Louisa Raitt ’15

Art History, Sociology & Anthropology major, Spanish minor
Recipient of the 2014 AHSS Summer Research Award
Faculty advisor: Kriszta Kotsis

Project Title: The Western Façade of Santiago de Compostela: Christian Dominion and Ecclesiastical Rivalry from the Medieval to the Baroque Period (2014)

Project Abstract: As the culminating shrine of the Pilgrimage Road to Santiago de Compostela, the shrine to Saint James in the northwest corner of Spain boasts a rich history of religious, political and cultural significance. Through a visual and contextual analysis, this paper asserts that the two primary renovations of the western façade at Santiago de Compostela (the Portico of Glory in the 12th-13th century and the Façade of Obradoiro in the 18th century) were created during periods of particular interest for the trajectory and development of Santiago de Compostela as a Christian Pilgrimage site. This analysis placed the shrine within its relationship to other pilgrimage sites, other advances in the Catholic world, and the subsequent emergence, expansion, and decline of the Spanish empire. The cathedral’s relationship with other famed sites, including that of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, is discussed to exemplify that not only was the structure of Santiago de Compostela used as a vital assertion of power in the Iberian territories but also was a competitive ecclesiastical authority seeking intentionally to rival Rome and Jerusalem. These works, both in decoration and context, serve as manifestations of the religio-political controversies occupying the Medieval and Baroque periods as they attempt to reassert Santiago de Compostela as a powerful sacred shrine. Lastly, this façade adds to a history of Spanish-Christian dominance as the figurehead and patron Saint Santiago leads Spain to conquer infidels around the world.

What has Louisa done after completing the summer research project?

  • Louisa presented the results of her summer research project at the Visual Culture Conference of the North West Five College Consortium at Willamette University and developed her summer research project into her Art History thesis in Fall 2014.
  • After graduating with a B.A. in Art History and Sociology and Anthropology (with a minor in Spanish) in May 2015, Louisa served as Intern at Tacoma College Ministry and Religious Life Advisor at the University of Puget Sound in 2015-2016.
  • Louisa earned an M.A. degree in Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University in Spring 2018 and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. degree in art history in the same program.