basilica of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias. Granada

project report

The Basilica of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias is a temple with a Jesuit floorplan consisting of a central nave with four chapels on each side and a dome of the Tuscan order, completely painted with ornamental arabesques on a white background. The church was completed in 1671 under the direction of master Juan Luis Ortega.

The nave was originally lit with a diffused and homogenous light from windows at the base of the dome, and light that shines from the cupola directly onto the altarpiece. With the advent of electric light and its installation in the Basilica some eighty years ago, natural light lost its importance and some of the windows were closed off. The natural lighting inside the church was further reduced when a brick wall was built in front of the windows and covered, on the top, but a horizontal polycarbonate, which forced the light to pass through a winding anteroom before entering the main nave.

These interventions that ruined the natural lighting were accompanied by others of greater import: those that ruined the shadows. This disaster came when countless light bulbs began illuminating the church’s least relevant areas, breaking the spell and destroying the coherence of the natural light.

The restoration of the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias has thus been mostly a restoration of the light. It was necessary to unblock access to natural light, which was easy in some instances and quite complex in others; to deal with the reduction of reflected light due to the considerable darkening of walls and altarpieces, and to properly adapt the installations of artificial light. From a spatial perspective, other problems, such as the elimination of humidity in the walls, while undoubtedly necessary, are not comparable to the question of lighting. The natural light from the dome windows has been recovered, eliminating the screens that blocked them and replacing the stained glass with white glass like the original in order to properly illuminate the profusely colored decoration.

In this case, the challenge of the intervention was to recover the building’s original baroque lighting which, as in so many other cases, had been ruined by time and abandonment.

Periódico de arquitectura nº8-9, Granada 2005
R&R nº105, Valencia, noviembre 2007
Arquitectura ibérica Rehabilitaçao nº19, 2007