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13 noviembre 2022

Alma Mater Museum (The museum of the Diocese of Zaragoza), a hidden secret where art, history and heritage go hand in hand

The museum of the Diocese of Zaragoza, Alma Mater Museum, located in the former Archbishop's Palace, stands out for the works in its permanent collection of sacred art, but also for the temporary exhibitions and activities it organizes. In addition, the building in which it is located is a piece worth admiring, as it has been the scene of numerous milestones in the history of Aragon.

If you live in Zaragoza or have visited the city, you have surely passed in front of the Alma Mater Museum, because its doors are located in the Plaza de la Seo, between the Cathedral of San Salvador and the Basilica del Pilar. Perhaps precisely for that reason, for having it so close, this museum is one of the great hidden treasures of the city for many Zaragozans. If you are one of them, or if you have ever traveled to the Aragonese capital and have not visited it, read on because we are sure it will be your next stop.

Photo: E. Setuáin

To begin with, you should know that the artistic value of the Alma Mater Museum is twofold: on the one hand, that of its collections, and on the other, that of the building itself. The former Archbishop’s Palace has been the residence of the kings of Aragon, so much of the history of our Community has developed within its walls. For example, inside you will find the room where Pedro IV the Ceremonious crowned his wife, the bedroom where the Infanta Isabella of Aragon died giving birth to her son Miguel or the corridors that José de Palafox walked, who established his barracks there during the War of Independence against the French. As you can see, to enter this place is to immerse yourself in some of the most important chapters of Aragon’s history.

In addition to the building, the Alma Mater Museum has a no less interesting collection of sacred art, as its scientific director, Sergio Blanco, explains: “The permanent exhibition offers the soul, the discourse of the museum, which consists of tracing the history of the Diocese of Zaragoza through the works of art of the diocese itself”.

Alma Mater
Photo: Alma Mater Museum.

Works of great value, among which Sergio highlights “the Romanesque capitals of the old Church of Santiago, a large collection of Aragonese Gothic painting, works by Francisco Bayeu and a portrait of a bishop signed by Francisco de Goya”.

And the offer is completed with temporary exhibitions, such as the one recommended by Sergio, Utopia and Reality, which can be visited until January 9 and brings together works by contemporary Aragonese artists around the Pilarist devotion.

This triple aspect makes the Alma Mater one of the most important museums in the Community, although at the same time it is one of the most unknown.

“Those who visit us leave surprised and delighted”.

Little by little, the Alma Mater Museum recovers its usual pulse of before the pandemic (it received more than 1,100 visitors last October), although it hopes that the situation will improve so that visitors from outside Spain, an important part of its public, begin to arrive. In the meantime, it continues to work to make itself known among its neighbors in Zaragoza, as Sergio explains. “The museum is the great unknown, the people of the city find it very difficult to enter, but those who visit us leave surprised and delighted. They are surprised that something like this is here. The capitals, the 18th century paintings, the gold and silver work, Renaissance custodians, Gothic chalices…”. Treasures that we would admire in a foreign museum but to which, perhaps, we do not give much importance because they are too close to us. That is why he encourages everyone to cross its doors: “You will discover something that is part of your history, your culture and your heritage”.

Alma Mater
Photo: Alma Mater Museum.

A museum that goes beyond its walls

The Alma Mater Museum brand does not only refer to the exhibition space, but to all the cultural activities organized by the diocese of Zaragoza, as Sergio explains: “It was born as a diocesan museum but it has become a cultural brand that encompasses activities such as guided tours, concerts…in this way the diffusion grows, we leave the physical space and we move throughout the diocese of Zaragoza. We don’t want to stay only in the building.

Among them, the Christmas activities, which this season will be extended until January 9, are very successful. Guided tours of the nativity scene, storytelling, a Christmas decorations workshop or the traditional carol concert are proposals that have been incorporated with great success to the Christmas agenda of the city.

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