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In search of popular funds to save the late-Romanesque pearl of an abandoned town

The history of the church of Villamorón (Burgos, no inhabitant) shines on and off due to its contrasts. First, because this jewel of the late Romanesque and proto-Gothic, from the thirteenth century, stands regal, emblem of a better past, over the depopulated Villamorón, dependent on Villegas (50 neighbors in winter), as one more emblem of Castilian heritage in abandoned territories. Second, because its elegant exterior, restored in 2009, clashes with its dilapidated interior, pasture with cracks, humidity that devours murals, the rickety choir and faded capitals. Third, because those tasks were undertaken by the Junta de Castilla y León and the latest good news for the temple is sealed by the small association Amigos de Villamorón, which has obtained sufficient funds, through a crowdfunding campaign, to recover the splendor of the church. by Santiago Apóstol.

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The social commitment has allowed for years that those interested in seeing the construction from the inside and receiving a good explanation, totally free, just had to contact the group for a volunteer to come to Villamorón. The flagrant deterioration of these three naves and those ribbed vaults, in addition to the sober Romanesque decoration with ornaments such as gargoyles that anticipate the splendor of the Gothic, worried those involved with a church that they feel almost as their own.

Pedro Moreno, a 75-year-old retired teacher, explains that the group of people from Burgos who collaborate with the organization decided to go to Hispania Nostra, an entity that defends cultural heritage, with a clear idea: to open a strategy to raise money to undertake the works necessary. Thus, they have already reaped more than 27,000 euros thanks to more than 300 contributors who want to collaborate with the rebirth of the great banner of Villamorón after the impeccable exterior restoration.

Exterior of the church of Santiago Apóstol. J.CASARES

Enrique Gutiérrez, a resident of Villegas, points out at the top of that 15th century wooden choir, which creaks under the feet of the visitors, the critical points of the temple: cracked walls and arches, remains of rain drips, a rotten pulpit or capitals that have lost their original shape. “The waterways are still noticeable,” he laments, while he narrates the reason for the inscriptions of 1478 that adorn the walls, who the woman was buried in 1261 next to the walls or shows the verdigris of humidity on the stairs that go up to a side altar.

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Moreno oozes pride in speaking of those who have struggled for so many years to polish the church. Every summer they altruistically keep the building open and make detailed visits, in addition to going even in winter if they receive a request through social networks. The parish priest has collaborated “closely and enthusiastically” to defend such heritage and it is key, adds Moreno, for this supportive team to maintain its firmness. The retired teacher insists on emphasizing that the association was created after Newsfresh published a report in 2003 that Óscar Esquivias titled as The graceful gothic of the wasteland , a journey through the Gothic legacy of those regions of Burgos, with allusion to the heritage of Sasamón, Grijalba or Villasandino. Thus, a group wanted to know the forgotten temple of Villamorón and, being “impressed” by its qualities and its flaws, decided to act.

Equity Problems

“Burgos is one of the provinces most affected by patrimonial problems and that most recovers them, an example of the large number of works and associations that work to defend its heritage in good condition,” indicates Moreno. An inspiring case is that of Fuenteodra, which last year also obtained popular funding to prevent the ruin of its imposing church. The social struggle to take care of the cultural heritage, says Teresa Merello, head of crowdfunding of Hispania Nostra, is an essential step to “promote sensitivities” and that competent bodies such as the Government of Castilla y León, the county council of Burgos or the archbishopric ” pick up the appeal ”and complement the“ private investment ”of those committed who“ help as best they can ”. The member of Hispania Nostra sums it up like this: “The temple of Santiago Apóstol impresses on the outside and causes unease on the inside.” Even the pigeons have contributed to its decline, says Gutiérrez, corroding with the acid from their excrement the polychromy or the ornaments.

A detail of the church of Villamorón. J.CASARES

The successful idea, Moreno celebrates, has raised almost double the 15,000 euros encrypted as a minimum goal, so that they will be able to undertake improvements. The depopulation that has already displeased Villamorón, suffered by both Villegas and other municipalities in the area or Castilla y León, worries but does not terrify the co-founder of the association of friends. The Burgos veteran quotes Azucena Gutiérrez, secretary of the organization, 43 years old and very involved with the church, and asks that the young people who still remain in this territory turn to what is historically theirs: “We want the few young people who there are encouraged and show as much interest as we in this singular element of the heritage of their place of origin ”. The prayers beg to Santiago Apóstol the greatest of miracles: that the depopulation of those eternal Castilian moors be reversed as it is intended to prevent the ruin of his temple in Villamorón.

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