English Français

The Episcopal See of Egara and its pictorial decoration (5th-8th centuries)

Date of Submission: 01/02/2019
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture and Sports of Spain
State, Province or Region:
Terrassa, Barcelona
Coordinates: N41 33 40 E2 0 29
Ref.: 6378
Export
Word File Word File
Disclaimer

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

The purpose of Terrassa’s candidature to the UNESCO World Heritage List is the monumental set of The Episcopal See of Egara and its pictorial decoration, which is integrated into the architectural framework of an Episcopal see of Visigothic times.

The episcopal see of Egara is an architectural and pictorial complex unique in Europe that has a long trajectory in history. The Bishopric of Egara (founded around 450 AD) represented the period of greatest splendour in an area where an episcopal ensemble of exceptional artistic importance was developed. The outlasting of architectural and pictorial elements of this period (5th-8th centuries), which is manifested in the architecture of the episcopal churches of Santa Maria (St Mary), Sant Miquel (St Michael) and Sant Pere (St Peter), and especially in their pictorial decoration, make this set a unique and exceptional example within the framework of the European heritage.

The episcopal designation of the site privileged the beginning of a great building project that will take the set of Egara to reach its maximum splendour up to the seventh century. In accordance with these premises, a layout was conceived of three terraces ascending from south to north, on which the episcopal buildings were constructed. On the lower terrace, coinciding with the bishop’s residential area, a remodelling of the existing structures was begun. On the second terrace, on a higher level than the previous one, the first Christian basilica of Santa Maria was transformed into a cathedral, first with a single nave and then in an episcopal cathedral with three naves (5th century), which originally had a tripartite chancel with three apses. The original tripartite chancel of the cathedral was transformed, when the project had not yet finished, into a chancel with a single apse, square ground plan on the outside and semi-circular inside. In the 6th century this apse was decorated with the pictorial cycle that has survived to this day.

At the foot of the Cathedral of Santa Maria the baptistery was built, while the space of the episcopal residence remained in the south, around the Peristyle and the Impluvium with the large central pool of the Roman Domus, next to the chapel of Saints “Justo” and “Pastor” and other dependencies of the Bishopric Curia.

On the same terrace, to the north of the cathedral, an ecclesiastical building of  funerary nature was built (the present-day church of Sant Miquel).  Finally, on the upper terrace, the parish church of Sant Pere was raised; this had three naves, a transept and a trefoiled-plan apse. To the south of this new parish building would have been the area of the necropolis and the centralised courtyard from which the three main accesses to the churches would have led.

The episcopal see of Egara is an exceptional example of the reading of a liturgical space decorated with Christian monumental painting from the 6th century, of which few examples are preserved in the world due to the massive destruction of frescoes within the context of the Byzantine Iconoclasm that took place  between the 8th and 9th centuries. In Italy, the preserved testimonies of wall paintings from the 5th to 6th centuries are fragmentary and scarce. Syria, Palestine and Asia Minor were deprived of their ancient Christian frescoes, and Constantinople or Ephesus, unfortunately, are no exception to this general rule. The prohibitions of the Byzantine Iconoclasm concerning the paintings of the churches explain the poverty of the pictorial decoration in the Eastern Mediterranean during a long period, for which the paintings of Terrassa are a missing link to know the themes and the iconographic cycles of the painting of the same period in the Byzantine Empire.

The iconography of Sant Miquel is a representation of the Ascension of Christ in majesty in the mandorla sustained by four angels, with the contemplative presence of the twelve apostles. However, it is an iconography that combines two themes: the disciples listening to the master and the Ascension of the Christ. It is a very special iconographic representation that has very few references in Eastern Christian art. On the other hand, the presence of the inscription “Em (m) anuel” (which means Christ among us) in the nimbus of the Christ of the paintings of Sant Miquel, turns these paintings into a documentary source of the conflicts between Catholics and Arians that took place in the Iberian Peninsula in the 6th century.

The paintings of Santa Maria highlight the human nature of Christ, through the representation of several scenes of his passion and public life. We cannot forget that the second register hosts the representation of the Virgin enthroned with the Child, the so-called “Virgin theotokos”. The choice of this theme is not casual either. The title of “theotokos” was granted to the Virgin at the Council of Ephesus (431) with a very clear objective: to proclaim that Jesus was completely God and human, and that his two natures (divine and human) were united and inseparable.

The mural altarpiece of the church of Sant Pere is undoubtedly one of the most unique elements of the set, especially for its design as a free-standing altarpiece of the apsidal wall, absolutely unusual and without comparable examples in all medieval art.

The episcopal see of Egara is, in short, a key monument to understanding the transference of cultures that took place between the 5th-6th centuries: the population of Hispano-Roman culture, the Visigothic people, and the Byzantine Empire. The set of Terrassa is an exceptional example since it shows a fusion of Byzantine architectural and pictorial elements with other Latin ones in the period of Visigothic domination. A unique evidence on the transference between cultures that can clarify or complement the knowledge about an art and culture of a time of transition between the Roman Empire and Middle Ages.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The architectural ensemble of Egara and the mural paintings of the chancels of Santa Maria, Sant Miquel and Sant Pere present a series of elements referring to their conservation and iconography that makes them absolutely exceptional in the history of Western Christian art of the beginnings of Middle Ages, between the 6th and 8th centuries.

The archaeological works carried out in the complex have uncovered architectural vestiges that are currently a key element to understanding the functionality of the spaces and the liturgical uses of the architecture of the Visigothic age: spaces dedicated to the cult, episcopal residential area, necropolis and circulation of the believers. The practically complete layout of the set allows us to understand for ourselves the functioning of an episcopal see of Visigothic times. A large part of this layout also retains its entire elevation (apses of the three churches), something that has allowed the survival of the mural paintings of the apses of Santa Maria, Sant Miquel and the mural altarpiece of Sant Pere, examples of the first Western Christianity.

Although some constructions from the Visigothic period survive in the Iberian Peninsula, in most cases they are hermitages or rural temples of reduced dimensions, which never reached the category of episcopal sees or the monumentality of Terrassa. The great Visigoth cities such as Toledo, Mérida and Tarragona lost the constructions of the 6th century, so the architecture of the episcopal see of Egara is a key piece to knowing what would be the architectural aspect of the great Visigoth power centres.

In the field of architecture, the universality of the episcopal see of Egara is also based on the role played by the ensemble as a receiver of Byzantine architecture models. In this sense, the complex built from the episcopal appointment around the year 450 can be considered as one of the first signs of the arrival in the Iberian Peninsula of architectural solutions applied in the eastern part of the Byzantine Empire. Thus, the overlapping of the cymatium, the domed roofs and the use of the centralized floor plan of Sant Miquel refer us to the model of the Byzantine martyria; in the same way, the trefoiled-plan apse of the church of Sant Pere responds to Byzantine traditions that we find in North Africa churches like the White Monastery and the Red Monastery (Souhag), both located in Egypt and dated in the 5th century, or in Saint John the Baptist of Jerusalem. The Byzantines arrived in the Peninsula in the year 552 and stayed for more than 75 years, so it is normal that there were contacts and influences with the Visigothic people. Consequently, the architectural ensemble of Egara is an exceptional example, since it shows a fusion of Byzantine elements with other Latin ones in the period of Visigothic domination.

As regards to the painting, Terrassa is the only preserved episcopal ensemble in the world that preserves mural painting between the European episcopal sees of the ancient West (Valencia, Barcelona, Mérida, Aosta, Grenoble, Geneva, Porec). In these groups architectural remains have survived, but no mural painting of the age is preserved due to further transformations, especially in the early Middle Ages, with the construction of the great Gothic cathedrals. This fact confers a great exceptionality to Terrassa as an example of the Christian painting of the sixth century in the first Christian episcopal sees.

Terrassa is also an extraordinary and universal example of the Christian iconographic repertoires that circulated in the Mediterranean between the 6th – 8th centuries. The paintings present a clear iconographic link with Byzantine painting from the time of Justinian (sixth century). This fact turns the whole into an essential document to know the artistic manifestations of the Christian culture of the 6th century in the Eastern Mediterranean, since after the iconoclastic crisis of the year 726 in Byzantium practically nothing survived due to the massive destruction of images and icons. As for the contacts with Byzantium, the paintings of Sant Miquel present diverse elements with oriental filiation. Thus, the representation of the Sun and the Moon refer us to Coptic and Syrian models such as the Rabula Gospels; the curtains with segmenta as a revelation of a mystery evoke the Byzantine models that arrive at the mosaic of San Vitale in Ravenna (Italy). To all these iconographic elements we must add the singularity of the appearance of the inscription “Em (m) anuel” inside the cruciferous nimbus of Christ, which means “Christ among us”. This inscription refers to the human (son of Mary) and divine (son of God) ascription of Jesus, something that singularizes the character and reinforces the supernatural and hidden role of his divine nature.

Finally, the mural altarpiece of Sant Pere is, by itself, a unique example in the history of Western Christian art of this age, which makes it particularly exceptional. Undoubtedly, its most intrinsic value lies in the constructive characteristic itself, and its functionality as a mural altarpiece in the apse of the parish church. It is an original and unprecedented constructive solution as a “facade-screen”, without any work comparable to a chronological and functional level, neither in the West nor in the medieval East.

Criterion (ii): The episcopal See of Egara and its pictorial decoration are a key element to understanding the context of cultural transfer that took place between Byzantium and the West during the 5th-8th centuries.

At this time, the Mediterranean coast of Hispania had a Hispano-Roman presence combined with the Visigoths (established in the Visigoth Kingdom of Toledo), and the Byzantines (very well established in the south of the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands since 552). In this context, there were numerous contacts and influences with North Africa, southern Gaul, the Italian peninsula, and the Mediterranean East (Palestine and Coptic Egypt).

The latest studies confer a great uniqueness to the episcopal see of Egara as a key monument to understanding this encounter of cultures that took place from the 6th century: the population of Hispano-Roman culture, the Visigothic people and the Byzantine Empire. It should be remembered that after the battle of Vouillé (507), the Visigoths settled in Hispania, forming a minority against the Hispano-Roman population. In this referential context, the Visigoths, who professed the Arian cult (which denied the divine nature of Christ), had to deal with the Catholicism of the peoples they dominated. After years of conflicts, under the rule of the Visigothic king Teudis (531-548), Arian and Hispanic Visigoths of Christian-Roman heritage coexisted for the first time in a peaceful manner. Finally, with its adoption by King Recaredo in the Council of Toledo (589), Catholicism became the only religion of the state. The episcopal see of Egara did not stay out of this theological conflict. In this sense, the iconographic program of the paintings of Santa Maria and Sant Miquel most likely responds to the Catholic will of affirmation before the Arian heresy that denied the double nature of Christ.

In any case, the monumental complex of Terrassa is a paradigmatic example of the contact between two cultures – Hispano-Christian and the Visigothic people –, to which we must add the encounter with the Byzantines (present in the south-east coast of the Iberian peninsula starting from 552). In this sense, architectural innovations such as the enhancement of the dome of Sant Miquel (which refers us directly to models of Byzantine architecture), together with the artistic loans that the paintings present with the Byzantine East and North Africa (mosaic of the Rotunda of St. George of Thessaloniki, paintings of the monastery of Apollo of El-Bawit), allow us to catalog the ensemble of Egara as a unique and exceptional testimony of the culture of exchange that took place in this period.

On the other hand, we cannot forget that the ensemble of Terrassa was built in the period of domination of the Visigothic people, one of the most Romanized barbarian peoples, who adopted Roman models to their customs, often through Byzantium. Proof of this is an example of the Visigoth king Recaredo, who was granted the title of Flavius, favouring the access of Byzantine fashion in the Visigothic court.

In short, the architecture of the episcopal See and its paintings are the most palpable evidences of this legacy of contacts that took place in the 6th century in the Mediterranean framework. A singular example of a particular culture, the Christian culture of the 6th century, from which unfortunately only a series of Bibles produced in the East (Constantinople, Syria, Palestine) have survived, as well as partial decorative sets in Egypt (Chapel of Apollo El-Bawit, necropolis of Al-Baqawat).

Criterion (iii): The episcopal see of Egara and its pictorial decoration are a unique testimony of the encounter of two cultural traditions: the Hispano-Visigothic one and the Byzantine one.

On the one hand, from the first studies carried out by the architect and historian Josep Puig i Cadafalch there is a certain unanimity on the part of historiography in identifying in the architecture of the see of Egara and its pictorial decoration the trace of a primitive repertoire of Christian art very linked to the context of the Eastern Mediterranean of the sixth century.

In fact, certain iconographic particularities of the paintings (the Sant Miquel curtains, the Santa Maria zenith motif and the peacock feathers that it contains, the theme of the Ascension of Christ with the disciples listening to the master depicted in Sant Miquel paintings) refer us to the painting before the Byzantine iconoclasm, which took place between the 8th and 9th centuries, and which involved the destruction of many Christian images in the Eastern Mediterranean. Taking into account the links with the Byzantine repertoires that the paintings of the see show, Terrassa constitutes a fundamental document to knowing the artistic manifestations of the Christian culture of the 6th century. Since after the iconoclastic crisis of 726 in the East practically nothing survived due to the massive destruction of images. Very likely, in the future the paintings will be a key piece to interpret the artistic manifestations of the same period in the Byzantine Empire.

On the other hand, despite the undeniable influence of the art of the Byzantine civilization, palpable in some elements of the architecture and the pictorial decoration of the see of Egara, we cannot forget that the episcopal group was made during the Visigothic period in the Iberian Peninsula. Visigothic art, such as that of the Merovingeians in France and the Longobards in Italy, is a synthesis of Roman tradition and indigenous provincial art, to which we must add the Germanic contributions (such as the taste for abstraction) and the Byzantine influences.

Although it is true that there are notable examples of Visigothic architecture in the Iberian peninsula (San Pedro de la Nave, San Juan de Baños, Santa María de Quintanilla de las Viñas), it is important to emphasize that there is no surviving mural painting of this period integrated into a monumental episcopal complex. For this reason, Terrassa is also a unique and exceptional manifestation of the art of the Hispanic-Visigothic people.

Criterion (iv): There are five reasons that make the see of Egara and its pictorial decoration an exceptional artistic and architectural ensemble.

In the first place, it is the only ensemble among the ancient Episcopal sees (5th – 8th centuries) preserved in the West Mediterranean that maintains vestiges of its pictorial decoration. Valencia, Barcelona, Mérida, Aosta (Italy), Geneva (Switzerland), Porec (Croatia) and Grenoble (France) preserved important architectonic remains but not mural painting, thus conferring a great exceptionality to Terrassa as an example of the Christian painting of the 6th century in the first episcopal sees.

In second place, the pictorial decoration of the apses of the churches of Santa Maria and San Miguel are a documentary witness of the Christian painting of the 6th – 8th centuries, of which we know few examples due to the massive destruction of frescoes in the East in the context of the Byzantine iconoclasm. The prohibitions of the Iconoclastic crisis concerning the use of images explain the poverty of the pictorial decoration in the Mediterranean East for a long period of time, reason why the paintings of Terrassa are a missing link to knowing and interpreting the themes and the iconographic cycles of the painting of the same period made in the Byzantine Empire.

In Italy, the preserved examples of wall paintings from the fifth to sixth centuries are fragmentary and scarce. Syria, Palestine and Asia Minor were deprived of their ancient Christian frescoes, and Constantinople or Ephesus, unfortunately, are no exception to this general rule. The compositional referents of the decoration of the apses of Santa Maria and Sant Miquel are difficult to define since practically no wall paintings of the same chronology are preserved in contemporary western Christian art, something that gives Terrassa a greater notoriety. In fact, the few episcopal groups of the 5th – 7th  centuries that have been put in relation with Terrassa, such as Ravenna (Italy) and the Euphrasian Basilica of Porec (Croatia), show mural decoration based on mosaics, but not painting.

The link that Terrassa set has with the Byzantine civilization is also evident in the field of architecture, since the complex built from the episcopal appointment around the year 450 can be considered as one of the first signs of the arrival to the Iberian peninsula of architectural solutions applied in the Eastern part of the Byzantine Empire. Consequently, the architectural ensemble of Egara is an exceptional example, in that it shows a fusion of Byzantine elements with other Latin ones in the period of Visigothic domination.

In third place, although there are many constructions and artistic manifestations that subsist from the Visigothic period, in most cases they are rural hermitages or temples of reduced dimensions and they in no case reach the monumentality of Terrassa. The great Visigothic cities such as Toledo, Mérida and Tarragona lost the constructions of the 6th century, so the architecture of the episcopal see of Egara and its pictorial decoration are key pieces to know what would be the possible architectural aspect of the great centers of Visigoth power.

In fourth place, the mural altarpiece of the church of Sant Pere is undoubtedly one of the most unique elements of the set, especially for its design as a free-standing altarpiece, totally unusual and without comparable examples in all medieval art in Catalonia, Europe and the world. A unicum in the context of universal Christian art.

Finally, the episcopal see of Egara is one of the few preserved ensembles in the world that allows us to understand and explain the use and evolution of architecture and the arts from antiquity to the present day, given the survival in the same space of vestiges and artistic elements from the Iberian period to the Gothic centuries. We must remember that after the occupation of the site in the Iberian period (village of Egosa) and the later romanisation of the area (municipium flavium Egara), the isthmus of Sant Pere was the creation space of an important Christian complex that become Episcopal see. Although the Muslim invasions in the Iberian Peninsula marked the end of the period of greatest splendor of the former bishopric of Egara, the group experienced an artistic resurgence in the twelfth century, which resulted in the construction of the Romanesque naves of Santa Maria and Sant Pere, added to the apses of the previous episcopal buildings of the 6th century. The survival of the apses of Sant Pere and Santa Maria (with their pictorial decoration) attached to the current Romanesque buildings is one of the keys to understanding the transformations and changes of uses of Christian architecture.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

After the restoration work carried out during the execution of Sant Pere Master Plan the episcopal see of Egara and its pictorial decoration is in its maximum integrity and shows its artistic and cultural values more than ever. They form a unitary whole technically, stylistically and iconographically by their differences and complementarities. Its current state of conservation allows, in all three cases, to identify the fundamental features of its figurative iconography of Christian themes.

The first indications of constructions and episcopal elements of the 5th – 8th centuries were found during the archaeological interventions directed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch in the first half of the 20th century and the subsequent interventions by Serra Ràfols during the mid-century. Until then, the set had been hidden under different architectural and functional renovations. The actions carried out within the framework of the Sant Pere Master Plan, carried out at the end of the 20th century, have allowed the finding of new elements of the episcopal group and have been a key element to carrying out a rereading of the elements found in the first interventions.

After the restoration works developed during the execution of the Master Plan, we can affirm that the see of Egara and its pictorial decoration are conserved in their maximum integrity, and fully show their artistic and cultural values. They form a unitary whole technically, stylistically and iconographically by their differences and complementarities. In the case of the paintings, their current state of conservation allows us to identify the fundamental features of their figurative iconography of Christian themes.

In this sense, the study with various photographic and analytical systems has allowed the identification of the original elements of the pictorial cycles. The subsequent cleaning, consolidation of the pictorial layer and the elimination of the added mortars and some repaints have given the paintings the most complete integrity since their rediscovery at the end of the 19th century. One of the most spectacular novelties of the restoration work of the paintings of Sant Miquel (made in the years 2001 – 2002) has been the recovery of several tituli picti or inscriptions, which have facilitated the reading of the names of the figures represented and the definitive identification of the iconographic group with an apostolate, the oldest painted in the Iberian Peninsula.

On the other hand, the mural altarpiece of Sant Pere was protected, first by the Gothic Major altarpiece by Lluís Borrassà, and later by various baroque and neoclassical altarpieces, a fact that allowed its safeguarding and conservation.

In the same way, the paintings of the church of Sant Miquel were protected by the Gothic altarpiece by Jaume Cirera and Guillem Talarn until the end of the 19th century.

Finally, the paintings of Santa Maria had a magnificent layer of protection from the fourteenth century until 1937 when the Gothic mural paintings that covered them were torn out. In the course of the year 1937 Ramón Gudiol carried out the detachment of the Gothic paintings, an action that allowed the discovery of the underlying mural decoration, corresponding to the episcopal period.

The scientific community and the specialized agencies in the study and safeguarding of the Heritage have issued in various discussion forums their opinion on the authenticity of the architectural and pictorial complex of Terrassa, according to the Nara document on authenticity (1994) in which it is stated:

Depending on the nature of the monument or place, its cultural context and its evolution over time, the judgement on authenticity is linked to a variety of sources of information. These include conception and form, materials and substance, use and function, tradition and techniques, situation and location, spirit and impression, original state and historical evolution. These sources are either internal / implicit in the work or are external / explicit. The use of these sources offers the possibility of describing the cultural heritage in the specific dimensions on the artistic, technical, historical and social plans.

The declaration of authenticity of the episcopal see of Egara and its pictorial decoration is based on four verdicts defended by the scientific community.

Archaeological expert opinion

The archaeological excavations in the episcopal see of Egara carried out within the framework of Sant Pere Master Plan (1998 – 2010) have allowed to fix the definitive chronological sequence of the episcopal group. Having overcome the old historiographical debates on the periodization of the set, the historiography is unanimous in locating the beginning of the construction of the architectural complex at the moment of the episcopal designation (around 450 AD).

This monumental complex was started by Bishop Irineus (450-465) and completed by Nebridius (516-540). When the project of the episcopal cathedral had not yet been completed, the original tripartite chancel of Santa Maria was transformed into a chancel with a single apse, square ground plan on the outside and semi-circular inside, which the team of archaeologists situates in the 6th century. The construction of this last apse coincides with the completion of the execution of the cathedral project, and by extension, with the construction of the current church of Sant Miquel. Therefore, according to the opinion of archaeologists, the construction of the current square apse of Santa Maria, its pictorial  decoration, as well as the building and the mural paintings of Sant Miquel took place in the 6th century. In a later stage, the mural altarpiece of the parish church of Sant Pere was created.

The apses of Santa Maria and Sant Miquel present an original pictorial decoration recently restored. The cleaning and consolidation interventions carried out in the paintings have allowed us to know the totality of the conserved composition, since unknown aspects have been exposed up to now. In this sense, the data provided by the archaeological excavation, allow to refine the chronology of the paintings and place it at the time of construction of the buildings, around the beginning of the sixth century. The expert opinion of archaeologists, restorers and historians of art is quite conclusive and currently the hypothesis of high dating for paintings (sixth century) is the most accepted by historiography.

In this sense, the archaeological studies carried out in the framework of the Master Plan  have allowed to determine that the painting were done on a whitewashed applied on a support of fine sand and lime that was applied directly on the same finish of the work of the apse. The preparatory layer was extended directly over the finish of the wall and the vault, and the surface was regularized with a lime mortar with sand. Then a second layer of lime was applied with a brush in which the pictorial layer was executed. The characteristics of both paintings (Santa Maria and Sant Miquel) seem to corroborate this contemporaneity.

On the other hand, during the excavation work, traces of splashes of reddish paint were located at a point of separation of the apse, on the west side and under the original level of paving. The paint remains were very similar to the pictorial range of the apse of Santa Maria, a fact that leads us to think that it is the splashes of cleaning the brushes, a fact that reinforces the hypothesis that the paintings would have been made before paving the building.

Expert opinion of the paintings’ restoration – preservation teams

The performances and analytics of the various teams that have worked together (TRACER, ARCOR), have allowed to know the pictorial technique, while they have provided new data on the pigments used, in some exceptional cases, such as the mural altarpiece of Sant Pere, where the presence of the Egyptian blue pigment was documented.

In relation to this, the report of the restoration of the year 2004 is quite explicit and highlights the chronological parallelism between the architectural construction and the pictorial decoration: two types of mortars very similar among them have been detected: the one of the joints and the one of intonaco. The compositional uniformity of the materials confirms that the different layers belong to the same age and are contemporary with the construction of the dome. This fact is one of the main arguments that corroborates the contemporaneity between the architecture and the pictorial decoration (6th century).

Expert opinion of epigraphists and philologists

Within the framework of the preservation works of the church of Sant Miquel, and in the years 2001-2002, some inscriptions of a didactic nature appeared, which the team formed by Diana Gorostidi (Rovira i Virgili University, ICAC) and Jordi López (ICAC) determined as proper forms of Early Christian epigraphy of the Visigothic period, and therefore confirms the chronology of the sixth century.

Therefore, the paintings of the works of Santa Maria and Sant Miquel and the mural altarpiece of  Sant Pere are directly related and executed at the moment of the construction of their architectural support, something that gives them an unquestionable authenticity.

 Expert opinion of art historians

The most recent studies on the architectural complex and its paintings corroborate the high dating that archaeologists and restorers have proposed for it. In this sense, the iconographic and compositional analysis of the paintings has allowed to establish analogies with some Christian groups of the Eastern Mediterranean area of the 5th – 8th centuries, where we find the use of the same decorative repertoires, although in other supports such as the miniature and the mosaic.

Some ornamental elements preserved in the windows and in the zenith space of the apse of Santa Maria (stars, rosettes, peacock feathers, laurel wreath) maintain a direct link with Byzantine mosaics from the 6th – 8th centuries, such as the Vienna Dioscorides (folio 6v, sixth century) and some illuminated books like the Ashburnham Pentateuch.

In the same way, the iconographic and compositional theme of Sant Miquel presents links with the mural paintings of the monastery of San Apolo de Bawit and Qubbet el – Hawa, in Egypt, of similar chronology. Also in miniature, the Syrian Codex Rabulensis of the sixth century. On the other hand, the trees that appear between each one of the apostles of the paintings of Sant Miquel appear in the mosaics that decorate the main apse of the basilica of San Apolinar Nuovo of Ravenna (6th century), and also among the apostles of the Baptistery of the Arrians in the same Italian city.

Comparison with other similar properties

With regard to the comparison with other assets that are part of the current UNESCO List or that are likely to become part of it, the current UNESCO List presents a major gap in the field of Christian painting of the sixth century. The only example inscribed on the World List, the early Christian necropolis of Pécs, in Hungary, presents a chronology prior to the paintings of Terrassa (4th century) and the vestiges are limited to few pictorial fragments. In no case is it a monumental ensemble such as the one that decorates the apses of the churches of Santa Maria, Sant Pere and Sant Miquel.

The same is true of other archaeological sites that are part of the World Heritage List, such as the episcopal ensemble of the Euphrasian Basilica (ref.809), the early Paleo-Christian monuments of Ravenna (ref.788) and the patriarchal archaeological site and basilica of Aquileia (ref. 825). They are manifestations of the first Christian architecture but none of these monuments preserve mural paintings, a fact that confers a great uniqueness to Terrassa. In fact, the only contemporary parallels in the field of painting can to be found in the Mediterranean East (Saint Apollonius of El-Bawit, Necropolis of Al-Bagawat, Egypt). However, these pictorial cycles do not show the pictorial monumentality of Terrassa and are isolated, since they have not preserved their architectural framework and are currently exposed to the public in museums such as Cairo. In the same way, none of these groups became episcopal see, as in the case of Terrassa.

However, the universality of the episcopal see of Egara is that it would fill a very important gap in the current list of World Heritage, in which, surprisingly, there is no monument of a historical period of great wealth and identity in the history of the Iberian Peninsula: the Visigothic age. Although the World Heritage List contains examples of the artistic manifestations of other peoples of northern Europe (Power Centers of the Longobards in Italy, 568-774 AD, ref 1318), these practically do not preserve pictorial vestiges, and if they do, they present a later dating, of the 8th century.

The episcopal see of Egara and its pictorial decoration constitute an exceptional testimony of the contacts between Byzantium and the Mediterranean West in the 6th century. There is no declared monument that conserves monumental painting from this period, and much less integrated into a monumental architectural ensemble that used to be an episcopal see.

Lastly, the mural altarpiece of Sant Pere is one of the most exceptional works preserved in Europe, especially for its design as free-standing altarpiece of the apsidal wall, absolutely unusual and without comparable examples in all medieval art.