Seville Cathedral: Sacristía Mayor – Custodia de Arfe

Custodia de Arfe in the Sacristía Mayor of the Seville Cathedral in Andalusia, Spain

Custodia de Arfe – Front View

Custodia de Arfe – Front View
The magnificent silver sculpture, known as the Custodia de Arfe (Arfe’s Custodia), is on display at the Sacristía Mayor (Main Sacristy) of the Seville Cathedral. It bears the name of its builder, Juan de Arfe y Villafañe, a master sculptor born into a prominent family of goldsmiths/silversmiths. Note: Custodias are receptacles for holding the Blessed Sacrament.

With a height of over 12 ft and weight of over 1000 pounds, the Custodia de Arfe, which was made between 1580 and 1587, is massive and was intended for the processional use.

As you can see, the tower-shaped custodia has four circular floors, and crowning the top floor is a sculpture representing Faith. Influenced by the Greco-Roman architecture, each floor of the custodia appears like a miniaturized Greek/Roman building.

The floors are similar in design, but their size, including the height and diameter, decreases proportionally as the tower rises from the bottom to the top. In the center of the floor is the cella, and surrounding it are two concentric rings, each made of 12 Greek-style columns.The outer ring columns are on the edge of the floor. The proportionality applies to the size of the columns and the sculptures.

The custodia rests on a circular base made later by a different silversmith. Mounted on this base are 12 cups, each of which aligns with a column.

Floor – 1 (Bottom floor)
The circular part of each column rests on a square base. Engraved on this column are the grapevines that criss-cross to the top from their roots at the bottom. Figures of angels and birds eating grapes are in between the vines. Carved on the three sides of the square base are bas-reliefs depicting scenes from Old and New Testaments.

Standing in the center of the cella is a beautifully carved silver sculpture depicting the Immaculate Conception made by Juan de Segura in 1668. It replaced the figure of Faith that was part of the custodia when Jaun de Arfe built it. Flanking the Immaculate Conception are the statues of Peter and Paul.

Floor – 2.
The columns of this floor are of the Corinthian order. Placed in the cella is the holder that hosts the Blessed Sacrament during the procession.

Floor – 3.
The columns of this floor are of the Ionic order. The cella holds the statue of the Mystic Lamb opening the Book of Seven Seals, an apocalyptic scene envisioned by John of Patmos and narrated in the Book of Revelation authored by him.

Floor – 4.
The columns of this floor are of the Corinthian order. The cella houses the sculpture depicting the Holy Trinity, i.e., the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Related Pages
Seville Cathedral: An awe-inspiring architectural marvel
Sala Capitular – The Chapter House of the Seville Cathedral
Sacristía Mayor – The Main Sacristy of the Seville Cathedral
La Giralda: A harmonious blend of Moorish and Renaissance architectural styles

Copyright © 2020 by Lawrence Rodrigues. All rights reserved.

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