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Coat of arms of Carlos de Ibarra y Barresi

By | 19 July, 2015 | 0 comments

Carlos de Ibarra y Barresi Vargas y Branciforte was born in 1587 in either Eibar in the Basque country or Militello in Sicily and died in 1639 in Barcelona. He was the son of Diego de Ibarra y Vargas, Commander of Villahermosa, and his wife Leonor Isabel Barresi y Branciforte, a Palermo native who was the daughter of Carlos Barresi, Marquis of Militello and Prince of Petrapercia and the sister of the Prince of Butera. He married Blanca Ladrón de Pallas y Ferrer, the daughter of Jaime Zeferino Ladrón de Pallas y Ponce, 1st Count of Sinarcas, and Francisca Ferrer y Cardona, Lady of Sort y Quartell. Carlos and Blanca had two daughters, Leonor and Luisa. The former, the 2nd Marchioness of Taracena, married Claudio Pimentel y Ponce de León, while the latter married Bernardino Manrique, Count of Amayuelas.

Carlos de Ibarra was educated as a young nobleman in the court of Felipe II, acting as his accompanying gentleman. He began his career at sea under the orders of Fadrique Alvarez de Toledo and later with the Marquis of Caldereyta, from whom he learned the art of navigation. He served as Admiral of the Ocean, Captain-General of the Indies Route Galleons, Knight of the Royal and Military Orders of Alcántara (1610) and Santiago (1626), 1st Marquis of Taracena (1639), Viscount of Centenera (1638), Lord of Villaflores and Valdefuentes and Royal War Counsellor.

The most heroic act of his career took place in 1638. Ibarra was captaining the Indies fleet from Cartagena to the Iberian

Peninsula, carrying a shipment of 30 million pesos in coin and bullion. In the Caribbean a powerful Dutch fleet three times bigger than his own was waiting to capture the treasure. Ibarra came upon them unexpectedly and they immediately clashed in boarding attempts. A tremendous barrage of artillery left several dead and wounded, including Carlos, though he did not withdraw for even a moment and continued giving orders. After a few hours with no truce the two sides split off and attacks did not resume until four days later. Fewer ships were involved in the second attack and there was no boarding, only an artillery duel; the Dutch had lost their captain, Juan Verdist. Due to the poor state of the galleon Carmen, one of those loaded with silver, Ibarra meanwhile decided to take refuge in Bahía Honda, where he set up a fortress of sorts. The Spaniards were still deciding how to proceed when a new Dutch fleet unexpectedly appeared but it was nevertheless almost entirely defeated. This was a great misfortune for the Dutch, who had been certain of capturing the Indies fleet. As a reprisal they bombed the town of Sisal before leaving the area. Meanwhile, Ibarra put out to sea, arriving in Veracruz on September 24th. Light vessels sailed from there to the Iberian Peninsula to report on the fleet’s situation. Ibarra and his crew eventually arrived in the Bay of Cadiz on July 15th, 1639, receiving for this heroic feat the title of Marquis de Taracena from King Felipe IV (Royal Order of October 31st, 1639). Several weeks later he died in Barcelona from wounds suffered in that noble endeavour.

The practice of the Spanish monarchs of the House of Austria of selling towns pertaining to the Crown to private individuals as a means to stabilise the economy led to new palaces and churches being built in those places, with a consequent increase in artistic heritage. This occurred with the town of

Centenera, in Guadalajara province. It was a dependent village until Ibarra obtained it from the hand of King Felipe IV around 1624. He ordered that a palace be built there as a symbol of his dominance over the population. It was constructed following the typical 17th century Madrid mansion model, with adjacent Italian-style gardens. Ibarra showed that besides being an intrepid seaman with great military talents he also had artistic and cultural concerns. Only ruins of this building still stand today.

The other intervention in Carlos Ibarra’s local property was due to his becoming the patron of the local parish church chancel dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin. During the 17th century it was common for Spanish nobility to exercise patronage rights over a church or chapel in order to obtain material reward (it would be the burial site for them and their families); they could also count on the prayers and ascetic practices of the religious community. Ibarra founded the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament in the parish; its statutes were approved by the Cardinal-Prince Fernando of Austria, brother of Felipe IV and Archbishop of Toledo.

The first thing Ibarra did as patron of the chancel was to commission a new altarpiece (reredos) and two large depictions of his coat of arms. They were made by Pedro de la Torre, who completed the work in September 1632. De la Torre (1596-1677) was one of the greatest and best Castilian Baroque artists, working as a sculptor and architect specialising in the design of altarpieces. In them he introduced the most advanced forms of Baroque decoration, thus contributing to its spread. Unfortunately, very little has been preserved of his abundant production. His first documented altarpiece was the one at the church of Our Lady of Marvels in Madrid.

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