Over the course of five days in May 1671, the city of Seville threw what is widely considered to be the most extravagant religious festival ever held in Baroque Spain, transforming the cathedral and city streets with ephemeral architecture. These events celebrated the extension of the cult of King Ferdinand III of Castile, or San Fernando (r. 1217-1252), one of the city’s most iconic figures and a hero of the medieval Reconquista thanks to his capture of large expanses of Andalusian territories then in Muslim hands.
The task of designing monumental ephemera for the fiestas brought together all of the major artistic figures active in the Andalusian capital, including painters such as Juan de Valdés Leal (1622-1690), Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1618-1682), Francisco Herrera the younger (1627-1685), and Matías Arteaga y Alfaro (1633-1703); sculptors such as Pedro Roldán (1624-1699); and altarpiece designers such as Bernardo Simón de Pineda (1638- c. 1702). Rivaling the importance and expense of the actual festivities was the lavishly illustrated festival book the cathedral commissioned to record it: Fiestas de la Santa Iglesia Metropolitana y Patriarcal de Sevilla al nuevo culto del Señor Rey San Fernando el tercero de Castilla y de León (Seville: Viuda de Nicolás Rodríguez, 1671), by priest and poet Fernando de la Torre Farfán.
Torre Farfán’s text describes the fiestas in exquisite detail, while twenty-one etchings, including nine large fold-out sheets, handsomely illustrate its 343 pages. The Meadows Museum boasts ten of these etchings in its collection, including six of the original nine fold-out sheets, along with four smaller sheets of emblems. This fall, Meadows visitors will be able to view these ten prints, displayed together with a copy of the original festival book generously lent by the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.