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Secrets of the Divine

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Secrets of the Divine

For the first time in the United States, researchers uncover what lies beneath 500 years of Spanish altar paintings, revealing surprising insights into the lives of Fernando Gallego and the artists of his time. Notable for their size and number, the panels treat the Christian subjects of Genesis, the life of Christ, and the Last Judgment.

Secrets of the Divine lab

A five year project of collaborative research employing the most modern technology such as x-radiography, infrared reflectograms, ultraviolet light and medium analysis uncovers preliminary under drawings beneath the final layers of the paintings that unlock secrets involving art, literature, history, and religion.


Secrets of the Divine received financial support from:

Kress Foundation

Kress Foundation

University of Arizona

University of Arizona

Arizona Public Media Presents

About the Program

SECRETS OF THE DIVINE The Altarpiece of Ciudad Rodrigo

Secrets of the Divine Chaos

Secrets of the Divine

Equal parts historical art, mystery and scientific exploration, Secrets of the Divine: The Altarpiece of Ciudad Rodrigo delves into the exhibition "Fernando Gallego & His Workshop: The Altarpiece from Ciudad Rodrigo."

The altarpiece, or retablo, adorned an altar at a cathedral in west central Spain. It is considered by scholars to be some of the most beautiful and iconographically ambitious paintings of the 15th century.

Veiled for centuries behind a curtain on the altar of a medieval church in Spain, the Retablo of Ciudad Rodrigo held a history of secrets.

Then, over the next 400 years a series of benefactors and some luck helped the artworks survive natural disaster, war, and neglect.

The sacred masterpieces were meant simply to record the life of Christ. But investigators looking beneath the surface made unexpected discoveries… including images which were never meant to be seen.

The results of the investigation astonished art historians and scientists. For the next five years, art historians, conservators and scientists studied the Retablo, employing the most modern technology such as x-radiography, infrared reflectograms, ultraviolet light and medium analysis.

After more than 500 years, the mysteries of the Altarpiece of Ciudad Rodrigo are revealed.

Secrets of the Divine is produced by the Emmy-Award winning Arizona Public Media production team led by Sooyeon Lee Johnston and narrated by NPR’s Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg.