Blog / Searching for St. Nacho’s Church in Valladolid

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By Wendy Hower Livingston

The Duke of Lerma was never far from my mind in the town of Lerma — his mustachioed face stared from the walls of the tiny visitor center, bars and hotel lobbies. The duke’s final resting place is about two hours away in Valladolid, which was briefly the capital of Spain during the duke’s heyday. So there we drove, expecting to easily find out more about this controversial historical figure.

Not so. Valladolid is a gritty urban center that has grown up around a few 400- and 500-year-old buildings that sit quietly like giant moss-covered boulders on busy streets, in between modern apartment buildings and storefronts.

We found Iglesia de San Miguel y San Julian (after asking three different people for directions), an unlikely landmark on a side street. This church, circa 1579-91, is not in my guidebooks. No one answered our knocks on the ancient wooden doors. So we consoled ourselves by taking pictures of the church’s ochre-yellow facade.

Inside, we might have found a conspicuously empty spot where the polychrome wooden statue of Saint Ignatius Loyola normally stands (the Nasher Museum’s curatorial assistant, Carolina Cordova, tells me that “Nacho” is the common nickname for Ignacio). This gorgeous statue was made in about 1622 by Gregorio Fernández, known as the Michelangelo of Spanish sculpture. The statue is gone, having traveled overseas for our upcoming exhibition, “El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III,” which opens August 21 at the Nasher Museum. (The exhibition is on view now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.)

So the only way to see Saint Ignatius is at the exhibition! Even when the sculpture returns to Valladolid, Spain, the church is generally closed to visitors. It’s hard to believe the church allowed this cherished statue to leave, if just for a few months.

Update on our latest culinary adventure: plates of sardines for lunch.

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