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Church of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Villafranca
We find Villafranca located at the foot of the hill where the Estíbaliz sanctuary lies. Even though there is no sign in the town that would lead us to think it had a magnificent past, documents reveal that Villafranca was the first town to be founded in the whole Álava, between the late 11th and early 12th centuries. Its founder was the nobleman Lope González, who, following the policy of creating towns of his King Alfonso VI of Castile, decided to create Villafranca from his tower house in Estíbaliz, point from where he managed a large area of land in Álava. Villafranca had its own street market and it was a prosperous town that contemplated the birth of the Romanesque church of Estíbaliz until the creation of the neighbouring Vitoria at the end of the 12th century. This put such a heavy pressure on the town that it lost population and entered a phase of decline.
The church of Saint Andrew the Apostle of Villafranca, after the removal of the diverse additions that were implemented throughout time, offers a robust and uniform look. Nevertheless, a detailed observation allows us to appreciate that the straight apse of the church was built before the body, given that there are certain fractures both on the external walls and on the inner vaults that tell us about two construction phases developed in two different moments of the 16th century. This was due to the death of Andrés López de Alzola, the architect of the apse, whose project was continued by Pedro de Elosu until its completion in 1574. Since then, this same master completed the temple with the creation of the tower attached to the western side.
The indisputable highlight of this church is the Renaissance facade that can be seen on the south wall, located among the remains of the old portico. The best alavese Renaissance can be found in the sculpture that surrounds the entrance, from the fluted shaft columns with a candelieri decoration to the frieze full of angels. On both sides of the arch, we find two medallions that represent faces, held by fantastic creatures, hybrids between the plant and animal worlds. The good preservation of the facade and the sculptural quality that it displays turn it into one of the best models that we have in rural Álava.
When entering the interior, the embroidery of the lierne vaults amazes us. The first section of the vault, the one in the apse, is decorated by a series of keystones that represent the group of the twelve apostles, each one represented with his own instrument of torture. All of them surround the central keystone, in which we see the figure of the Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin.
De las fotografías actuales: © Alava Medieval / Erdi Aroko Araba
De las fotografías antiguas: Archivo del Territorio Histórico de Álava.
Traza: Pedro de Elosu, Traza de la iglesia de Villafranca, AHPA. Prot. Not. 6.201, 1574.