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The church of San Francisco de Betanzos and its peculiar funerary sculpture


Today we enter the  Church of San Francisco de Betanzos, the fourteenth century, located in Betanzos. Here rest the remains of Fernán Pérez de Andrade, the patron of the church, in one of the most beautiful funerary monuments of the Gothic style in Galicia. Join us to know the figure of Andrade approaching the history of this Galician church.


Fear and uncertainty towards death, along with the desire to remember the person beyond it and in a permanent way, has persecuted the human being from ancestral times. This condition does not understand of times, nor of social classes; and that is why from nobles to peasants have always had the need to immortalize themselves so as not to be forgotten in time. Today we approach the case of Fernán Pérez de Andrade, a Galician sir confident of Enrique II of Castile, who played a fundamental role in the Gothic history of the kingdom of Galicia and left us for his memory a peculiar funeral tomb.


Fernán Pérez de Andrad was a Galician sir of the fourteenth century, fond of hunting and battle, but with great cultural concerns, among which the poetry and literature of knights of the time stand out. According to different medieval chronicles, this sir of noble birth, was patron and protector of the church for a long time, becoming the surname Andrade in a name of importance and power.


In 1387 he founded the church of San Francisco de Betanzos, to serve as a burial place for him and other members of his family. This meant a way to strengthen their social recognition, as well as a way of physically representing themselves on the earthly plane once they passed into the afterlife.


The church of San Francisco de Betanzos dates from the 14th century and conforms to the canons of Gothic art of the time: latin cross plan with a single nave, polygonal apse and two side chapels. On the outside we can also see the typical Gothic decoration: rosettes and stained glass in the main facade. Here is where we begin to see the peculiarity of this construction: on the roof of one of the arms of the church, a cross rests supported by a boar. Representation that will later be repeated in the sarcophagus of Fernán Pérez de Andrade, and constitutes one of the most interesting elements of the temple.


Within the church itself we can enjoy a collection of up to 16 tombs, all of them from the Andrade family. This set is going to suppose the most interesting artistic element of the Brigantine church. It is the most interesting of them all that of Fernán Pérez de Andrade, which stands out for its monumentality and its peculiar decoration. The tomb was made during the lifetime of its addressee, which justifies the fact that on the edge of the funeral bed the convent was founded, not the death of the Galician sir in 1397. It is sculpted as an exempt sepulcher, the only one of its kind that today we keep in Galician churches. It stands on a base formed by the figures of a bear and a boar (figure that is repeated) and has the four sides of the sarcophagus decorated.


The sarcophagus presents several scenes of hunting in all its decoration, along with the representation of the character's weapons, shields and more representations of bears and wild boars, symbolic animals of the shield of the Andrade family, which suppose something peculiar because in Galicia the representations of These animals were not recurrent, much less to represent in the grave of a nobleman.


From Art Natura we invite you to visit this church of San Francisco de Betanzos, declared a National Monument in 1919 and later a Site of Cultural Interest.

Enter the most curious cases of medieval art in Galicia!