Xavi Ramos Pozo |
Becerril de Campos (Palencia) (EFE).- The immense historical and artistic heritage of Castilla y León has helped us assume that a good part of it has not been able to reach our days.
In the same way, we are already familiar with reconstruction projects that allow us not only to recover some monuments, but also to give them a use that is even very different from what they had in their origin.
What is no longer so easy to expect is that an old church, largely demolished, becomes a dynamic astronomical center as has happened in Becerril de Campos (Palencia), a few kilometers from the capital.
The Romanesque doorway from the 12th century that we see upon arrival already indicates what we are going to find inside: the duality between a historical-artistic work highlighted and a world to discover, that of the universe.
Image of San Pedro Cultural, an old Romanesque church from the 12th century converted into an astronomy dissemination center, in Becerril de Campos (Palencia). EFE/Xavi Ramos Pozo
An astronomical center of nine centuries
That same feeling is accentuated upon entering. Its architecture and the recovered elements remind us that we are entering a temple, and also with a lot of history.
A baptismal font, several tombstones and a fragment of alfarje (ornate wooden roof in Mudejar style) are small jewels from between the 12th and 18th centuries that show us the passage of the church of San Pedro through different architectural and cultural styles.
At the same time, the vaults and lighting immediately transport us to the world of the stars. Looking at the ceiling we can enjoy the starry sky that we would see on June 29, Saint Peter’s Day, with all its constellations.
We look back at the ground to try to understand what is happening in the universe. The first thing that catches our attention, in the apse, is the Foucault pendulum, 15 meters high, which reminds us that what really moves is the Earth, even if we do not perceive it.
In the middle of the church a meridian line crosses it from side to side and is even marked on the outside; It tells us north and south, in addition to many other things as a calendar thanks to the pinhole, a small hole in a window through which a small ray of sunlight enters.
The reflection of light on the line allows us to know when solar noon is and what time of year it is.
But San Pedro Cultural was conceived as a center in evolution, so that elements are incorporated. One of them is a solar analemma that takes advantage of the pinhole to mark the figure-8 curve that the sun traces throughout the year.
Other of these elements are more related to the hand of man.
These are pieces donated by the European Space Agency (ESA) through a man from Palencia, César García Marirrodriga, who directs some of its projects.
Without a doubt, the most striking piece is the full-scale prototype of the ‘Solar Orbiter’ satellite, which between 2020 and 2029 is studying the sun at close range.
We also found an ‘electrode housing’, a cube that is used in space probes to capture so-called gravitational waves, which offer us information about the stars before they can be seen.
San Pedro Cultural aims to be a multipurpose space: concerts, conferences, temporary exhibitions and even weddings have taken place there, cultural and social activities that complement its already attractive offer.
Uniting heritage, history, culture and astronomy was the idea of one of the project’s architects, Carlos del Olmo, who is also a member of the Astronomical Association of Palencia. With this, it was possible to return to the building one of the objectives with which it was built: to deepen the meaning of life.
It is something that is reflected in a detail, perhaps the result of chance… During the rehabilitation works, some paintings appeared covered by the plaster on the walls; In one of them, in a niche, you can see medieval eight-pointed stars.
Those responsible for the project did not hesitate and created another pinhole to illuminate the niche of the stars. But that only happens once a year, every December 21 at 5 p.m.