Beheading of John the Baptist church (Cicujano)


Nowadays, Cicujano is a little town located in the Laminoria Valley. The “Reja de San Millán” (1025), mentions a hamlet called Cekungau, which might be related to Cicujano. Its church is a quite big building full of different features and elements added over time, some of which state the prosperity Cicujano had during history. Indeed, the village is located near an important crossroad that used to be really crowded in the past. Even though little trace is preserved, the paths passed through Meztu from La Rioja or Navarre and connected the Llanada with the villages of Ullibarri-Jauregui. Gereñu or Alaitza. Taking that into account, the village of Cicujano was a rich spot during medieval and modern times, but later experienced decadence and isolation.


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Saint Pia’s abbey

The hamlets from the Laminoria Royal Valley were regulated under the abadengo lordship from the abbots of Saint Pia. In 1785, the secular abbey was demolished, and few elements remain. One of the first historical references to Saint Pia is from the 11th century, and names a now lost town that was related to a secular power. The abbey collected taxes from the surrounding villages and, therefore, the abbots enjoyed great power and prestige in the area. Besides, the main lineages of the area had a connection with the place, although sometimes it was more related to prestige than visiting the abbey. At the end of the 18th century, the place was abandoned. Even if most of its original buildings have disappeared, some neighbouring towns collect the remaining elements of Saint Pia’s abbey. Indeed, some pieces from Cicujano could come from Saint Pia, such as the capitals and a piece of a façade. However, the most outstanding work is Virgala Mayor’s stone tabernacle from the 16th century.

The church

The church of Cicujano confirms several interventions and modifications in the building. The head of the temple is straight, whereas the presbytery is lower than the rest of the nave as the eaves holding a bracket suggest. In the eastern wall, two small windows are displayed. The most interesting one is the interior small window, which has a horseshoe arch carved in a single block. According to experts, it is difficult to determine if the wall corresponds to a Pre-Romanesque period or if, on the contrary, the window was reused and relocated there when the Romanesque church was built during the 12th and 13th centuries. Nevertheless, most of the current masonry is Romanesque, although it has been deeply transformed and enlarged over time.

The Beheading of John the Baptist church preserves a great Romanesque façade sheltered under a portico from the early 19th century. Outside the wall and in the tower, many elements from the end of the 15th century are preserved, and even some from a quite blurred construction stage carried out in the beginning of the 16th century.
The medieval façade is in the western wall, an unusual arrangement in the Romanesque style of Alava. It is composed of four slightly pointed archivolts decorated with mouldings that alternate checkered motifs. Its keystones are held by an impost line full of plants, vertical lines, and some striking faces in the end. As in other façades from the area, the columns end with a “V” shaped motif instead of the usual capitals.
The interior

As a consequence of the thick whitewashing and the maestreo carried out by Vicente de Nanclares in 1828, the medieval appearance of the building was lost. The medieval roof was replaced with lunettes vault which is articulated with some Romanesque toral arches that survived the modifications in the church.

Other Romanesque elements are in the head of the church, but little is known about their origin nor its chronology. Traditionally, the capitals are related to the Pre-Romanesque masonry, but it is very difficult to prove it. On the other hand, there is another column with the characteristic “V” shaped motif. Perhaps, that element came from a neighbouring temple, such as the disappeared Saint Pia’s abbey.


The main altarpiece

The simple altarpiece was made in the 18th century when the parish was no longer a prosperous place. Its tabernacle has a shrine with four Solomonic columns and is probably previous to the altarpiece. On both sides of the tabernacle, in the bench, two simple paintings of the Last Supper and the Maundy are displayed.

Besides, in the side panels, Saint Anthony and Saint Joseph are depicted with little skill. From an artistical point of view, the most interesting part of the set is the carving of Saint John the Baptist. In the right hand, the saint holds his cut head, and the cross in the left. The ensemble ends with a Calvary done with little skill.

The lateral altarpieces of Our Lady of the Rosary and Saint Peter are in the niches of the lateral walls. All their carvings are good quality pieces from the end of the 18th century. 


Photo credits:

Color photographs:: © Álava Medieval / Erdi Aroko Araba.

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