zaterdag 15 juni 2013

Spain, Mudejar Architecture of Aragon

The development in the 12th century of Mudejar art in Aragon resulted from the particular political, social and cultural conditions that prevailed in Spain after the Reconquista. This art, influenced by Islamic tradition, also reflects various contemporary European styles, particularly the Gothic. Present until the early 17th century, it is characterized by an extremely refined and inventive use of brick and glazed tiles in architecture, especially in the belfries.


The Mudejar art of Aragon symbolizes pacific coexistence between the Muslim, Christian and Jewish cultures, exchanging knowledge and experiences. Within this special historical context Mudejar art came into being in Teruel, as in Toledo, Zaragoza and many other cities. These art forms drew their substance from both the Western tradition and the Eastern Islamic tradition, itself transformed by the artistic accomplishments in the Maghreb and the Emirate of Córdoba. The material culture has survived in space and time thanks to the historical processes of conquest and colonization of new lands.
The region owes its architecture to the singular nature of the reconquest, in the early 12th century, of territories dominated by the Moors since the 8th century. For various reasons, the Christians allowed the Moors to remain on the reconquered lands and keep their own culture and religion. On the other hand, Islamic art fascinated the Christians, who continued using its themes for a long time. Mudejar art represents the fusion of two artistic traditions, Islamic and Christian, in the region of Aragon. Here the easily available materials were brick, lime, ceramics, and timber, which were also economical in use.
The history of Mudejar art in Aragon can be divided into three phases:
  • beginnings (12th-13th centuries): the ceiling of the cathedral of Teruel, dating from the second half of the 13th century, is the most interesting artistic achievement of Mudejar art in Aragon;
  • full development and expansion, coinciding with the introduction of Gothic to the Iberian Peninsula. Mudejar art continued to predominate over Gothic, except in some minor areas in the south;
  • final period (16th-17th centuries): the Mudejars were forced to convert to Christianity, becoming 'new Christians' (Moriscos). This is followed by a period of intolerance, resulting in the expulsion of these new Christians in 1609-10. This is the period of the decline and extinction of Mudejar art, with the interruption of relations with the Islamic world and the introduction of Italian Renaissance. There were still some achievements in Zaragoza, Muniesa, Mara, Tierga, Alcubierre, Villamayor and Ricla.
The churches are divided into three groups: those with one nave, those with three aisles, and fortress churches. Another category is represented by the bell towers, the most visible element of Mudejar architecture, which are characterized by great richness in their decoration: a variety of geometric patterns of brick reliefs, different patterns of coloured ceramics, elements in gypsum, as well as various architectural forms, niches, windows, and buttresses. The towers can have different forms in plan: octagonal base, square base, or a mixture of both forms. Their internal structure differs from the Almohades model (with one tower inside another), and the stairs are additional feature. Another typical feature of Mudejar architecture is found in the painted and decorated wooden ceilings (e.g. Santa María de Mediavilla) of Teruel. Mudejar architecture is also found in monasteries, castles, and residential buildings.
In the Province of Zaragoza there are the Palace of La Aljafería, initially an Islamic royal palace; the Cathedral of La Seo del Salvador, built over a former Moorish mosque; the Church of San Pablo, which has a octagonal tower, and its Almohad-type minaret remains largely intact although with some Renaissance additions and a Baroque spire; the Collegiate Church of Santa María, Calatayud, replacing a former Moorish mosque, with the 14th-century cloister on the north side (the largest of such Mudejar constructions); the Parish Church of Santa Tecla, Cervera de la Cañada, built on top of an old castle; and the Church of Santa María, Tobed, which is well preserved and with fine interiors with carved and painted ceilings, built to the order of Pope Benedict XIII under the patronage of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
Teruel's monuments are: the towers of San Pedro, the cathedral with the painted ceiling, San Salvador and San Martin. The Teruel towers together form a coherent ensemble which is truly characteristic of Mujédar art after the Reconquista. The architects of the Christian churches copied the structure and decoration of Almohad minarets, although giving them new functions right from the start.
Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

Historical Description

The Mudéjar art in Aragón is a direct consequence of the singular nature of the Christian Reconquest, in the early 12th century, of territories that had been dominated by the Moors since the 8th century. For various practical and political reasons, the Christians allowed the Moors to remain on the reconquered territories and keep their own culture and religion. On the other hand, Islamic art fascinated the Christians, who continued using its themes for a long time. Because of this cohabitation, many Islamic buildings were preserved, such as the Aljaferia Palace in Zaragoza and other palaces and mosques in Toledo, Córdoba, Seville, and Granada. In this cultural context, there also developed a new expression, Mudéjar art, which represented the fusion of two artistic traditions, Islamic and Christian. The region of Aragón became one of the principal locations for this development. Here the easily available materials were brick, lime, ceramics, and timber, which were also economical in use. Most master builders were Moors, who continued to contribute to the construction. Mudéjar art gradually declined with the interruption of relations with the Islamic world and the introduction of Italian Renaissance concepts in the 16th century.
The history of Mudéjar art in Aragón can be divided into three phases: a) the beginnings from 12th to 13th centuries, b) full development and expansion in the 14th and 15th centuries, and c) survival and extension in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Only few examples of Mudéjar art remain from the period immediately succeeding the Reconquest. The earliest surviving buildings are in Daroca and Teruel. In Daroca these include the tower of St Domingo and the apse of St Juan from the mid 13th century. Both constructions were initiated in stone and completed in brick. In Teruel the earliest examples are the church of St Maria de Mediavilla (cathedral), and the tower of St Pedro, of a slightly later date. Both of these have very similar decorative systems and structures: they are gate towers on a square base, allowing a passage under a pointed vault, reinforced with buttresses. It should be understood that, apart from their religious and military functions, these bell towers also had an important town-planning function in tracing the routes. The ceiling of the cathedral of Teruel, dating from the second half of the 13th century, is the most interesting artistic achievement of Mudéjar art in Aragón.
The full development of Mudéjar art in Aragón in the 14th and early 15th centuries coincides with the introduction of Gothic to the Iberian peninsula. In Aragón, Mudéjar art continued to predominate over Gothic, except in some minor areas in the south. The most common type of church has a single aisle, with a polygonal apse of five or six sides and without any buttresses. The structure presents some characteristics of Gothic architecture, showing the interrelation between these two art forms. Many of these churches were modified in later periods. The churches of Zaragoza (La Magdalena, St Gil, and St Miguel de los Navarros) correspond to this type. Perhaps the most distinguished type of church building in this period is one with a strongly military function, a fortified church with tribunes over the lateral chapels, opening towards the exterior. In fact, the patrons were mainly from military orders.
In the last period, starting from the beginning of the 16th century (1502-26), the Mudéjars were forced to convert to Christianity, becoming "new Christians" or "moriscos". This is followed by a period of intolerance, resulting in the expulsion of these new Christians in 1609-10. This is also the period of the decline and extinction of Mudéjar art, though there are still some interesting achievements, of which there are examples in Zaragoza, Muniesa, Mara, Tierga, Alcubierre, Utebo, Villamayor, and Ricla.

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