, he named the three Military orders (Holy Sepulcher, Templars and Hospitalers) as successors to the Crown of Aragon. At the same time he left numerous prebendiaries to diverse monasteries, among them, San Salvador de Oña, under whose jurisdiction Ramon Berenguer IV later would place San Benito de Calatayud. Logically, the Aragonese nobles did not accept Alfonso’s testament, and designated his brother Ramiro as successor. The latter had to abandon his Episcopal Chair of Roda de Isábena to take charge of the Kingdom. He fathered an heiress, Petronila and married her to Ramón Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona, and after that, the Monk-King retired once again to monastic life, even though he retained the royal title until his death.
It was Ramón Berenguer IV who had to negotiate with the military orders for recompense for renouncing the will of El Batallador. In June, 1144,The Order of the Holy Sepulcher was given the settlements of Codos, Modón, Cabrera, Lander and Tobed. Two years later, at the beginning of 1146, Ramón Berenguer also gave them a site in Calatayud, which the order appropriated to build their first Mother House in Spain.
Ten years later, in 1156 the Prior Giraldo and his companions agreed to live under obedience to the Patriarch of Jerusalem and to give a quarter of their reported assets of their profits from Calatayud, Daroca, the banks of the Aranda River, Jarque, Pedrola and Zaragoza to the Holy Sepulcher.
The first documentary reference known concerning the Church of San Sepulcro of Calatayud is dated 3 May 1161, when the City Council and its Mayor, Sancho de Arahena, assigned it parochial territory encompassing the zone between the Zaragoza Gate, the side gate of Santiago, and the Gate of Somajas. Eight years later, King Alfonso II would confirm it.
It is not known whether the church was constructed from the ground up or if it appropriated some little existing Mozarabic church. What is known is that in October 1194 the community had a church, since there is documentary evidence on that date that a lady named Estefanía, daughter of Giraldo Beltrán, and her son Miguel, expressed the desire to be buried within its walls. For this reason, they left diverse properties in the name of the Order and its Commander, Pedro Muñoz who, ten years later, on 21 May 1205, obtained a license from the Bishop of Tarazona to always be able to give burial in the church to whoever asked for it, when they might not have voted to be buried in another sacred place, setting aside Episcopal law and that corresponding to the concerned churches.
The life of this first church was very short, since in 1239 a new one was being built. In this year, the Archbishop of Tarragona and the suffragan prelates of Zaragoza, Barcelona and Lérida conceded thirty days of indulgences to all loyal people who visited its construction during Holy Week and contributed alms to its conclusion. It seems that construction advanced in good order, since the new church was consecrated on the Festival of Saint Martin (11 November) of 1249. With this in mind, the Archbishop of Tarragona conceded forth days of indulgences to the faithful who confessed receiving communion, coincided their visit on this date. Pope Urban IV confirmed and expanded these benefits to whoever did it on Easter Sunday.
During the war of the Two Pedros, Castilian troops entered Calatayud on 29 August 1362 and sacked the dependencies of the Order with particular ferocity, due to support that it had given to the Aragonese monarchy, and its resistance at handing over the Plaza and castle of its Commandery of Nuévalos to the Castilian King. The abandonment of the locality by the Castilians on 31 March 1366, the concession of the title of the city on 22 April of the same year, and especially the confirmation of its privileges ten years later on 8 January 1376, gave an important impulse for the Order to initiate the reconstruction of the complex. Ten years later, the work must have been far advanced, and perhaps even finished, since at the end of January 1286 three altars were consecrated within its walls.
The chronology of this work coincided with that of the Monastery of Canons of the same Order in Zaragoza, and given some similarities between them that we will see in more detail in subsequent pages, it is possible that they were both works from the same Master builder, Mahoma Calahorri. During this time the church was reconstructed, the cloister was built and new surrounding spaces were appropriated for a refectory and the stables.
The following documents bring us to the 16th century when the church was subject to various interventions, such as the reform of the chapel of Antón Sancho contracted with the Master Juan de Heredia, or a new pavement of angled ceramics. In spite of the aspirations of the Collegiate church of Santa Maria, that wished to be elevated to Cathedral status, the convent succeeded in maintaining its independence, thanks particularly to the support of Philip II. Reinforced by this royal support, the Order decided at the beginning of 1605, among other things, to demolish the Medieval church to build a new one, which was completed in 1613. Some of the old dependencies were retained, which we shall examine beginning on the next page. The new church, in Classical style, was planned with three aisles and a particularly deep presbytery.
It was in the 19th century that the Regular Order of the Holy Sepulcher was suppressed, due to the Concord between Spain and the Holy See in 1851. Its Prior, Manuel Rodrígo Vallabriga was moved to the Cathedral of Málaga, where he was given a Canonry. The church, converted into a major parish in 1857, was passed to direct dependence of the Bishop of Tarazona, who received its title in 1863. A year later the Bishopric gave it to the Company of Jesus, who had to abandon it precipitously in 1868. Finally, Pope Leo XIII would bestow on the regular church the title of honorary Collegiate church by means of a Bull expedited on 18 September 1901. From this date, and to the present, the Church is served by a Prior/Parish Priest designated by the Bishop of Tarazona.