When the teacher Mateo began to chisel in 1168 the missing peristyle or outer gallery (technically exonártex) of the Portico de la Gloria of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, he did not imagine that his sculptures of Abraham and Isaac would end up in the hands of Pristina SL, a property owned by Francis Franco, grandson of the dictator Francisco Franco. Neither knew the person in charge of the Court of First Instance number 41 where yesterday it was foreseen that it was elucidated who was the legal owner of these two jewels of the Romanesque world. Therefore, the magistrate had to delay the trial until November 19, when the Franco family will have to present documentation proving that the two biblical prophets appear in the balance sheets of their firm, because of the alleged purchase of the images in 1954, his lawyers admitted to EL PAÍS, that they do not possess.
ANDHe is known worldwide as Portico de la Gloria It was originally larger. It formed an antechamber that included a large central arch guarded by two smaller side doors, in addition to various sculptures of prophets. Behind, stood the portico that is currently enjoyed by visitors who come to the capital of Galicia.
But in 1521 the architectural ensemble was modified and in the 18th century the exonártex disappeared definitively from the new cathedral façade. His sculptures were scattered. In fact, of all the original figures only nine are preserved: four in the cathedral museum, two in the Provincial Museum of Pontevedra, another in a private collection and those of Abraham and Isaac, which are owned by a real estate agency based in the Madrid street of the Bécquer Brothers, 8, residence until his death of Carmen Polo, wife of the autocrat.
And how is it possible that the "fiscal domicile" of both prophets is in the capital, while the two statues are located in the pazo de Meirás? This is precisely what the court 41 of Madrid tries to elucidate, since the positions of the plaintiffs (the City of Santiago) and the defendants (the heirs of Carmen Franco Polo, daughter of the dictator) disagree. The only thing that is clear is that on July 25, 1954, the two statues were in the entrance hall of Consistory. And that the previous day Franco and his wife visited the city to star in "a fervent and patriotic day in Compostela", as it was titled the next day and five columns The voice of Galicia. From here the positions differ.
The Official Gazette of Galicia (DOG) published on 5 February a resolution of the Directorate General of Cultural Heritage that opened the file to declare Cultural Interest "the nine sculptures of Master Mateo from the missing western facade of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela".
The document describes each of the elements and their location. In the case of the two images held by the Franco family, the Xunta recognizes that they can correspond to four different prophets.
One, which could be of Abraham or Jeremiah, represents an old man with long hair and beard, barefoot and who "carries a card in his left hand at the knees and holds the cloak that covers it"
In the case of Isaac or Ezequiel, "this figure shows a great parallelism with the previous one, presenting itself almost identical in a mirror effect, as befits two sculptures conceived to face each other"
The other characters that the Xunta has declared BIC and that were part of the portico are the kings David and Salomón, Enoch, Elías, Fernando II of León, the prophet Malaquías and the head of a bearded man.
The City Council remembers that in 1948 it bought -Exist the municipal records- to the Count of Ximonde, Santiago de Puga, three sculptures, including the two mentioned. This nobleman was a descendant of the one who in the 18th century, after being dismantled the master's porch, took them to his house. The Consistory paid for them 60,000 pesetas and placed them on the staircase of Razoi Manor House, municipal headquarters. If at any time they left Santiago, the City would have to compensate the count with another 400,000 pesetas.
But the visit of Franco to Santiago caused, according to the Consistory, that the sculptures appeared, suddenly, in the pazo de Meirás, summer residence of the Franco. "It is clear that Carmen Polo saw them when she entered the Town Hall, she took a fancy to them and took them away," says Xoaquín Monteagudo, a lawyer from the Compostela Town Council. To which the lawyer of the Franco, Juan José Arizcorbe, the law firm Milans del Bosch, responds negatively. "We have a fair title [venta entre privados]", Although he admits that they do not have any document that demonstrates it. "They [el Ayuntamiento de Santiago]neither, "says the lawyer. For Arizcorbe, in addition, there is a "acquisitive prescription", which means that enough years have passed since the alleged purchase so that your property can no longer be questioned.
But these arguments do not convince the Consistory, which denounced Carmen Franco Polo as heir to the properties of the dictator. Upon his death in December of last year, his seven direct descendants became owners of the pazo de Meirás (on which there is also a litigation) and the two priceless sculptures.
The trial was scheduled for yesterday, but had to be suspended because Francis Franco decided to transfer his share to the Pristina society. The judge, therefore, has to modify the lawsuit: now against six heirs and one company. "They are delaying tactics," says Xoaquín Monteagudo. "We will meet again in court within a month and, perhaps, another of the heirs will do the same again. Come on, we have six left to see what they are going to do. And so time goes by, "the lawyer prophesies, what Master Mateo did not do.