Mon. Dec 9th, 2019

Galician stonecutters for the Capitol | Culture

"We are the only public stone school in Spain, and in Europe there is little to look like; we have incredible, huge facilities of 26,000 square meters; and capacity for a hundred students. But only 12 are enrolled," laments the director of the Escola de Cantería de Pontevedra, Concepcion López Paz. The jewel of the provincial council, founded in 1979, originally as a center under the Ministry of Culture, has trained hundreds of stonecutters who have worked for years in the Sagrada Familia, both in Barcelona and in Galician companies that supply architectural elements. Gaudí temple works. They also handle lifting to which the cathedral of Santiago is currently submitted to look good in the Xacobeo of the year 2021. There are alumni working in Switzerland, in the restorations of the cathedral of Westminster and the Big Ben in London, and since June 2017 a couple of pupils hired by the Lorton Stone company renew capitals and balusters in the US Congress, the famous Capitol.

López Paz announces that the school has now received a new request for the company in charge of these works in Washington D.C., and that two other masters built in the Galician center arrange paperwork to emigrate. Meanwhile, the director keeps an eye on the news that, lately dropper, are leaving on Notre Dame, after the letter of the City Council of Paris that received the president of the deputation, the socialist Carmela Silva, in mid-June.

Students and alumni fight for years so that the Xunta recognizes their diplomas of stonecutter and master stonecutter

It was the response to a previous letter previously sent by Silva to the mayor of the French capital, Anne Hidalgo. Behind the gothic cathedral fire, Galician politics wrote to the councilor to offer her hands out of the provincial school, listing some of the great works in which her tanned stonecutters participated. The proposal, which had actually been the idea of ​​some alumni, was soon answered. A letter signed by Patrizzianna Thiellay, general delegate of International Relations of the Paris City Council, replied that his Administration took "note" and would contact the deputation again after compiling "more information on the assessment of existing needs".

The proposal "has moved us", "we appreciate it very deeply", followed the writing of the Parisian Consistory, which in this case could build bridges, but which is not directly responsible for the works that are undertaken in the future in Notre Dame. The cathedral can still spend several months underpinning, under the command, along with the subsequent restoration, of Philippe Villeneuve, chief architect of the Historical Monuments of France. "It is a duty that one day this jewel shines again in the heart of the City of Light," Thiellay concluded his letter of thanks to Pontevedra.

Stonework classroom of the provincial school of Pontevedra.

Stonework classroom of the provincial school of Pontevedra.

According to Concepción López, in Spain, as far as "stone" is concerned, there is "nothing like" the Escola de Canteiros. "The closest thing," he says, "is the Marble School of Fines, in Almeria," which depends on the Andalusian Government. In the center of Pontevedra, located in the municipality of Poio, a neighboring town hall of the provincial capital, five courses are taught, the first three years to train as a stonecutter and the last two as a teacher. Nine teachers share the disciplines of stonework, modeling, sculpture, art history, technical drawing and artistic drawing.

A year there is no need to pay "more than 114 euros of tuition," says the director, but still, and although last year there were students from other areas of Spain such as Navarra or Zamora, candidates are scarce. The cause, as denounced by the alumni themselves, is in the blockade that undergoes the homologation of their title, which at the time of work translates into "intrusion" and very low salaries.

With a budget that in this exercise is around 800,000 euros and seeks to take steps towards the validation of the official title, the school promotes successive campaigns to attract more disciples, while students and ex student they fight for years so that the Xunta recognizes their diplomas of stonecutter and master stonemason as formative cycles of medium and higher degree. At the end of June the PP voted against in a commission of the Galician Parliament, and the Association of Canteiros de Poio reproached the Núñez Feijóo party for their lack of commitment to a collective that "creates and restores Galician and international heritage."

But the group is still mobilized, collects signatures and organizes protests, and in the meantime the chiseled professionals at the school pose their eyes outside the country. When they marched to Washington, Francisco Castro and Manuel Rial decided on the promise of a salary that "multiplied" their aspirations in Spain. As one teacher said, the two left behind their families fleeing from the "precariousness", and from that endless spiral of "subcontractors of subcontractors" that here the quarry masters stumble on scaffolding in any work; also at the top of the pinnacles of a basilica.

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