The Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Villacarillo)

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The Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Villacarillo)

The church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción was built on land formerly occupied by a castle in the area known as Torre de Mingo Pliego. The architect Andrés de Vandelvira drew up the plans for the new church, and during his time in Villacarrillo he met the woman he would later marry, Luisa de Luna, and with whom he was to have seven children. The church has several features that are unique to the buildings designed by Vandelvira, such as the basilica-style floor plan of three naves separated by tall, narrow pillars that gives the church its monumental air. Some late-Gothic elements can still be observed today, and are evidence of the changing times that characterised the first decades of the 16th century.

Construction of the church began in 1534; it was the first large church to be designed by Vandelvira, who moved on to Úbeda two years later when Francisco de los Cobos commissioned him to design the Sacra Capilla del Salvador. Construction came to an end during the 17th century, although the chamber of Cristo de la Veracruz dates back to the 18th century.

The lightness of the church’s domes and its composition in general reflect the design concepts that can be observed in its most iconic architectural feature, the pendentive dome. The paintings that cover the domes of the central nave date back to 1575 and are the work of Pedro Raxis; they represent scenes from the Old Testament and the Passion of Christ.

It is easy to picture Vandelvira and his assistants during the first years of the church's construction: the large wooden scaffolds, the noise of the stonemasons, the enormous heaps of stones waiting to be transformed into great ashlars and the bustle of the lime-sellers offering their wares for use in making mortar. Undoubtedly, the most fascinating image would be that of the town elders, as they stare in perplexity at such thin pillars lining the sides of a large central nave: such architectural features had absolutely nothing in common with other churches in the area or the sturdy Santuario de la Virgen de la Fuensanta in the nearby town of Villanueva del Arzobispo.

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