As much of the early history of Spanish ironworks as possible was explained in the previous article. The next major influence on Spanish ironworks was France. Until this point, there was no particular architectural style to Spanish decorative ironwork.
Rejeria, which is the process or art of making iron screens or grilles, was heavily influenced by the pre-Romanesque and Romanesque periods. These architectural styles were introduced from France beginning around 800 A.D. and continued until the Renaissance period.
The Spanish iron story had been lost for the most part until this French influenced architectural period was firmly rooted in Spain. Prior to this time the Visigoths and Moors had conquered and occupied the country. After they were able to retake their land, the Spanish people began building churches as a way of expressing their gratitude.
Since Spanish kings had been taking French wives, it was quite common for the Queens to bring with them their own clergy. This included a group of monks who built Spanish churches in the Romanesque styles seen in France.
The Romanesque style used quite a bit of ironwork, particularly in Pyrenean and Cantabrian provinces, because iron was so plentiful in that area. The Benedictine monks gave the
the task of creating reja, or decorative iron screens, to protect the altar treasures held within the churches.
The motif the blacksmiths created was based on the vines that had been used so often in Greek and Roman art. This type of motif was easy for the early blacksmiths to make because the bar of iron could be easily bent into the scroll. The anvil was even shaped so pounding the red-hot metal would produce the scrolls easily.
As the blacksmiths honed their craft, they began creating other types of elements which can still be seen in cathedrals throughout Spain and Europe. They showed variety in their design including loosely wound scrolls while others depict filigree work.
Many of the Spanish ironwork pieces of this period have been sold over the years. They may not be evident in Spain at all today if it had not been for a bishop who gathered up small iron objects and placed them in the Episcopal Museum of Vich. Besides having ironwork from the thirteenth century, the museum also holds sculpture, embroidery, and paintings of the Catalonian region.
The ironwork produced in the northern provinces around Ebro changed to meet the influences of the countries that had contact with the blacksmiths of the time. As you’ll see, Spanish ironwork being produced in Castile and Andalucia developed in an entirely different way.