The sculpture popularly known as "el Caballito de La Lonja" is a monument dedicated to the photographer Ángel Cordero Gracia. Photo Laura Trives

These are five of the most photographed sculptures in the center of Zaragoza

How many times have we walked through the streets without wondering what the story is behind the most photographed sculptures in the center of Zaragoza.

Redacción Wednesday, May 29, 2024 / 10:37

How many times have we walked through Zaragoza without stopping to observe the art around us and without wondering what the story is behind the many monuments that have decorated the city’s streets for decades.

Some of the sculptures on this list are probably from the most photographed corners of the Aragonese capital and, in many cases, their stories are as interesting as the lives of the people or the events they remind us of.

Sculptures as iconic as the Caballito de la Lonja, the Children with Fishes in front of the Plaza del Pilar or the Lions that guard the Stone Bridge are a good example of this. Join us on this journey to the past through the stories of five of the most photographed sculptures in the center of Zaragoza, although there are many more.

La Lonja horse

Many of you will have grown up watching it, it is even likely that you have a photo uploaded to its rump, but do you know what the history of the Caballito de La Lonja is?

Located on Paseo Echegaray and Caballero, behind La Lonja, to be more precise, the sculpture of the Caballito, popularly known as “the Caballito de La Lonja”, is actually a monument dedicated to the photographer Ángel Cordero Gracia.

The bronze sculpture, the work of Francisco Rallo Lahoz, was inaugurated in 1991. Photo: Laura Trives
The bronze sculpture, the work of Francisco Rallo Lahoz, was inaugurated in 1991. Photo: Laura Trives

The photographer belonged to the generation of “minuters”: traveling photographers who stood with their wooden machines in public and crowded spaces in the city such as parks, squares or fairs. For decades these professionals portrayed citizens, giving them the snapshot “up to the minute”, hence their curious nickname.

Our protagonist, Ángel Cordero Gracia, remained with his machine and his papier-mâché horse behind La Lonja between 1925 and 1978. For more than 50 years he was photographing the children who with great enthusiasm climbed onto the little horse. A place that today remembers him with this monument that is already part of the history and collective imagination of the city.

The bronze sculpture, the work of Francisco Rallo Lahoz, was inaugurated in 1991 and is a life-size recreation. To do this, the sculptor took as a model the papier-mâché horse used by Ángel Cordero Gracia himself.

Stone Bridge Lions

Nothing better than the figure of a lion, emblem and symbol of the city, to guard Zaragoza. And even better than a lion, four! A set of four lions guard the Stone Bridge of Zaragoza, two located at each entrance to the bridge: two look towards Don Jaime Street and two others look towards the Arrabal.

The two lions, located on each side of the Stone Bridge, are the work of Francisco Rallo Lahoz. Photo: Laura Trives
The two lions, located on each side of the Stone Bridge, are the work of Francisco Rallo Lahoz. Photo: Laura Trives

The origin of these lions dates back to 1656 and their placement was intended to commemorate the completion of the works undertaken on the Stone Bridge.

The structure of the Stone Bridge that we know today began to be built in the 15th century with stones from Muel, La Muela and Castellar. However, the continuous flooding of the Ebro has caused its destruction and reconstruction on several occasions over the centuries. After the year 1656, led by Felipe de Busignac y Borbón, it was decided to commemorate the end of the reconstruction with the placement of four lions, an animal of great significance for the city.

The lions we see today are not the same as they were then. An unfortunate remodeling of the bridge in 1907 caused them to be removed. More than 80 years later, the sculptor Francisco Rallo Lahoz made the bronze sculptures that we all know and was able to carry out his own vision of the project.

The lion statues represent four lions watching and protecting the city. For its preparation, Francisco Rallo took references from all the places within his reach. He studied the different types of lions; Your habits; and he watched several documentaries and art encyclopedias, even visiting the Valencia Zoo to capture the details and movements of a real specimen as much as possible.

Finally, he opted for the image of an African lion that, resting on a small rocky rock, dominates the territory at its “feet.” Rallo wanted to represent his lions in an alert attitude, with their muscles in tension, their jaws open and their tails raised. The final result was the sculptures of four lions always on guard to defend the city against any threat.

The architect José Manuel Pérez Latorre was in charge of designing the pedestals, each seven meters high, on which these lions rest.

Child sitting looking at the New Tower

Who has not passed through Plaza San Felipe and been surprised to see the curious sculpture of a child sitting in the middle of the square? This sculptural piece is called “Seated Boy Looking at the New Tower” and was built in memory of the tower that gives it its name. It is a hyper-realistic bronze figure, the work of Santiago Gimeno Llop.

The "Seated Child" is part of a memorial to the New Tower. Photo: Laura Trives
The “Seated Child” is part of a memorial to the New Tower. Photo: Laura Trives

The missing Torre Nueva was a large Mudejar tower built at the beginning of the 16th century. It stood out for an inclination of almost three meters on its axis and remained standing until 1893. Due to the constant complaints made by the burghers of the area, the City Council ended up declaring the tower in a state of ruin with its consequent demolition. This tower, almost 80 meters high, was not only one of the tallest buildings in the urban history of Zaragoza but has also seen the birth of legends around it.

The sculpture of the “Seated Child” does not stand out for its dimensions nor for representing any illustrious personage. On the contrary, it represents the everyday scene of an anonymous boy, sitting in such a way that it seems that he is looking at the same place where the New Tower once stood.

This sculpture was part of a remodeling project promoted by the City Council in Plaza San Felipe. In 1991, a first memorial was unveiled, on the same spot where the New Tower had once stood. However, as a result of several controversies and a court order, its demolition was ordered shortly afterwards. The seated child looking in the direction of the Memorial is the only thing that remains of it.

The younger generations did not even get to know the New Tower but a sculpture, a mural and a legend have immortalized it despite time.

Eduardo Jimeno Correas

This sculpture, perhaps due to its location in Plaza Ariño, goes more unnoticed by passers-by. Despite this, the story behind the sculptural work and, therefore, the personality it represents is closely related to the cinematographic history not only of Aragon, but of Spain.

The sculpture of "Eduardo Jimeno Correas" commemorates the recording of the first film of Spanish cinema. Photo: Laura Trives
The sculpture of “Eduardo Jimeno Correas” commemorates the recording of the first film of Spanish cinema. Photo: Laura Trives

Visible from Don Jaime Street, the sculpture pays tribute to the film director Eduardo Jimeno Correas, from Zaragoza by birth and considered the first director of Spanish cinema. Correas filmed “Salida de Misa de Doce del Pilar”, the first surviving film in the history of Spanish cinema.

Despite not exceeding two and a half minutes in length, the tape was 12.40 meters long and contained 651 frames. The film films the massive departure of those attending the Pilar midnight mass on October 11, 1896 in Zaragoza. Later, Correas filmed a second version of the mass exit in which the audience effusively greets the camera by waving their hats.

The recording was carried out from a balcony near the Basilica del Pilar with the cinematograph that Eduardo Jimeno Correas and his father, Eduardo Jimeno Peromarta, had acquired at the Lumière factory in Lyon with the aim of exhibiting films in Zaragoza. However, taking advantage of the fact that the cinematograph was used for both projecting and recording, the director decided to record real everyday events, as the Lumière brothers had previously done in France.

The sculpture that honors him today seeks to represent the filmmaker in the process of recording this film. The recreation, the work of Manuel Arcón, is based on photographic documentation of the time preserved by the director’s heirs. In particular, the camera represented stands out, since it completely corresponds to the characteristics of the one that Correas originally used to film his Salida de misa de twelve del Pilar.

At first, the possibility of installing the sculpture in Plaza del Pilar, the original location of the filming of his famous film, was considered, but finally they decided on its current location, about 300 meters from it.

Children with fish

Due to its location, in front of the Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, this set of sculptures will surely appear in many of your memories and family photos. And not only that, but due to their location in the central area of ​​Plaza del Pilar, these two fountains have witnessed many key events in the history of Zaragoza.

The sculptural group "Children with Fish" was originally a watering hole for pigeons. Photo: Laura Trives
The sculptural group “Children with Fish” was originally a watering hole for pigeons. Photo: Laura Trives

Although they weren’t always like this. Before the two groups of sculptures that we know today, there were first two granite fountains that served as a drinking fountain for the city’s pigeons. In fact, it is still difficult today not to associate this corner of the city with the constant presence of pigeons fluttering incessantly around it.

In order to transform these two granite fountains into elements of artistic value, the creation of two similar pieces was commissioned to replace the fountains that existed at that time. The project fell into the hands of the sculptor Francisco Rallo Lahoz, responsible for other sculptures already mentioned here.

The result was two fountains made of bronze that represent two groups of children with fish. In this way, the fountains served a double purpose: maintaining the previous use for birds and having a public utility, providing that desired artistic value for the city. In April 1979, the sculpture project was approved, maintaining the old granite bases, and in October of that same year the two sculptural groups were placed as we know them today.

The approach behind these sculptures aimed to harmonize with the baroque style of the south façade of the Basilica del Pilar. For this reason, Rallo opted for the reunion with nature and the mythological roots that are so common in the sources of this period of art history.

The sculptor based his work on a spatial development of diagonals. Taking the highest child figure as a reference, he draws a triangle that closes with the other two. A disposition that is repeated in each of the children.

In 2020, when these two sculptures had to be restored due to corrosion, it was decided that they would no longer be fountains, since water had been one of the things responsible for the damage caused. Against all odds, these two sculptural figures that began as two pigeon waterers have ended up being indispensable elements of the Zaragoza landscape.

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