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Processional custody of Corpus Christi

by Enrique de Arfe

A renewed concept of processional custody was introduced into Spain by the goldsmith Enrique de Arfe. The value of this creation lies not only in the quality of the piece or the richness of its iconographic series, but also in the fact that it led the way for a new artistic trend that was unknown in Cordoba until that time, and which saw the transition from Gothic to Renaissance.

This exceptional piece is made up of four different bodies. First we see the original base, consisting of compartments created by trefoil arches and filigree points. In its interior are eighteen scenes corresponding to the Public Life, Passion and Resurrection of Christ. The figures comprising it do not exceed 55 millimetres, amply demonstrating the technical mastery of Enrique de Arfe.

This is followed by the temple of the glass and gold case, a main body whose function is to serve as a monstrance for the Sacred Form. This body, sitting on a base with scroll-work and angels, is formed by a cylindrical glass buttress from which the interior towers come out, which at the same time links to the outside by flying buttresses.

Next is the temple of the Assumption, which houses the Marian representation made by the silversmith Bernabé García de los Reyes. From an architectural viewpoint, this body is configured through small towers connected to each other by supports of dolphins being ridden by angelic figures.

The final body corresponds to the temple of the bell, which has a series of hexagonal towers linked through floral wreaths. It is finished off with a bell, cupola and a crown from which another six smaller bells hang. The ensemble is completed with a base upon which, like a pedestal, the figure of the triumphant Saviour is found.

Various authors

Enrique de Arfe

The silversmith of German origin. He was, without a doubt, one of the first artists to introduce a new language into the city of Cordoba. Enrique de Arfe received the commission from the Cathedral Chapter to execute the Processional Monstrance of the Corpus Christi, and we know that in the year 1514 he was already working on this. He also made the custodies in León, missing today, and Toledo. Moreover, in Cordoba Cathedral he is also thought to be responsible for the Processional Cross of Archdeacon Simancas

Bernabé García de los Reyes 

He was one of the most famous silversmiths in Cordoba during the 17th century. Although he qualified late for the congregation of Saint Eloy, he was soon appointed master silversmith of the Cathedral. Along with his work on the Processional Custody of the Corpus Christi, he also made the lecterns that are today displayed in the Chapel of Santa Teresa

Technical sheet
  • Title: Processional custody of Corpus Christi 
  • Authors: Enrique de Arfe and Bernabé García de los Reyes 
  • Date: 1514-1518 1734-1735
  • Material and technique: Silver in colour and gilded, cast and chiselled 
  • Dimensions: 262 x 92 cm
  • Location: Chapel of Santa Teresa (north wall)
Key features of the work
  • Its essential function is none other than to act as a temple for the procession of the Blessed Sacrament

  • The base was added in the 18th century, by Bernabé García de los Reyes. This plinth is comprised of twelve faces which contain depictions of scenes of dances, the "bailes de los seises" dance and a bibliographical passage referring to the conducting of the tabernacle

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