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Jesús Pobre

Església i convent de Jesús Pobre

The origin of this church and convent, as well as the name of the town of Jesús Pobre, dates back to when Father Pere (known locally as Pare Pere) found the image of The Dead Christ, which he took to the hermitage of El Montgó, where he had established himself with a first mass in 1649. There, he received divine inspiration to found a hermitage and a hospice, a task which he carried out in the old town of Benissadeví, where he went with his Christ, whom he called Jesús Pobre.

The church of Jesús Pobre was built between 1660 and 1668, and the hospice was converted into a convent for Franciscan friars. It is worth mentioning that Father Pere himself went to the royal court in Madrid, while Felipe IV was king, and managed to obtain royal patronage for the foundation from Queen Isabel de Borbón, as well as from her daughter Maria Teresa of Austria and other noblewomen of the court.

The church is a rural Baroque construction following the model of Jesuit churches that emerged in the 16th century. What this means is that it is a rectangular building with a wider central nave and wider transept, chapels between the buttresses and at the end a chancel, which now serves as the main altar and was built during the 1680s and 1690s.

It is worth pausing for a moment at the main entrance to the church, as it is a unique example of a Baroque portal directly taken from 16th-century architectural treatises. It is common in religious buildings in small towns that, even if the building is made of humble materials, the portals have a more noble character and are constructed in stone with a richer and more decorated design. It is important to not forget that, symbolically speaking, the portal is the entrance to the temple and, therefore, the access to God's house.

The portal consists of a linteled archway, that is, a rectangular door with inclined voussoirs on the lintel. On the sides, there are two Doric-style pilasters, the shafts of which are decorated with chains, meaning that some stones protrude over others. At the top, it is crowned with a triangular pediment cut at the base and slightly tilted inward in the centre. In the middle, it houses a ceramic panel with the image of Pare Pere praying on his knees which has a rather theatrical aspect through the use of gathered green draperies.

These kinds of portals were made like this because in the 16th century the study and dissemination of classical architecture became fashionable, and architectural treatises were created that included numerous engravings with design proposals for both plans and elevations. The most widely spread treatise in the Iberian Peninsula was Tercer y Cuarto Libro de Arquitectura (Third and Fourth Books of Architecture) by Sebastián Serlio, which was translated into Spanish in 1552. Although it had a great influence on Renaissance architecture, during the 17th century it continued to be copied while breaking and moving many of the proposed elements and innovating with new ones, characterised by a more theatrical and sensationalist Baroque taste.

Regarding the portal of the church of Jesús Pobre, the design is based on some of the proposals presented by Sebastián Serlio in his treatise. This can be observed by analysing each element that integrates the parts of the portal, as well as the style of the pilasters, capital, entablature and pediment, which give this portal an original character among the churches of the region of La Marina Alta and add value to its declaration as a Cultural Heritage Site.

It is one of the most beautiful artistic buildings preserved among the towns and villages of La Marina Alta. Currently, it is protected in the Catalogue of Protected Assets and Spaces of Dénia and is in the process of being declared a Cultural Heritage Site (since May of 2020). Recently, it has also been included in the participatory budgets of the Generalitat Valenciana (the regional Valencian government) for its acquisition and restoration in order to give it the value it deserves and to create a cultural space.

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