For the love of Pugin - Leticia Bermejo
Updated: Jun 2, 2022
Since childhood I have felt a sincere interest in the Middle Ages. Probably, this is due to being born and raised in Castile, land of important deeds and events in the History of Spain that took place during the Middle Ages. I keep fond memories of travels with my parents to the Gothic cathedrals of Burgos and León; the Walls of Ávila; the Alcázar of Segovia; the beautiful Romanesque churches in the north of Palencia; and roaming the country in search of castles and monasteries, such as Silos.
These monuments made my imagination take flight, and I wished to live in those past times while becoming determined to learn more about them. It seemed to me a wonderful period of History, where princesses and knights lived in castles, had fantastic adventures and magical beings such as fairies and elves existed, and even unicorns and dragons. It is evident that I mixed reality with fantasy, for which I owe a great deal to my grandma’s tales and legends.
Over the years, those stories were replaced by books and academic works, and these influenced my decision to study History of Art at University. Those years were wonderful, especially when the subjects focused on the art and history of the medieval period. But when we studied the 19th century, unravelling its marvellous cultural complexity, something clicked in my mind: the country whose history, art and culture I loved and admired was the origin of the rediscovery of the Middle Ages, pioneered by A.W.N. Pugin.
Moreover, I always knew that my vocation was teaching, higher education, and research. So, when I finished my degree, I started doctorate studies. Due to my adventurous or inquiring character, I moved to the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM) and I met Dra. María Luisa Martín Ansón. She formally introduced Pugin to me, and I was amazed.
In 1994, she had visited Pugin’s exhibition at the V&A Museum and was waiting for a student to conduct research on that extraordinary man and pioneer of the Gothic Revival. I could not refuse her proposal, and when I left her desk, I was in love with Pugin. All the things (books, photos…) that she showed and told me, were what I had been looking for all that time, without knowing.
From that moment, I started my idyll with Pugin, the Gothic Revival and England. Those were hard years, especially because I did not receive grants or State aid for my doctoral thesis. My proposed research topic was not deemed of interest or relevant. But if things are easy, we do not value them, and my grandfather always told me:
“Your dreams are your own, so you do not have to
My relationship with Pugin has lasted longer than his three marriages together: 16 years. And my affinity with his figure and his works is clear: my Doctoral Thesis. I am interested in everything that he made, but my field research is focused on his metalworking designs, his activity as collector and dealer in antiquities and works of art, his self-training based on the study in situ of original medieval items and his travels across the European continent.
When I finished my doctoral thesis, I was confused. I needed Pugin in my everyday life, like during the previous years. For that reason, I decided to create a profile dedicated to him and his works on Instagram. I was very excited about this, but I am not going to lie: I was very worried too. I did not know what kind of people I would find, or whether my profile would be of interest. Fortunately, I could not be happier and more thankful. Every day I have met wonderful people, not simply followers or admirers of Pugin, some of them are friends, too. And together, we collaborate, take part in projects… And one example of that is this text.
Article first published as part of Louie Young's 2020 Halloween Countdown