We often don’t pay much attention to our indispensable, humble doors. I say humble simply because their only function is to separate or join one space with another, depending on whether they are opened or closed, but they are not always humble. To give an example, have you seen the beautiful inlaid doors in El Escorial? They are simply marvellous, but of course, this type of door is usually within a building. If they’d been outside, they wouldn’t have been looked after well enough to have survived until today, and it would be a shame not to be able to contemplate and enjoy such works of art.
Outside, we can see baroque or rococo doors in some very specific and protected buildings, such as palaces, monasteries and churches… both styles are somewhat too ornate for my taste, but these doors show imagination, exquisite workmanship, extreme care, and all of them are made of high quality wood.
And there are our traditional doors, the ones in our pueblo, Lagartera. There are still quite a few of them left and hopefully, there will be for many years to come. They are rather austere, with little ornamentation, but they are large, with two leaves, tall, wide, resistant, also made of wood, with large key locks (some of these wooden doors which have become very deteriorated have given way to metal). Now they are painted, some more successfully than others, or treated with specific products to nourish them, protect them and extend their lives.
Before, these big doors were unpainted, they were washed and the wood looked pure and clean. Some of them still have large and striking nails. These doors were the entrance and exit to quite large yards, where there might be stables, haystacks to collect feed for the animals, spaces to store farm implements and storage, to preserve the harvested produce in summer.
They had to be large enough to allow livestock, pack animals or carts to enter and leave, and had two lanes marked on the threshold of the door, almost always made of stone (granite, which is very abundant in the area). In some of them, cut out of the same planks, with their own hinges, lock and independent latch, there was another smaller door, for people, more comfortable to use, more manageable. Almost all of them, to this day, still retain their charm.
There were the medium-sized ones, which opened onto the “casapuerta”, a covered entrance like a large porch, and a meeting place where the neighbours gathered to sew in summer, and where the children could play on rainy days or when it was too hot. I loved that space, which gave shelter, while being open to the courtyard beyond.
And, finally, the small ones, with a whole leaf or divided in two parts, the lower one, with a good lock and the upper door, with a big key-hole and a handle or latch. Many of these doors used to face the living room, or hall. In good weather, this door used to be open, taking advantage of the light and the little air that entered to refresh the room, they did not usually have glass, but it was a good place to sew, study, listen to radio soap operas…
Here you can see, in the photos of Gonzalo Díez, and a couple of mine (at the end), a living example of our humble jewels, I’m sure you’ll recognise them.
In the cities there are other types of doors, and the most common type are all the same, mostly armoured, these doors of the hive-buildings of the cities. They’re smooth, or with a small moulding, nothing extraordinary, a modest detail that only serves to collect dust, without personality. The only thing that can make them more or less pleasant is the wood from which they are made. They are usually ugly, Some people say that it’s more elegant if all the doors in a block of flats are the same. This may be true, but if the imposed taste is simplistic, that doesn’t solve anything, rather, it makes the hive’s inhabitants quite uncomfortable, as they are forced to accept something, almost eternal, which is not to their liking, but which, in the end, fulfils its function, to separate us from the outside and make us feel safe.
I have often heard it said that a door says a lot about the people behind it. This is not always true, but if you have time and look carefully, there is something in the saying.
It’s increasingly difficult to find picturesque doors in big cities, but it’s very different in small towns and villages. What wonders we can contemplate! We can find doors of all types and conditions, and the smaller the villages, the more interest they have in preserving these beautiful objects that make our homes a little safer.
I like photographs of old doors, I don’t care about their state, whether they’re well preserved, or old, rickety, abandoned…, all of them have a story behind them. I’ve depicted many of them on canvas, for the visual plasticity that they offer and the strength of the feelings that they transmit to me. Sometimes when I’m walking and I see one that catches my attention, if I have time, I stop, look at it and take a photo. I look carefully, I look around the eyes, the face and the heart of the picture, and I let myself be carried away. I imagine all the history that this house has contained, like a treasure trapped and retained over time within those four walls, a history that is guarded by a simple, solitary door.
I see the house full of life, how that door opens and closes again and again throughout the day. How children come out, full of energy and joy, to go to school, to play, as we Lagarterans used them when we were children, hiding behind them, playing hide-and-seek, because back then the doors of the courtyards were always open. Adults, with their hurry and responsibilities, carrying out their chores, passing the door daily, ignoring it, but knowing that, like a faithful friend, it was always there.
I imagine how it used to be when there was a celebration, a time when long ago and almost forgotten, the women of the house washed the door until it looked perfect, polishing those big nails that many of the doors had, until they shone. How the women prepared and decorated the door for those big days, such as Corpus Christi in Lagartera, or patron saint celebrations, or family celebrations, christenings, weddings… when the door of these houses was an important part, and almost a member of the family, in the group photos that were taken in front of the house, and kept with care and affection, for us to be able to look at and remember later, and forever, that unique, unforgettable and unrepeatable event.
And to see or imagine how the door closed every night, keeping behind it, joys, sorrows, longings, disappointments, secrets… separating and protecting them from the eyes and ears of others, the intimate and private, leaving for the family only, what only matters to them.
As I said, there are those doors made of noble materials, powerful doors, that transmit security, then there are the simple ones, made of wood without a “pedigree”, but not for that reason, less carefully worked or less cared for, doors that were up to the task and which perfectly fulfilled their function of protecting and guarding. Some of them are now protected by glass, and look like a living room or dining room table that you see in some homes. They may be surprising, but they look good, and well, that is always better than a door suffering from abandonment. Finally, there are the old, dilapidated and broken doors, those that had their moment of splendour and have lived long enough to reach the present day. In their day, they were also beautiful, strong, cared for and fulfilled their role with dignity, a dignity that many of them no longer have today, because the passage of time has left them behind.
Paloma Arroyo, Lagartera, Toledo, 4th April 2022
All the photographs, except for the last two, are by Gonzalo Diéz. The last two, and the text are by Paloma Arroyo, who is a painter from Lagartera
To see her paintings: paloma arroyo oliva (@elcajon_deloleo) • Fotos y videos de Instagram