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SERRABLO: The founding of an association and the recovery of a “comarca” or region.

The reason for the birth of “Amigos de Serrablo” (Friends of Serrablo)

Throughout the nineteen-sixties a great number of events were taking place, at all levels, all over Spain. These lands were no exception. Sabiñánigo kept growing in population and economic possibilities while its surroundings were subject to an unstoppable rural flight. It is out of this duality that the feeling of a search for identity emerged — a cultural quest that would end up with the appraisal of an architectural cluster that had remained virtually unknown until then. As a matter of fact, this land was home to little known wealth: a group of medieval churches which had not drawn too much attention and which, of course, were not listed in the popular tour routes. These churches had been revealed to the general public back in the twenties, and it is in the following decade that action was taken with regards to the Church of Lárrede, but after this initial step they sank into oblivion and remained so for some time. From 1952 to 1958, a young enterprising priest of Basque origin, Mr Jesús Auricenea, was appointed to this village. The clergyman, aware of the artistic value of these churches, carried out a series of improvements in Lárrede, Isún and Satué among others. In that sense, don Jesús can be considered as the forerunner of our Association. However, the circumstances were still not favourable enough to host a cultural organization aiming to preserve and promote these architectural gems. It was a difficult time for art and such measures were a few more years away. In the late sixties and early seventies, within the bounds of Sabiñánigo, a town surrounded by lands suffering from great depopulation, a group of people sharing a purpose got together. They gathered in the felt duty to recover a cultural tradition that was vanishing because of the region’s marked rural exodus. These people were especially concerned about the ruinous condition of several churches in the vicinity. The hermitage of San Juan de Busa, encircled by undergrowth, its roofing collapsed, served as an incentive to create a cultural association. It was the time when “rescue mission” movements were spreading all across Spain, a country where cultural curiosity was fortunately sprouting during the last years of Franco’s regime — still, with more hope than real prospects. This is the setting “Amigos de Serrablo” was born into. And its foundation was morally and intellectually supported by Mr Antonio Durán Gudiol, canon and archivist in the Cathedral of Huesca, who was at that time studying the churches in the area, and who also first described them as Mozarabic. This had a lot to do with the first interview held in Huesca, in the summer of 1969, between don Antonio and the vice-president of the Committee on Festivals of the council of Sabiñánigo, Julio Gavín, who asked him for a review of the aforementioned churches to include them in the programme of celebrations. There lies the seed of our Association, thanks to don Antonio’s suggesting the necessity to establish a cultural association so as to save the architectural cluster from complete ruin. Three years later, in May 1971, “Amigos de Serrablo” was formally set up as part of one section in the Cultural and Social Centre of Sabiñánigo. Its logotype could be no other than one of the windows in the hermitage of San Juan de Busa. It was not easy at the beginning. There was a lot of hope and volunteering, but the funds were very scarce. And, what was even worse, another challenge to face was the lack of understanding and the indifference of some institutions and people who should have either given at least their moral support or remained sensibly silent. But anyway, as time went by, the birth of the Association proved to be anything but a chance result. “Amigos de Serrablo” is regulated through its own articles, and governed by means of a Board of Directors headed by its President (Carlos Laguarta for the first five years, then from March 1976 to 2006 Julio Gavín, and currently it is Jesús Montuega who is in charge). The number of members is about eight hundred, a small group of people who strive to keep the Association afloat by cooperating in the many arising tasks. And they do it in their spare time, after work, over the weekends or holidays — an altruistic activity to which they are entirely devoted. It has been so for thirty-nine years now. During that time, we have had a lot of members cooperating together: some of them are still with us and some others, for different reasons, no longer are. But our philosophy remains the same.

Redescovering a “comarca”

Today, those who hear the term “Serrablo” normally know the territorial meaning implied in it. But it has not always been like that. This place-name has experienced continuous geographical modifications, both in extension and in location. Over the last centuries, the name used to include only the upper valley of the Guarga river, but in previous times it had covered a much vaster territory. A document dating from 1054, which comes from the monastery of San Andrés de Fanlo, mentions “Don García, bishop of Sarrauli” (Ángel Canellas, Colección diplomática de San Andrés de Fanlo). The 15th century Super Officiis Aragonum manuscript, of jurisdictional nature, indicates the territory that the “sobrejuntero” — the name for an Aragonese royal civil servant — of the Serrablo was responsible for. The region, located between the counties of Aragón and Sobrarbe, comprised a stretch of land from Gavín, to the north, to Las Ballostas, further south, as well as the former rural district of El Gállego, Sobrepuerto and the valleys of El Basa and Guarga — which represent, as a whole, the area on which the Association has been focusing its attention since its foundation. As stated by Antonio Durán, in mediaeval ecclesiastical geography the concept of “Serrablo” became more complex when it extended further south, since it became a kind of “no man’s land” that was to be split up equally between the bishoprics of Jaca and Huesca (Antonio Durán, Arte altoaragonés de los siglos X y XI). Since the 15th century, and until the dismantling of the old rural society during the second half of the 20th century, the new administrative divisions limited the place-name to the upper valley of the river Guarga with two possible spellings: either “Serrablo” or “Sarrablo”, the latter being the more popular and typical among its dwellers. As for the name itself, no expert agreement has been reached. It could be pre-Roman, Latin or Arabic-rooted, according to different versions. The most likely hypothesis is, perhaps, the one that points to pre-Roman etymology referring to a high mountain point . Recently, the denomination of “El Alto Gállego” has been officially established for the region. This does not mean that the title “Serrablo” is overshadowed. The old denomination covers a very large area represented by the now official name, and its success as an alternative place-name is proof of a willingness to be reminded of its origins . The truth is that a series of demographic, economic and cultural reasons have influenced an old toponym’s unprecedented revival — a recovery that is due to no other than Antonio Durán Gudiol and to the long-time work of “Amigos de Serrablo”.


The region of Serrablo is located in the very heart of the Aragonese Pyrenees, in a northern area of the province of Huesca. It covers a long stretch of the inter-Pyrenean depression, limited to the north by the Inner Mountain Ranges (Limes, Telera and Tendeñera), which face the Tena Valley, and by the Outer Mountain Ranges or the Pre-Pyrenees (sierras of Javierre, Monrepós and Guara) to the south. These mountain ranges look down over the Hoya de Huesca (the plains of Huesca) to the south, and they border with the “comarcas” of Jacetania to the west and Sobrarbe to the east. The Gállego is its main river, running along the forty or so kilometres between Biescas and Anzánigo. The “comarca” takes in the municipalities of Biescas, Yésero, Sabiñánigo, Yebra de Basa and Caldearenas. Its orography clearly differentiates eight areas: Sobrepuerto, Sobremonte and the upper Valle del Aurín —the highest lands within the southern areas of the Inner Mountain Ranges—, Tierra de Biescas, Galleguera, Valle de Basa and Guarguera, which is the valley strip and thus the flattest part of the “comarca”, and finally La Sierra, the area that lies most to the south under the north side of Guara. From a geological point of view, the materials have either marine or sedimentary origins, and they date from the end of the Cenozoic Era. In the north, the most common formation is called flysch, and it displays alternating strata of limestone, sandstone and marlstone. The terrain is considerably mountainous, rising a little over 2,000 metres in the case of the Sierra de Limes, Manchoya, Erata or Pelopín, and reaching 1,580 m. and 1,920 m. in Güé and Oturia in the south, with a fracture that superimposes on Santa Orosia’s conglomerates. The flattest and most low-lying landforms are located in the middle depression, where elevation drops abruptly to 600 or 800 metres. It constitutes a syncline made of marlstone (“salagón” in the Aragonese language) and other soft rocks that make up a large percentage of the composition of the agricultural soil. To the south, the area of the Guarguera stretches out as an extension of the synclinal structure of San Juan de la Peña, an area mostly formed of clay, sandstone and conglomerate that shares its pattern with the Nocito-Bara depression. Most of the “comarca” is limited to the drainage basin of the river Gállego, where three major tributaries discharge their flow: the Aurín from the east and the Basa and the Guarga from the west. Part of Sobrepuerto tilts towards the Ara river basin from the gully of Otal, and the area of Nocito-Bara flows into the Cinca via the rivers Flumen and Guatizalema. The climate could be defined as a transition between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean climates, with certain features of the Continental climate, being heavily influenced as a whole by typical mountain weather. Obviously, there is a north-south gradation in temperatures as well as in rainfall. The average annual temperature fluctuates between 10 and 11ºC, and precipitations vary from 1,200 mm in Tierra de Biescas to 800 mm. in the Guarguera. Centres of population are located at heights ranging from 600 m. to 1,400 metres above sea level. Inside the “comarca”, there is an area, Sobrepuerto, which is completely deserted, and two others, Guarguera and La Sierra, are inhabited only in a symbolic way. As for the rest of the territory, most of the population are concentrated near the river Gállego. And the population figures barely exceed ten thousand. The municipality of Sabiñánigo has, according to the 2002 census, a population of 8,586. This means that the town itself hosts around 8,000 inhabitants, while the rest of the population live in the small communities of its extensive zone. Senegüé and Larrés, the most populated villages, do not even reach 100 inhabitants each. The town of Biescas has a population of 1,305, followed in size by Caldearenas with 244, Yebra de Basa with 157 and finally Yésero with 79. Until the advent of the railway in 1893 and the establishment of factories in Sabiñánigo during the first quarter of the 20th century, the main economic activities of the inhabitants of these lands had merely consisted of agriculture and stockbreeding, within a subsistence economy. Things started to change as a result of industry and the railway, since the new Sabiñánigo became a demographic settlement and it started to develop in such a way that the traditional economic activity of the “comarca” shifted towards new economic sectors. Currently, industry, construction and tourism are its major domains, while agriculture and livestock have been reduced in most cases to an extra occupation.

Historical evolution

The megalithic remains preserved in the territory are proof that these lands used to be populated back in the prehistoric times. On the south of the “comarca”, in the village of Ibirque on the Sierras Prepirenaicas Exteriores, stands a dolmen known as the “witch hut”. Another dolmen, this one slightly smaller and worn away, can be sighted in Santa Elena, just upon entering the valley of Lasieso. There seem to be traces of other such settlements in Latas and Barbenuta, where one can make out some burial mounds. Very little is known about the process of settlement in this county during the pre-Roman period. Nevertheless, two sites in the vicinity of Latre and Lasieso suggest that between the 2nd century and the beginning of the 1st century BC there could have been some Iberian-Roman hamlets. Not too many remains of the Roman civilization have stood the test of time. The first phase of Romanization in the territory dates from the 1st century BC. A secondary paved road is known to have run from Osca to the thermal springs in Panticosa through Monrepós. Beside this road, the villa or mansion of Sabiniacum is likely to have been built in a plateau, on a hill known as La Corona de San Salvador, very close to Sabiñánigo and located on one side of the main road. Some believe this was the staging area of Roman legions from the Gaul on their way to El Valle del Ebro, and point to Calvisio Sabino as its founder —a Roman general who was in charge of pacifying these lands of the Pyrenees in the second half of the 1st century BC. Some others state, on the other hand, that it was a later construction named after a landowner, Sabinianus, who established a farm in that spot. Either way, what is known for sure —thanks to what reads the inscription on a tombstone found in 1981— is that this villa cannot date back to as far as the 2nd century AD. In the summer of 1989, archaeologist Javier Rey ran a number of successful excavations, and hopefully in the near future the whole site will allow for excavation. In the southern area of the county, some other sites belonging to that period have been located in Latrás, Javierrelatre, Latre and the vicinity of the monastery of San Úrbez de Nocito. As for the time under Visigoth rule, the only artworks that can be certainly associated with it are some carved ashlars on the outer walls of the church of Susín and part of the church in the monastery of San Pelay de Gavín. The Muslim domination represented, as of the beginning of the 8th century, the dawning of a new era when the foundations of a territory about to build its own identity were to be laid. Islamic armies subdued all the lands between Gavín and Nocito, its few inhabitants agreeing to their being subordinated to the Muslim ruler of the wilayah of Huesca. In this territory, the rural district of “Yilliq” (Gállego) was created. During the 9th century, some small, circular-shaped Islamic towers were erected in Senegüé and Castiello de Guarga in order to remind the native population of their dependence and their obligation to pay taxes. The first stage of Christian repopulation took place between the years 918 and 920, when Count Galindo Aznarez II of Aragón conquered the valley of Acumuer and reached the Gállego riverbank up by Senegüé, founding at that point the monastery of San Martín de Cercito. Also in this period, people from Navarra settled in Lasieso —evidence is given by the preservation of an interesting necropolis dating from that time which was excavated and examined in 1975 by Alberto del Castillo and Asunción Bielsa. Around 950, another repopulation was carried out, this time involving Mozarabs who emigrated from the Cora (territorial division in Al-Andalus) of Huesca to the Gállego riverbank and Sobrepuerto, founding several monasteries in the process: San Pelay de Gavín, San Úrbez de Basarán, San Andrés de Fanlo, San Pedro de Rava, San Úrbez de Nocito, etc. These temples, which provided a focal point of conversion to Christianity in the area, used to hold the Mozarab religious rite until 1071, when King Sancho Ramírez imposed Roman liturgy. As mentioned earlier, the first recorded testimony of the place-name “Serrablo” belongs to the year 1054. By the first quarter of that century, King Sancho Garcés II of Navarra, el Mayor, had annexed this territory to the County of Aragón. After his death in 1035, the county became the kingdom of his son Ramiro I, who established certain “possessions” in the area: Senegüé, Larrés, Sabiñánigo, Secorún and Javierrelatre. As the warlike Reconquista advanced towards the south, some families belonging to the lowest rank of the nobility had their power consolidated in the region and, this way, stood out in a society of shepherds and farmers. During the Early Middle Ages, the castle of Escuer, La Torraza de Lárrede and the castle of Larrés were built —the latter passing into the hands of the Urriés family at the beginning of the 15th century. Over the second half of the 16th century, the phenomenon of brigandage caused general insecurity. In Sabiñánigo, a station of the “Guardia del Reino”, the security force of the kingdom, settled in as a small detachment in charge of guarding the paths in the area. Those were the days when famous bandit Lupercio de Latrás set out for his travels. At the same time, the Pyrenees were experiencing Philip II’s monarchic policy of sealing off the frontier with France in order to hinder the Lutheran movement from entering Spain. As a result, the fort of Santa Elena was built on the divide between the valley of Tena and Tierra de Biescas. As a matter of fact, the little castle of Santa Elena and the village of Biescas were the scene of the events happened in February 1592. What triggered the situation was Antonio Pérez’s escape from Zaragoza and his being sheltered in the south of France, where he started to plot an invasion of Aragón. After taking Biescas with 1,500 men in his care, Mr Martín de Lanuza planned to head towards Jaca. This was not possible because the troops of Mr Alfonso de Vargas, who gathered in Senegüé, stopped him. Some inhabitants of these lands who collaborated with the Royal Army were Mr Miguel de Baguer, Lord of Senegüé, Mr Iñíguez, Lord of Fanlo and Espín, and Mr Juan Grasa, who led the volunteers of El Serrablo. Nevertheless, the invading troops of Calvinists from the French province of Béarn did not fail to commit looting and pillage in Biescas and in the whole valley of Tena as they retreated. In the 17th century, neither the expulsion of the Moriscos nor the war against Catalonia affected the “comarca”. On the contrary, what did have some repercussions was the war against France, since the region had to endure the presence of the regular army. Disturbances, sacking and brigandage made life in these mountains very little comforting. Signiories likewise had their life conditions greatly worsened. As a simultaneous circumstance, religious manifestations were on the rise and there were some famous priests such as Orencio Bergua in Yebra de Basa or Domingo Samitier in Sabiñánigo. In this same century, “infanzones”, nobles of low rank, managed to maintain and even raise their status, thanks to which they could afford enlarging their mansion houses (like the Isábals of Lárrede or the Villacampas of Laguarta did). The wars that affected Spain by the beginning and the end of the 18th century were also noticeable in these lands. In fact, during the War of the Spanish Succession armed gangs of bandits used to terrorize the locals in the shadow of the archduke’s troops. Biescas was one of the most affected villages because of its strategic position. Two hundred years before, the danger had stemmed from the “Huguenot menace”, and now it was the French Revolution that was most feared. This triggered the War of the Convention or the War of the Pyrenees in the late 18th century, a conflict which was to have a negative impact on the inhabitants of the “comarca”, forced as they were to mobilise and support the war with continuous payments. Well into the 19th century, the Peninsular War did not fail to bring its ill consequences to the region. And, as usual, the poor people living in it had to bear pillage and looting while dutifully paying the extraordinary taxes demanded by the authority. Places like Javierrelatre, Sabiñánigo and El Puente are good examples of villages having suffered such plundering. As the century drew on, deserters of the Carlist troops gathered in squads of looters and set to pester the southern villages of the “comarca”, the assault on the priest of Ipiés being an illustrative incident. In this century, many important figures were born in the “comarca” and carried out their activities elsewhere. Among those worth mentioning are don Pedro Villacampa, Captain General of the Army, who was born in Laguarta, don Alejandro Oliván, who became Minister of the Navy and was born in Aso de Sobremonte, and brothers Ramón y Cajal, eminent doctors who came from Larrés. A milestone in the history of these lands is the advent of the railway to Sabiñánigo in 1893. It meant the birth of the newly established town of Sabiñánigo-station, which would from then on receive a large population from its surroundings. In the years 1918, 1924 and 1927, which are also remarkable to Sabiñánigo’s history, the companies of “Energía e Industrias Aragonesas” (“Aragonese Energy and Industries”), “Explosivos” (“Explosives industry”) and “Aluminio Español” (“Spanish Aluminium”) respectively settled in. From July 1936 to the spring of 1938, the “comarca” was deeply affected by the Spanish Civil War because the frontline was situated by the Gállego River. Aerial attacks on Sabiñánigo, fierce fighting in the area of Biescas and Gavín, in the vicinity of Güé, in the sierra of San Pedro and in Santa Orosia-Oturia, are some of the unfortunate events that took place at that time. During the following decades, Sabiñánigo kept growing as a result of its industrial development and its slightly anarchic urban planning, the process being as prompt as migration was in its surroundings — a demographic movement which benefitted the town itself. Traditional society was starting to totter and give way to the newer lifestyles. This phenomenon became steady in the mid-‘70s, when Sabiñánigo was victim to a strong industrial crisis which left its economy and population at a standstill. Nowadays, industry has been recovered after the rationalizing of the existent factories and the settlement of new companies such as Bieffe Medital. Agriculture and livestock merely survive in the “comarca”. As for the service sector, it is gaining more and more importance, namely tourism, thanks to the opening of theme park “Pirenarium” and the golf complex of “Las Margas” (literally, “the Marlstones”) in the town of Sabiñánigo, to the new enterprising dimension to Biescas and, of course, to cultural initiative, the latter covering a wide range of possibilities from museums to the route of Serrablo.

Mozarabic art: the churches of Serrablo

Today, the churches of Serrablo are widely known as a cluster of medieval temples with some exceptional artistic features. So much so that they have aroused controversy and admiration among art scholars, as these experts will not reach an agreement so as to what artistic style they belong to. While Mozarabic for some, they are Romanesque for others. Until further studies, in “Amigos de Serrablo” we support the theory which Antonio Durán Gudiol exposed many years ago, and so we believe these churches to be Mozarabic. Either way, they form a compact ensemble, and what really matters is that our Association has been fighting over the last decades to save them from ruin.


These churches are situated on the left bank of the River Gállego, San Bartolomé de Gavín standing most to the north and San Pedro de Lasieso most to the south, at a distance of less than 40 km apart. All of them are either located within small villages or isolated in places that must have been inhabited during the Middle Ages. In the area of Gavín three such monuments can be found: the hermitage of San Bartolomé, the recently revealed monastery of San Pelay and the remainders of the apse of Santa María’s church, which was moved to the municipal gardens of Sabiñánigo in 1976. In the vicinity of Espierre, the hermitage of San Juan and some parts of Santa María have stood the test of time. In the valley of the Gállego River we can sightsee the churches of Orós Bajo, Oliván, Susín, the hermitage of San Juan de Busa, Lárrede, Satué and Isún de Basa. Since they all are close to each other and easily reachable, they compose the most compact group. In the southern area of Serrablo, although a little away from the Gállego focus, stand the churches of Otal and Basarán, this one transported in 1972 to the ski resort of Formigal. And in the territory which lies most to the south, are the churches of Arto, Lasieso and Ordovés. Of the temples of Yésero, Barbenuta and Cartinara, there are only a few separate remains left. Outside the “comarca” of Serrablo, there are some other constructions with the same features: the hermitage of San Juan Bautista in Rasala, the parishes of Banaguás, Larrosa, Lerés and part of Guarsillo, near Jaca, and, in the confines of the Guara mountain range, the churches of Nasarre and Sescún — the latter being the example of this architecture which is situated most to the south.

Making a little bit of History

Until a few years ago, these churches had been little mentioned, if not ignored at all, in art books. Nowadays, they are, on the contrary, essential landmarks in Spanish medieval art. Let us not forget that the entire ensemble was stated to be National Historic-Artistic Heritage in 1982, although the church of Lárrede already was as of 1931. The 1999 Law of Heritage declared all these churches as Cultural Interest Sites. Their belonging to one art style or another has ever since been, and still is, a polemic issue. The presence of certain singular elements, as well as the lack of documentary reference, leaves no room for definite theories. It all started in August 1922, when Rafael Sánchez Ventura, along with photographer Joaquín Gil Marraco, noticed this group of churches. Eleven years later, he wrote with Francisco Iñíguez a study where they explained: “These churches seem to be conveying a misconstrued, let alone known, Mozarabic style, dating from a far off time…” The horseshoe arcs and the alfiz-like frames of the doors and windows led them into the belief that they were standing before Mozarabic churches. This discovery enabled the restoration of the most representative model, San Pedro de Lárrede, in the period of the Second Spanish Republic. These monuments have been dated back from the times of Ramiro I of Aragón to the end of the 11th century. “By the end of this month of August (1922) […] my good friend Rafael Sánchez-Ventura told me how a civil servant employed in Energías [The Energy Industries], an amateur hunter, had let him know that he had found a parish church whose doors and windows were embellished with horseshoe arcs […]. Until then, nobody had ever realized the existence of a monument which turned out to be so notable and fascinating […]. Sánchez Ventura asked me to join him in his investigation on the subject, and to accompany him to the spot […]. We set off from La Pardina, in Sabiñánigo, to Lárrede, through the crossing with the road to Jaca, and then up by Senegüé […]. At about 5 in the afternoon, a clear day but with little sunlight, we finally reached Lárrede […]. The monument we were investigating seemed extraordinary to us”, Joaquín Gil Marraco. Revista Serrablo, nº50 (diciembre de 1983). In 1934, Manuel Gómez Moreno pointed out that these churches could have been built by Andalucian architects by the end of the 11th century with mingled influences of the Mozarabic and Lombard styles. In his 1942 Catálogo monumental de Huesca (“Catalogue of monuments in Huesca”), Ricardo del Arco summarized Sanchez Ventura and Gómez Moreno’s theses. A year later, in 1943, José Gudiol Ricart and Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño qualified Gómez Moreno’s hypothesis by denying the churches’ Lombard nature, demarcating them within Aragonese Pre-Romanesque instead. They however admitted to some Mozarabic influences. In 1951, Manuel Gómez Moreno resumed the study of these churches by stating them to be examples of Mozarabic art. It is not until 1966 that this cluster of churches managed to drum up the attention of art scholars. Francisco Iñíguez, when studying the monastery of Leyre, provided a new insight into the investigation, as he believed the temples to show a clear Muslim influence, notably the bell towers in relation to the minaret of the El-Omaria mosque in Bosra (Syria). That very year, Antonio Durán Gudiol published an essay in the “Nueva España” (“New Spain”) journal of Huesca where he openly opted for the Mozarabic theory, and also ventured a date for the building of these churches: between the years 950 and 1020. Two years later, in 1968, he presented his analysis at a lecture in a congress held in Oporto. In view of this stance, French medievalist René Crozet accepted this theory while adding some personal outlooks. Shortly afterwards, in 1971, Ángel Canellas and Ángel Sanvicente were inclined to think of this ensemble as part of 11th-century Pre-Romanesque architecture. Also that year, Iñíguez Almech continued with his study of the churches and concluded that they had been built over the 10th and early 11th-century colonization of the lands. For him, they had a mixture of Muslim and Carolingian influences. Antonio Durán Gudiol carried out the most relevant study on the churches of Serrablo, which he published in 1973. As a matter of fact, he accurately expounded on his Mozarabic theory in his book “Arte altoaragonés de los siglos X y XI”, by analyzing every single church and dating them all between the mid-10th and the mid-11th centuries. He explained how the “comarca” was under Muslim domination, its focus located in Huesca, but was at the same time beginning to host an expanding Christianizing wave brought in by Christians from Huesca, Aragón and Navarre. Three architectural elements prove the Mozarabic style of the temples and their Muslim imprint: the bell towers, the low horseshoe arch and the alfiz. Expertly confirmation came from the “Guía monumental de Serrablo”, written in 1978 by Domingo Buesa. Nine years later, in 1982, Fernando Galtier, Manuel García Guatas and Juan Francisco Esteban, professors in the University of Zaragoza, included the constructions in their joint work “El nacimiento del arte románico en Aragón” as part of the Lombard Romanesque of the second half of the 11th century. They put them all under the denomination of “circle of Lárrede”, since they singled out the church of Lárrede as the most representative example of the whole cluster. Among other things, they denied the existence of the alfizes and the horseshoe arches, which they labelled as fakes. In their opinion, the building of the churches went back to some local traditions stemmed from the monastery of San Andrés de Fanlo, notable for keeping Toledan books of hours starring Mozarabic miniatures. Such artistic tendencies succeeded in outlasting external influences like Lombard art. In 1983, José María Establés sided with this last hypothesis in his book “Arte románico en el Viejo Aragón”. Fernando Galtier wrote again in 1987 about the churches in his article “En torno a los orígenes del círculo larredense” in order to dwell on the conclusions of the investigations that he and his University fellows had followed five years before. A new book by Antonio Durán Gudiol came out in 1989 with the title of “El monasterio de San Pedro de Siresa”, a misleading name for a work which was actually dedicated to the churches of Serrablo, too — apparently, he had the original title misconstrued by the printing house. In any case, the book showed an even more accurate dating of the churches and it contained an analysis of their structure. It insisted on their Mozarabic nature and the Visigothic heritage of the first churches to be built in the area. It is in the same year that “Itinerarios románicos por el Alto Aragón” by Jaime Cobreros was published. When referring to the churches of Serrablo, the author summarised the diverging theories (that of their Mozarabic origin and that which pointed to an influence from the Alps) and, although he was more favourable to the one exposed by the professors, he concluded that the mystery surrounding these churches would probably never be solved, but this did not trouble him in the slightest, “as a little bit of mystery and uncertainty cannot but benefit the sharp lines and sketched volumes of the churches of Serrablo”. In 1994, Aldofo Castán provided a most interesting view on the roots of the churches of Serrablo in his article “Sobre los orígenes del arte serrablés”, in an attempt to reveal where the original models of the churches were and show his agreement with Antonio Durán’s Mozarabic theory. Three years later, in 1997, Manuel García Guatas released his new book, “El arte románico en el Alto Aragón”, in which he corroborated his Lombard Romanesque theory and took the opportunity to belittle the opposed belief. “They have been unfoundedly named as churches of Serrablo, a place-name which is adequate for the neighbouring depopulated region of the Guarga tributary — although not quite as accurate has been their classification as 10th-century constructions of Mozarabic style”, he declared. As proof of the inconsiderate feeling of a certain sector of the University staff of Zaragoza towards Antonio Durán for his conflicting theory, the writer did not even mention his publications concerning the churches in the bibliographic references he included. As the 89th issue of the CAI-100 collection, an informative set of works about different topics related to Aragón, José F. Ruiz Pérez published in 2000 “Las Iglesias del Serrablo”, where he summed up in a clear and precise way the existing hypotheses. In 2002, the fourth volume of José L. Aramendía’s “El románico en Aragón” came out with a section dedicated to the churches of the “comarca”, which he defined as Romanesque dating from the second half of the 11th century. So there lies the controversy as to the churches’ style — a scholarly disagreement which we believe to never end due to the lack of historical documentation. All these hypotheses are in any case respectable, whether the churches are labelled as Mozarabic, Lombard Romanesque or just Romanesque. What is little unbiased is the stance of some of the experts who, for example, deny the existence of the horseshoe arches and state that they are fake or imaginary, an assertion that falls apart when considering that there are such arches in Lárrede, Busa, San Bartolomé, Susín and Espierre. At least, the investigators do agree that the churches make up a singular, distinctive cluster which is unique in the world of art, and, as a result, many art scholars and art lovers now refer to these temples as “churches of Serrablo”, and sometimes even mention the “style of Serrablo”. Otherwise, we don’t mind their being called “churches of the Gállego”, but we do not understand why the people who do so tend to deny or despise the term “Serrablo” — they somehow seem to dislike it. What really matters, after all, and let us bear this in mind, is that the churches have been saved from ruin. And there can be no argument about that. It is a fact that we must say out loud and clear in case memory should fail anyone.

Antonio Durán and “Amigos de Serrablo”

As mentioned before, Antonio Durán Gudiol was, among all the scholars who took interest in these churches, the most devoted to their in-depth study. He was also the one who encouraged and promoted the foundation of “Amigos de Serrablo”, and, as we can tell by the lines he wrote in 1989 (which are reproduced at the beginning of this chapter), the birth of this association was always a comforting thought for him. We owe him a lot and for this reason our Association shall never reject his theories about these churches — not only because of our feeling of gratefulness, but because we are actually convinced that they are right. This does not mean, however, that we despise other hypotheses. On the contrary, these are always accepted in our bosom as long as they are based on tolerance towards unequal theories. Unfortunately, Antonio Durán Gudiol, known as Don Antonio within our Association, had his authority as an investigator inelegantly disowned by certain experts. It must be clear for everyone that “Amgios de Serrablo” have always felt a deep respect for Don Antonio’s scholarly work, and we will stick to such a regard. Our position must not be taken for an intellectually blind one, as we still have not encountered a more serious and thorough study than his. To illustrate to what extent this cooperation between Antonio Durán and “Amigos de Serrablo” was extraordinary, in his deathbed, Don Antonio gave the Association his globet — his very first sacred globet, the one with which he had given his first mass in his native Catalonia. This chalice is nowadays treasured in the church of San Pedro de Lárrede, and it is proof of how facts can sometimes speak for themselves. Soon after his death, “Amigos de Serrablo” proposed the council of Sabiñánigo to name the Cultural Centre after him. And so did they. Therefore, in the next sections we will faithfully follow Don Antonio Durán’s sound line of reasoning about these churches.

Basic chronology

In the beginning, the arrival of Christians from Navarre and the county of Aragón with repopulating purposes over the first quarter of the 10th century enabled the construction of some churches of Visigothic style. In the mid-century, a second rush of settlers, who were Mozarabes from the Muslim wilayah of Huesca, left its mark on the artistic side of the region. The Mozarabic churches of Serrablo were, then, built between the mid-10th century and the mid-11th century in four different phases. In the first repopulation process, which took place between the years 920 and 950, three churches showing a rectangular apse and a horseshoe arch with no traces of an alfiz were erected: San Bartolomé de Gavín and the hermitages of San Juan and Santa María de Espierre. We might have to add to this list the monastery of San Pelay de Gavín, discovered not long ago. The Visigothic style of these temples matches that of San Julián de Asprilla in Espuéndolas, San Bartolomé de Bergua and San Martín and Santa María de Belsué. Built somewhere in the region of the third decade of the 10th century by people from Aragon and Navarre, the purpose of these churches was to serve religious service for the inhabitants of a land which was at that time being annexed to the county of Aragon. Apparently, in the second half of the 10th century there was another building period. The churches dating from that time —such as those of Lárrede, Busa, Susín, Santa María de Gavín, Basarán, Otal, Rasal and the tower of San Bartolomé de Gavín— feature some new elements: the “alfiz” or outward panel enclosing an arch, a frieze decorated with squat semi-columns carved close together and arcatures on the apses, along with the old horseshoe arch and tower minarets. The third stage of this Mozarabic building process seems to have taken place in the first quarter of the 11th century. Whereas the horseshoe arch and the alfiz are no longer used, the tower and the outer decoration of the apse remain as remarkable elements. From this time date the little church of Lasieso together with its tower, as well as the temples in Orós Bajo, Satué, Ordovés and Isún. The last phase, which comprises the second quarter of the 11th century, is deeply influenced by the Lombard style. The constructions still present this typical frieze along with the novelty of Lombard arches. To this period belong some churches situated a little far from the actual nucleus of Serrablo: Sescún, Nasarre, Larrosa, Banaguás and Yeste. The projects concerning these temples always find their origin in the monasteries located nearby, as they were the main promoters of Christianization and repopulation within the “comarca”.


As a general rule, these churches have a rectangular room and are topped by a wooden ceiling and a saddleroof — except for the church of Lárrede, which shows a Latin cross plan. Small in size, they usually end in a semicircular apse, save the first churches of Hispanic-Visigothic style, whose apses are, on the contrary, rectangular-shaped. In some cases, a slender tower-bell rises by their side, with a cloister vault and a four-pitched roof. The wall facing the North has no openings, which is, considering the weather conditions, quite logical. The church of Ordovés, however, has its main entrance located in the northern wall. As for the rest, the walls facing the South have between three and five windows, and the entrance door. Meanwhile, the ones facing the West usually have a window of one or several openings, as the church of San Juan de Busa beautifully proves. The arches we can find here are the horseshoe and the semicircular type. The most common door-type is of horseshoe arch, and it is enclosed by an “alfiz”, the typical rectangular doorframe in Muslim architecture. This is particularly evident in the churches of Lárrede and Busa. Upon the door of the latter, we can find one of the few ornamental elements that these churches show — some decorative canes which seem to be of Arabian origin. But some scholars have pointed rather to some Kufic calligraphic elements. The windows are typically of one, two or three openings, of semicircular or horseshoe arch, and we can find them either framed by an alfiz or not. Lárrede, San Bartolomé de Gavín, Lasieso, Busa and Susín are worth mentioning. The towers, of great slenderness, are related to Muslim minarets, and, although partly damaged by the passage of time, they can still be clearly sighted in Lárrede and San Bartolomé de Gavín. In the four sides of their upper part, they show what we call “trifora”, three-light windows, in this case crowned with little horseshoe arches. Just beneath the roof and on the apses, a frieze of squat semi-columns stretches out, being one of the most distinctive and genuine features of these churches’ decorative elements. Another unique ornamental feature can be found on the tower of San Bartolomé, where two rosettes stand on each of its four sides, carved with ten voussoirs placed in a circle. It is difficult to point to a clear roofing system because of the many refurbishments the churches were subject to in the course of centuries. But originally they might have had flat wooden saddleroof, as we can see in Busa. Still, this theory is not completely proven, since the inner walls of Lárrede and Busa hold supporting round pilasters — and the question remains on whether they were built to bear the weight of the wooden roof or the barrel vault. This was in fact the type of vault rebuilt in 1933 in Lárrede, but whether it was part of its original structure or not, is hard to determine. But the most interesting element in these churches is perhaps the chevet or radiating protruding apse, which always faces the East. Even if we can find rectangular and ultra-semicircular apses, the most common is the semicircular apse. It is separated from the nave by a triumphal arch, usually horseshoe-shaped and covered with an oven vault. Its outer walls combine two of the most representative decorative elements of these churches: the frieze of blunt semi-columns (of Islamic influence) and the five, seven or nine blind wall arches resting on lesenes or low-relief pillars, of Carolingian style. Generally, in the middle of the wall there is a trumpet-shaped window, topped by a round arch. All in all, as Don Antonio Durán stated, the Mozarabic churches of Serrablo gather the cultural and architectural movements existing in Aragon in the Early Middle Ages, to serve the religious purposes of the ancient Hispanic liturgy. From the Mozarabic movement, it inherited the nave style, from the Carolingian, the design and decoration of the semicircular apse, and, last but obviously not least, from the Muslim architecture it took the mullioned window, the alfiz, the bell tower and, possibly, the frieze of squat semi-columns.

The churches, step by step

Lárrede, the outstanding church of the complex

When you get to Lárrede, a small village located by the Gállego River and around seven kilometres away from Sabiñánigo, you can’t help falling under its charm. The complex, composed by a church, an abbey and the Isábal house, all of them standing around a small square, transports us easily to the medieval times. The place-name of “Lárrede” is registered as of the year 920, and in the 15th century it used to have a population of eighteen people. Nowadays, only two families live in it all year long, but over the weekends and holidays its dozen houses are brought back to life. The church of San Pedro de Lárrede is doubtless the most representative of the whole architectural cluster. Its restoration took place between the years 1933 and 1935, soon after the world of art set its eyes upon it for the first time. Some other restorations have been carried out in later specific situations by the Department of Architecture of the Ministry of Public Works and Urban Development and “Amigos de Serrablo” together. As for its structure, it has a Latin cross plan with a rectangular nave, a transept formed by the pseudo-crossing of two low chapels facing one another, and a semicircular apse. Its current half-barrel vault has five transverse ribs. It was built in 1933 in order to replace the former typical Baroque vault with small windows, which was very similar to the one in Susín. In the 17th century, the two lateral chapels in the transept had to be opened, which altered the original, single-nave structure. On the outside, the western wall has a mullioned window with two small horseshoe arches, framed within an alfiz. On the wall facing the South, there are three semicircular-arched windows, above which stands a blind arch, likewise semicircular, with a fourth window atop. This window looks like the one in the western wall, but it shows a double alfiz. Meanwhile, a horseshoe arch, enclosed in another alfiz, crowns the entrance door. Its apse responds to the typical model of an apse in the churches of Serrablo. It has a frieze of squat semi-columns below the roof eaves, seven arcatures and a small centred semicircular-arched window. It is the bell tower that gives the church a unique style. Covered with a hipped roof that rests on a cloister vault, the four sides of the bell tower show mullioned windows with three small alfiz-framed horseshoe arches and semi-columns. On the inside, the temple is divided into four different sections marked by six double-column pillars that are attached to the walls. The arch that opens to the apse is a lowered horseshoe arch, and its vault is the oven type. Since this church was attacked on the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, it lacks of its original decorative elements and altarpieces. This church landmark is, of course, the most famous in the “comarca”, widely visited and used for religious service by locals and outsiders alike. It even hosts several events: lectures, concerts, and so on. The House of Isábal, which stands just in front of the church, is also worth paying a visit. Home to a family of low nobility rank, this house was built in the 17th century and is still kept in its original state, which makes it one of the best examples of popular architecture in Serrablo. On the top of a hill nearby, there is also a breathtaking watchtower known as La Torraza.

In the lands of Gavín and Espierre

The most ancient temples of this Mozarabic cluster are located in the southern area of the region, and they follow the Visigoth artistic movement. During the Spanish Civil War, in the village of Gavín, the parish church of Santa María was destroyed. Featuring an oven vault in the inside, the temple externally showed the frieze of squat semi-columns and five arcatures. Between the end of 1975 and halfway through 1976, they moved the remains of its apse to the main public park of Sabiñánigo. Every single stone had been numbered under the guidance of Julio Gavín prior to this change of location. A few kilometres to the north, after diverting the road to Cotefablo, we can find, in an idyllic setting believed to have once been populated, the church of San Bartolomé. The only authentic, well-kept elements in this temple are a stretch of the southern wall and the bell tower, the latter joined to the nave through an enormous horseshoe arch. In terms of general structure, its single nave finishes in a rectangular apse, a cloister vault standing beneath its pyramid roof. Externally, we can find under the eaves the classic frieze of squat semi-columns and a few mullioned windows of three small horseshoe arches each. All four sides to the lower outer walls have two rosettes and some tiny horseshoe-arched windows. The village of Gavín was extremely helpful in the restoration of this temple, an initiative taken by “Amigos de Serrablo”. Among other religious ceremonies, this church is used for commemorating the day of its patron saint, Saint Bartolomé, every 24th August. In August 1997, a member of “Amigos de Serrablo”, Federico Díez, carried out an archaeological dig which resulted in the discovery of the exact location to the monastery of San Pelay de Gavín. Marked out and covered, the site will hopefully be studied and classified properly in the near future. By examining it now, however, you can make out two churches set side by side at different heights. The smallest, crypt-like building still has part of its semi-circular apse and three small outer arcatures. The two naves meet thanks to a domed corridor that finishes in a horseshoe-arched door, and a rectangular room is thought to have been the monastic dormitory. This new discovery will undoubtedly prove to be of great value once the excavation area is broadened. In the village of Yésero, the tower of the original church has stood the test of time, its slot window, with a stilted arch, similar to those existing in San Bartolomé. And, by the end of the nineteen-eighties, another primitive element was finally discovered: the old entrance door. Two hermitages located in the vicinity of Espierre are closely related to San Bartolomé and San Pelay: San Juan and Santa María. Small, with a rectangular layout and a horseshoe-arched entrance door, their differ mainly in their current state. The hermitage of San Juan, restored by the Workshop School of “Amigos de Serrablo”, is a good example of the most primitive church cluster in Serrablo. Meanwhile, Santa María de Espierre, although preserving its horseshoe-arched entrance door, is in an unfortunate dilapidated state.

The two churches of Sobrepuerto: Basarán and Otal

The two Mozarabic churches built at the highest point are located in Sobrepuerto, a depopulated region in the “comarca”. However, one of these churches, called either San Úrbez or San Miguel de Basarán (X), no longer stands in its original location. It was moved in the early nineteen-seventies to the ski resort of Formigal thanks to the sponsorship of the CAZAR banking society, nowadays known as Ibercaja. This monastery-like church, very similar to the one in Lasieso, consists of two attached buildings, three naves and two semi-circular apses with friezes of squat semi-columns, a central one with five arcatures and a lateral with no more than three. A third nave was annexed to the structure over the enlargement it underwent in the 16th century, along with the removal of its door and windows - which could have been related to the ones in Lárrede and Busa - off the original south façade. Against this part of the building leaned a square-shaped, pyramid-roofed tower that was completely remodelled, imitating the one in Lárrede, before its reconstruction in its new site, in Formigal. As for the main apse, it used to show some mural paintings of Gothic transitional style, but they faded away due to humidity and general deterioration. The other church, dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus, is located in Otal, a nearby village. Its semi-circular apse, resting on the single nave, shows in the outside a frieze of squat semi-columns and nine arcatures with three slot windows. The tower is believed to have been erected in the 12th century, its simple line of cantilevers running beneath a pyramidal roof. In terms of preservation, this church has severe problems in the sense that it stands in a depopulated, slightly inaccessible area. In 1982, when our association decided to restore it, all the workers had to walk up through a horse trail, use the materials they could find on the spot and stay in the abandoned village from Monday to Friday — food and lodging were given by the two last inhabitants of the village, the married couple of Presen and Conrado, from the “O Royo” house. The main problem about all these churches is the state of their roofing, as it requires checking once every few years. Currently, we are standing by to fix it before it suffers any further damage.

The southern churches

Slightly remote from the actual and most representative core of the Mozarabic cluster, three interesting churches stand downstream of the Gállego River and on its confluence with the Guarga tributary: Arto, Lasieso and Ordovés. Near the village of Hostal de Ipiés, there is another one called Arto. In the topmost area of the latter lie some remains belonging to a Mozarabic temple restored between the years 1984 and 1985 by our association. All that has been kept throughout these centuries are two arcatures, once part of its former apse – the rest, however, was built afterwards. By following the Gallego River’s course, we get to Lasieso. There, we can find a temple with two attached churches, one slightly bigger than the other, each with a nave and a semi-circular apse. A magnificent bell tower rests on the nave of its little church, covered by a cloister vault that shows in its topmost section a frieze of squat semi-columns. Meanwhile, windows of three and two small semi-circular arches open up on the walls to the various floors. Although the frieze of squat semi-columns reappears on the outside, the characteristic arcatures do not. The biggest church, of Romanesque style, was built to commemorate count Sancho Ramírez’s foundation of the monastery of San Pedro, between 1070 and 1080. Restored by “Amigos de Serrablo” between 1972 and 1974, it was not until a few years later that the works were concluded, with an additional rearrangement of its surroundings, thanks to the Ministry of Public Works and Urban Development (Directorate-General of Architecture). Last in the route, but not least, is the charming little church of San Martín de Ordovés, which marks the entrance to the Guarga valley. This temple is a real emblem to our association, as it was, in fact, the first church to be restored back in 1971, when hope reigned in “Amigos de Serrablo” but the means were, unfortunately, hopelessly scarce. Extremely sober as a church, it features the well-known semi-circular apse, although decorated only with the frieze of squat semi-columns and in a crude style altogether. The small tower was added to the construction in later times, and, on a funny note, the entrance door is on the northern side, which seems quite logical considering its position. On the inside, we can see a photographic reproduction of the Gothic paintings, now in the Diocesan Museum (“Museo Diocesano”) of Jaca thanks to sponsorship of the Council of Sabiñánigo and Ibercaja Banking Society.

A walk along the Gállego valley

The church of San Pedro de Lárrede has been previously pointed to as the flagship of the whole cluster, and it certainly is — but this does not mean that the surrounding temples lack of this astonishing beauty. A small rectangular-shaped church can be found in Orós Bajo. Its semi-circular apse, covered with an oven vault, shows on the outside seven arcatures. Halfway between Orós and Lárrede stands the stately church of San Martín de Oliván, whose nice location contributes to a breathtaking sight. The original church has a rectangular nave, its ultra-semi-circular apse covered with an oven vault and laden with seven arcatures on the outside, thus matching the quintessential church of Serrablo. In the 16th century, the temple had its southern side enlarged by means of a graceful arcade of semicircular arches. As for the bell tower, it is also typical of the cluster, with similar proportion and shape to Lárrede’s, but touched by the enlargements it has undergone. Our association restored it in the year 1977, with the extraordinarily helpful hand of the locals. In the vicinity of Oliván, up the trail leading to Sobrepuerto, lies Susín, a village located in an idyllic setting. Its church, named after “Santa Eulalia”, still has its original apse, five arcatures, the frieze of squat semi-columns and part of the northern and southern walls. Beside the apse, on the wall facing the south, there is a beautiful window with two small horseshoe arches enclosed within an arcade of semi-circular arches and an alfiz. Another striking piece of decoration is half a dozen ashlars attached to the outer apse. They are carved with geometrical motifs, and probably belong to a previous period. The temple was remodelled in the 18th century — the altar was lowered to ground level, a polychrome vault with lunettes was built and a tower was erected on top of the apse, which luckily did not affect the structural stability of the latter. In 1977 and 1991, “Amigos de Serrablo” restored some parts of this church, and so did the Council of Biescas and the Bishopric of Jaca in 2001, this time repairing the roof. The Diocesan Museum of Jaca houses a small fragment of a 11th-century fresco called “Los llorones de Susín” (The fretful men of Susín), thought to have been painted by a disciple of the celebrated master of Tahull, in the province of Lérida. In a meadow between Oliván and Lárrede, the silhouette of a unique hermitage stands out. It is San Juan de Busa’s. This small-sized temple has not undergone any restoration processes, so it still keeps its original structure. Rectangular-shaped, the wooden ceiling with which it is covered extends all over the semi-circular apse, probably because its oven vault fell down in an unknown time. On the inside, two pairs of columns of double shaft rise along the nave, as well as another pair with a single shaft, very similar to the ones in Lárrede. They seem to have been erected in order to hold up a supposed barrel vault, whose actual past existence remains today a mystery. The apse shares the features of all the other churches in the cluster and shows five arcatures. On the wall facing the West, a mullioned window with three small horseshoe arches appears — it is the official logotype for “Amigos de Serrablo”. Three more windows, these ones presenting a rounded arch, open up on the southern wall, where we can also find the entrance door under a horseshow archway, framed within an alfiz and with carved stone voussoirs. The hermitage does not have a bell tower, but this peculiarity does not undermine its charm. Restoration works led by our association took place in 1975, 1977 and 1989. The process had to be paralyzed when the walls were already consolidated because the owner of the lands where the temple stood demanded their purchase. So once a portion of the estate was bought, restoration was resumed and finished within two years. We would like to express at this point our gratefulness towards Sebastián Martín-Retortillo for his valuable help in this stance. In terms of functionality, the hermitage holds several religious celebrations, especially the commemoration of Saint John’s (San Juan) Midsummer’s day, attended to by the people from Oliván and Larrede — and formerly from Susín and Casbas, too. Beyond Lárrede, the village of Satué possesses another example of these architectural jewels. The church of San Andrés, which is located at the top of the village, was, like many other temples, severely damaged during the Spanish Civil War. All that remains from the original construction is a breathtaking semi-circular apse with seven outer arcatures, decorated with the ever-present frieze of squat semi-columns. Restored in the nineteen-fifties by priest Jesús Auricenea, the association had its remodelling share in 1993 and 2003. Walking on, past the village of Sardas, we get to Isún, a little village on the foothill of the mountains of Santa Orosia. Its church, known as Santa María, was another unfortunate victim of the Spanish Civil War. The attacks on the original structure during conflict have left nothing but an apse of similar features to Satué’s, although built in a cruder style. As regards the tower, it was erected in much later times. Fortunately, in 1983 most of the church was restored by “Amigos de Serrablo”. In Cartirana, the church of San Martín still has part of its original southern wall, as well as a horseshoe-arched door, similar to the one that was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War in the church of San Pedro de Biescas. (English translation by Lucía López Otal)