Enameled Monstrance in the Mudejar Style by Granda

Last year the Granda workshop completed the construction of this spectacular 36” tall monstrance for Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Ladera Ranch, California. Fr. Reynold Furrell, the founding pastor, had previously engaged Granda for the creation of the newly constructed parish’s altarpiece, liturgical furnishings, and other artistic items.

The monstrance is the materialization of an unexecuted design from the Granda archives. Though the drawing is undated, it is believed to have been produced by Granda’s design team during the first half of the 20th century. It is likely that Ms. Candida Granda, the founder’s sister, had a hand in the design.

Original drawing. First half of the 20th century.
Graphite and color on paper. Félix Granda Foundation archives.

The monstrance’s style is an amalgamation of several different influences brought together harmoniously. The vibrant emerald green enamel immediately brings to memory “La Lechuga,” the famous emerald-studded monstrance of the Jesuit Church in Bogotá created by Galaz in the early 18th century.

"La Lechuga" (lettuce), the great monstrance from the Church of St. Ignatius, Bogotá. Currently held in the National Bank of Colombia.

The geometry of the sunburst is what ultimately gives this piece its unique appeal. Fr. Granda began using delicate gold lattice disks instead of the traditional sunburst in monstrance designs since the early years of the workshop. This design raises the bar, covering the delicate golden fretwork with the brilliance of colour. The original drawing indicated the use of emeralds covering the sunburst, but in their stead, translucent-green enamel has been used. The glitter of the gemstones has been simulated utilizing an engraved bed for the enamel.

The interwoven, mixtilinear arches are a beautiful motif taken from the Mudejar style of medieval Spain, in particular that found in the Kingdom of Aragon. Some of the most beautiful examples of these interlacing arch motifs can be found in the Palace of Aljafería in Zaragoza or the tower of St Martin in Teruel. The latter also presents the typical use of decorative green glazed ceramic accents, which also ties it with the design of the monstrance.

The Mudejar style refers to the artistic current that blossomed in Spain during the 13th to 15th centuries, incorporating Islamic influences and Christian traditions of the land. The artists of the time resorted to the use of complex geometric ornamentation due to the aniconism prescribed by the Moorish rulers. The works of Spanish artists were so popular among the ruling class that many stylistic features were exported all over the Umayyad Caliphate.

Palace of Aljafería in Zaragoza (left), the tower of St Martin in Teruel (right).

This exercise in aniconic decoration for the monstrance is notable, resorting only to geometry and mathematical principles to adorn the Blessed Sacrament. The symbolism is in this case numerological: the arches have two distinct profiles, rounded and pointed, representing the Hypostatic Union; they are conformed in four separate ribbons or threads, like the four gospels; there are a total of twenty-four arches, like the Elders in Revelation, twelve of these are marked with red gemstones, representing the twelve apostles, with a thirteenth stone just under the Host representing the Blessed Mother.

These oriental influences can also be percieved in the design of the base and stem of the monstrance. It’s complex, almost fractal forms, combining square and circular profiles (the worldly and the infinite) and the abstracted flower petal decorations bring to mind the styles of the east, reaching as far as the Nagara architecture of northern India or the goldsmiths of the Ming Dynasty in China. The base in particular seems to echo the lotus flower, which in this case would symbolize the Resurrection.

It is truly marvelous how these disparate influences, Novohispanic baroque, Mudejar and Far Eastern, have been brought together so harmoniously. The monstrance, which stands over three feet tall, was entirely hand chiseled in sterling silver and decorated with coloured enamels and gemstones, taking over 16 months of work to complete.

Fr. Furrell imparts Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament at Holy Trinity Church.
Picture by Alonso Rosado.

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