Queen Stephanie of Navarre and the Catalan Ancestry of the Romanesque Altar Frontal of Santa Maria la Real of Nájera

Joan Duran-Porta


In the mid-eleventh century, the high altar of the church of Santa María la Real in Nájera was decorated with a luxurious altar frontal, which was very similar to another frontal that had been made for the cathedral of Girona shortly before. The present article analyses the similarities between these two frontals and relates them to the family bonds between their patronesses, Queen Stephanie of Navarre and her mother, Countess Ermesinde of Barcelona. Moreover, it proposes that the Nájera frontal was made according to the model of the piece in Girona, and also suggests that Stephanie’s involvement in support of sumptuary arts, followed a pattern of patronage established by her mother, as both of them were conditioned by their will to legitimise dynastic power. Finally, it posits that the production of the Nájera frontal fostered the spread of metalwork altar frontals in the western Iberian kingdoms.


Altar frontal; Romanesque metalwork; Nájera; Patronage; Stephanie of Pamplone; Ermessenda of Barcelona; Cloisonné enamels

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