By Andrés García Ibáñez.
When he died in 1779, the construction work on the building of the Sanctuary of El Saliente in Albox, paid for entirely at his own expense thanks to his rich family patrimony, was practically finished, but the decorative programme for his church and episcopal quarters had not yet begun.
Claudio Sanz y Torres was probably the most energetic and enterprising bishop of all those who passed through the diocese of San Indalecio. In the two decades that his mandate lasted, some of the most outstanding Baroque monuments in the province were erected, with the intervention of such important architects as Ventura Rodríguez and Fray Pedro de San Agustín, to whom we owe the imposing churches of Vélez Rubio and Oria.
The most important and monumental work executed by Sanz y Torres was the Sanctuary of El Saliente, conceived as his own particular Escorial, replacing a small pre-existing chapel and enlarged to colossal proportions. Its programme included, in a Baroque style similar to that of the aforementioned churches, a refined and well-proportioned temple, a summer episcopal palace for the prelate and a seminary for missionaries with all its outbuildings. El Saliente, perhaps the most important monument in the province after the cathedral and citadel, was therefore left unfinished.
There must have been a project for a rich decorative programme that has not come down to us; the death of the bishop cut short the completion of the work and the diocese, one of the poorest in Spain at the time, was unable to continue with the enterprise. In the previous works for the adaptation and preparation of the domes and apses that I am now decorating with apocalyptic scenes according to a studied programme dictated by the current bishopric, we were able to verify that the original mortar of the vaulted surfaces is composed, in two layers, of plaster and lime mixed in equal parts.
This preparation, exactly the same as, for example, the domes of the Pilar in Zaragoza decorated by Goya and his brothers-in-law between 1780 and 1781, was normal at the time when the facing was to be finished with a fresco. This shows us that there was a decorative plan for these surfaces in the church of the Saliente which, unfortunately, we do not know today. Our challenge, which is undoubtedly an enormous one, is to complete Don Claudio’s great unfinished work and repair the anomaly of a completely undecorated view of a baroque church.