RIBAGORZA, Workshop of

Chronological framework

Second half of the 13th century

Geographical Framework

Ribagorza (Catalan and Aragon municipalities)


Tempera painting, gesso, tinfoil and glaze

Profile and historiographical debate

Three denominations such as workshop of the Ribagorza, Roda de Isábena or School of Lleida, have been used to refer to a group of sacred works of art. Most of them are altar frontals, which come from different churches in the area of Ribagorza (nowadays divided between the Catalan and Aragonese administrations). During the second half of the 13th century, those churches were under the Episcopal jurisdiction of the Seu d’Urgell and the Cathedral of Lleida.

In addition to using the same technique (gesso covered with glazed tinfoil), those works show common characteristics as the presence of the same ornamental elements, similar iconographical motifs and obvious formal relations. Stylistically we should include this group in the Late Romanesque milieu, with some Byzantine treats and others that announce the arrival of the Lineal Gothic.

There is no consensus about the catalogue of the works that we should attribute to this workshop and neither about his denomination, varying in relation to the reference to the place of execution or to the area where they come from. With the present knowledge, the denomination based on the origin area, Ribagorza, could probably suit better. Anyway it is more accurate to refer it as workshop (conducted by a master and developed in a physical specific place) rather than as a school (that assumes the activity with common treats can take place too later and in remote places). The uniformity of the works and its similar geographical origin could allow us to assume the hypothetical presence of a workshop settled down in the area, maybe near the Roda de Isábena ex-cathedral, Episcopal settlement until the conquest of Lleida in 1149.

The most representative artwork of this workshop, the altar frontal of Gia, has a legend in the lower bevel edge, referring to a master called Iohannes: “IOħS PINTOR ME FECIT”. We should point out the presence of the formula pintor, already Romanesque, instead of the Latin pictor. Recent studies (PAGES, 2011) pointed out the possibility of a similar inscription in the altar frontal of Cardet. 

The historiographical argue is based, specially, around the chronology of the production of this group, generally placed in the second half of the 13th century (for example COOK-GUDIOL 1980) and extended sometimes until the beginning of the 14th century (as COOK 1929). The catalogue of works of art probably made by the workshop become also a topic to debate. The first proposals, which made Gudiol 1928 or Cook 1929, have been carried on by others, adding sometimes different works. Different contributions about the site of the execution centre have been done as well, even most of them have chosen Roda de Isábena (that had served as a cathedral until the conquest of Lleida) or Lleida (that during the xii century became seat of the bishopric in spite of Roda) (GUDIOL 1931-1933, AINAUD 1965 or CARBONELL et al. 1997). Referring to the formal analysis, one of the last contributions (MELERO 2005) related the altar frontals with the mural paintings of the Last Supper (MEV) from the Saint Catherine chapel in the Cathedral of La Seu d’Urgell. 


Without referring the sporadic related works, as clear works of the workshop we could remark:

  • Altar frontal from Gia (MNAC)
  • Altar frontal from Boí (MNAC)
  • Altar frontal from Rigatell  (MNAC)
  • Altar frontal from Cardet (MNAC)
  • Altar frontal froma Cardet (MNAC)
  • Altar frontal froma Tresserra (Museu de Lleida Diocesà i Comarcal)
  • Two altar frontals coming from Taüll (MNAC and MEV)
  • A cross from unknown origin (MNAC).


In the higher part of the frame of the altar frontal of Gia, there are two erased shields that they could hold some heraldic representation with some clues about the possible patrons.

Epigraphic Sources

“IOħS PINTOR ME FECIT” (Painter John made me)

Text: Marta Bertran


GGUDIOL I CUNILL 1928: 7; 1929: 246-267, 1931-1933: 307-308; COOK 1929: 9-32; POST 1930-1966: I 268-275 and II 30-34; FOLCH I TORRES 1932: 138-139; AINAUD 1965: 8-9 Y 1989: 107-113; AZCÁRATE 1974: 79-85; BORRÁS-GARCÍA 1978: 349-354; COOK-GUDIOL 1980: VI 157-160 y 161-169; DALMASES-JOSÉ I PITARCH 1985: 2 208-209; AA.DD, Catalunya Romànica 1984-1988, I, XVI y XXII (different entries); CARBONELL et al., 1997: 162-163; MELERO 2005: 40-42; BERTRAN 2008: 183-196; PAGES 2011: 203-211.