What lives under the El Círculo theater: the grave with a sample of the works of the sculptor Barnes

It is difficult to detach the Museum of Sacred Arts from the city with the theater The circle and it is that it lives and is located under it. That is why their stories are intertwined and to access the site you have to go through the heart of the most emblematic scene in the city.

To get to know the Museum of Sacred Arts, you have to go into the famous catacombs. The name refers to the Roman catacombs, although its construction did not have the same objective. That is why Eduardo Barnes himself and the people of the museum call it moats.

Claudia Sabatini, director of the El Círculo guided tours project, received The citizen in his “home”, the Laprida y Mendoza building designed in 1903 by the German engineer and architect George Goldammer which was inaugurated a year later. Social communicator, art lover, musician’s daughter, the theater recreated history. And, in particular, the Museum of Sacred Art.

Upon reaching the courtyard, the feeling is that it does not appear to be part of the theater, with its European-designed marble stairs, which could be anywhere in the world. It is a normal patio, with a humid aspect favored by the climate and with a staircase that leads to the depths. There are little more than a dozen steps to descend to access the Museum of Sacred Arts, where the works of the sculptor Eduardo Barnes are located.

Photo: Franco Trova Fuoco

From caldera to museum

Claudia explains that the museum is the lower part of the theater. Look at the ceiling and show some holes: they are the vents in the stalls. And he points to much more recent structures on the roof of the pit, which are part of the air conditioning system built for the 2004 Language Congress. It is designed not to affect the celebrated acoustics of the main hall – the work of a German specialist – nor the aesthetics of the place.

The old boiler still exists.  Next to a new boiler that was bought a few years ago
Photo: Franco Found Fire

What is now the museum used to be the pit where the boiler worked. “Around the 1950s, Barnes asked the theater association for a place to deposit his plays and work on them. They had given him a space in a room on Mendoza Street, which the choir later requested. So they offered to set up the space where the boiler was, ”says Sabatini. It was not an easy move: he explains that it took more than a year of work with local firefighters to clean the five-foot layer of ash that covered the floor. “The boiler was fed with wood, with coal and with residues from the Yerbatera Martín”, he points out.

Eduarno Barnes, a self-taught sculptor, focused many of his works on the religious. He held that the artist had a gift from God. He was an accountant, he was a drawing teacher at the Superior of Commerce, the Liceo de Señoritas, professor of the chair of modeling and model in the Architecture career of the National University of Rosario. He was born in Rosario in 1901 and died in 1977. Among his other works, there are two of the bas-reliefs of the Monument to the Flag and a mural of the Via Crucis in the Cathedral of Rosario. Sabatini highlights his humanity, his permanent will to learn, and a humility that made him wonder at the compliments.

The removal of the ashes in the subsoil left a particular earth floor, into which the heels of women’s shoes sank. To condition it, the slabs used as ballast by the ships that arrived without cargo at the port of Rosario were used. “They asked for them at the old market in Mendoza and 1 ° de Mayo. He requested authorization from the Cultural Association of Theater and it was possible to put a ground on which to step firmly ”, Claudia relates with enthusiasm.

Sample of the works

In the Museum you can see the plaster works of Barnes, who also worked with bronze and wood. There are the Stations of the Cross, the molds and the plaster used for the bronze works that embellish the Cathedral of Rosario. The sculptor’s imprint can be traced even outside of Rosario. His creations are also, for example, in Santa Rosa de La Pampa, La Plata, Mar del Plata and the chapel of the Somisa de San Nicolás neighborhood.

Photo: Franco Found Fire
Photo: Franco Found Fire

Photo: Franco Found Fire

His works have won awards. And he had a great power of synthesis to show and tell a story: for example, his work on the Last Supper, where God is portrayed with a triangle on his head and Judas looking the other way. The hands played a very important role in their work, they were protagonists.

Photo: Franco Found Fire
Photo: Franco Found Fire
His sign

Barns signed in a very particular way. It had its own logo. He had played with geometric shapes and letters. In the same drawing, there is his name: E for Eduardo, B for Barnes, A for his middle name, Amancio, and the initial of his wife Amelia’s name plus that of his son Ayax Barnes.

of the theaters

Parallel to the El Circulo theater, the Colón Theater was built in Rosario. Located in Corrientes and Urquiza. It was inaugurated about 20 days before the La Opera theater (as El Círculo was called until 1943).

The Colón theater was demolished in 1958 and a building was built in its place. The Circle dodged the pickaxe. Since its inauguration, it has been the scene of the most important lyrical companies in the world. “Many Europeans arrived by ship directly to Rosario before appearing in Buenos Aires, Chile or New York. There was no internet, the tours were scheduled well in advance and the whole family went on tour, ”says Sabatini.

The entire theater was occupied by the artists and their families, so the moat, today the Museum of Sacred Art, was a bakery space (bread and bills were brought up to the dressing rooms by an elevator) and a hairdressing salon. They are the memories passed down over the years, word of mouth, in the theater.

On the theater’s website there is a summary of its history: “In 1888, the Sociedad Anónima Teatro La Opera decided to build a large lyrical theater through a competition for preliminary projects. The work is awarded to the Architect Engineers Cremona and Contri. The building was started but, due to financial problems, it was interrupted when construction was on the first floor. Abandoned. No precise destination. Refuge of needy people (NdR: it was known then as “Cueva de los Ladrones”). From its labyrinths and moats mysterious stories would be born. In 1889, the businessman Emilio O. Schiffner, with a clear vision and commercial objectives, bought the Company and concluded the works by hiring the German engineer George Goldammer, a specialist in acoustics, who rectified the original plans. The execution of the work is carried out by the construction company Bianchi, Vila y Cía ”, reads the page.

The El Círculo portal reviews some of the building’s makers. Artists of the stature of Luis Levoni and Beloti worked on the interior and exterior plasterwork, and on the frescoes for the stage entrance. The magnificent frescoes in the dome of the main hall and the curtain were the work of Giuseppe Carmignani, an Italian artist who came to work in Argentina at the end of the 19th century. As a curiosity, the curtain painted with images from Greek mythology has the same iconography as that of the Teatro Regio in Parma, although with different colors.

In 1943, it was saved at the last minute from a safe demolition thanks to the action of the El Círculo Cultural Association, an institution created in 1912 in the Argentine Library. “They organized very important things, they were pioneers, they were the ones who promoted the creation of the Museum of Fine Arts and that is why there is a plaque above it that says El Círculo”, explains Claudia. And he adds more illustrious: “The covers of the magazines of the El Círculo Cultural association had images made by Antonio Berni and Alfredo Guido.”

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