Book Series Art History (Outside a Series)

Palace of the Mind. The Cloister of Silos and Spanish Sculpture of the Twelfth Century

Elizabeth Valdez del Alamo

  • Pages: 532 p.
  • Size:210 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:300 b/w, 16 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2012

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-51711-7
  • Hardback
  • Available


"This large, attractive, and comprehensive book on the cloister of Santo Domingo de Silos, among the most familiar and most compelling of the major Romanesque sites in northern Spain, represents a significant contribution to the study of medieval art and architecture. The magnificent illustrations and rich bibliography alone would make the book an essential resource for the stury of European visual culture from the decades around 1100, an astonishing period that witnessed a veritable explosion in architectural sculpture." (Shirin Fozi, in: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Volume 72 (4), Dec. 2013, p. 584)

"Palace of the Mind offers much to the student of the Spanish Romanesque: abundant, informative photographs (many taken by the author); precise, descriptive formal analysis; and thoughtful discussion of the linkages between cloister iconography and monastic belief and practice. It provides a sound foundation for continued study of this important Iberian monument and a substantial contribution to the scholarship on Romanesque art in Spain." (Pamela A. Patton, in: CAA Reviews, November 2013)

"(...) it should be read by anyone with an interest in Romanesque sculpture or Spain's religious history." (Nicholas Watson, in: Medieval Archaeology, Vol. 57, December 2013, p. 359)

""Festzuhalten ist, dass "Palace of the Mind" eine respektable Zusammenfassung des aktuellen Forschungsstands liefert. Vor allem die umfassende kritische Auseinandersetzung mit liturgischen Texten, die, wie Valdez del Álamo deutlich herausstellen konnte, als Inspirationsquelle für die Bauskulptur des Klosters dienten, lassen das Buch zu einem Standardwerk für alle zukünftigen Betrachtungen des Klosters werden." (Janet Kempf, in: Sehepunkte 14 (2014), Nr. 4, 15.04.2014)

"(...) the joy of Palace of the Mind is its exhaustive coverage and the quality of its scrutiny. The book is a great example of the benefits of prolonged reflection and is a book on which Elizabeth Valdez del Álamo should be congratulated." (John McNeill, in: Journal of the British Archaeological Association, Vol. 167, 2014, p. 221-223)

"Hay que destacar en el libro el cuidado lenguaje, la lujosa edición y el rico aparato gráfico, que incluye un amplio repertorio fotográfico y una nueva planta del claustro, realizada con el fin de reflejar las medidas exactas y de aproximar la iglesia medieval y el recinto monástico a la imagen que presentarían en torno a 1200. Estos aspectos convierten el volumen en una obra muy atractiva, no solo para los especialistas sino para todos los amantes del románico." (Ma. Victoria Herráez Ortega, in: De Arte. Revista de historia del arte, N° 13, 2014, p. 319)

“Elizabeth Valdez del Álamo’s book is impressive in every positive critical sense. The product of several decades of focus on Silos’s medieval art, it is composed from strands of critical assessments, history, myth, archaeology, literature, church documents, and surviving architecture and sculpture, all evidently weighed and assayed for value through years of study (…) Valdez del Alamo has prevailed by creating a book that will stand as a milestone of critical thought on Silos and a game-changing examination of standards in medieval art history. Brepols’ publication of Valdez del Alamo’s work in English invites a new audience to contemplate Silos’s remarkably rich medieval messages and lingering mysteries.” (Elizabeth M. Willingham, in Speculum, 92/1, 2017, p. 317-318)

« Nous sommes parfaitement conscients de l’immense effort que l’élaboration d’une telle monographie a supposé, tout comme de la quantité d’apports et de relectures proposés par E. Valdez del Alamo, non seulement concernant la connaissance de Silos, mais aussi l’art roman hispanique et le problème de la conception, de la fonction et de l’esthétique du cloître médiéval. C’est pourquoi nous avons la certitude que cette publication deviendra sous peu une référence pour d’autres recherches, ou, paraphrasant son titre, un véritable locus memoriae. » (Manuel Castiñeiras, dans les Cahiers de civilisations médiévales, 60/239, 2017, p. 327)


The extraordinary cloister of Santo Domingo de Silos is central to our understanding of medieval sculpture, and of Spain’s place in its development. Elizabeth Valdez del Álamo offers an innovative reading of the monastery’s medieval sculpture and the first complete study in English. Her carefully documented work revises many traditional theories about the site built during the late eleventh and twelfth centuries. Rather than expressing resistance to religious reform, as commonly held for the renowned Emmaus and Thomas reliefs of the first campaign, they embrace the newly imposed Roman rite. The sirens, dragons, lions, and birds of the capitals are shown to have significance beyond mere decoration. The inventive images of the second campaign, an Annunciation-Coronation and a Trinity set into the Tree of Jesse, derive specifically from monastic devotion, colored by local concerns such as the Reconquest.