vrijdag 12 juli 2013

Spain, Renaissance Monumental Ensembles of Úbeda and Baeza

The urban morphology of the two small cities of Úbeda and Baeza in southern Spain dates back to the Moorish 9th century and to the Reconquista in the 13th century. An important development took place in the 16th century, when the cities were subject to renovation along the lines of the emerging Renaissance. This planning intervention was part of the introduction into Spain of new humanistic ideas from Italy, which went on to have a great influence on the architecture of Latin America.

The examples of architectural and urban design in Úbeda and Baeza were instrumental in introducing to Spain of Italian Renaissance design criteria, but had their origins in the Islamic period. The exceptional feature of this cities lies on the fact that they have structured in a dual complementary and inseparable fashion. This duality makes them operate in many aspects as a single city, with their own affinities and features and differential shades of meaning characterizing their morphology and historical development until present times. The central areas of Úbeda and Baeza constitute outstanding early examples of Renaissance civic architecture and urban planning in Spain in the early 16th century, and achieved exceptional development characterized by the influence of humanism. This development of constructive solutions in the field of stereotypy made it possible to adopt complex architectural solutions, which have had an evidenced and relevant impact on the architecture of Spanish America, confirming, in this versatile way of dialogue with the American cultural world, their character of an open and universal project.
The two small towns, Úbeda and Baeza, some 10 km from each other, are located in southern Spain between the regions of Castile and Andalusia, on the northern slopes of the valley of the Guadalquivir River. Being on the frontier of the two regions, the towns have assumed a character of contrasts, which is reflected in the urban fabric that is of Arabic and Andalusian origin and more northern influences. In the 8th century Moorish conquest the towns became fortresses, which quickly attracted fortified urban settlement with a characteristic layout of narrow irregular streets. Úbeda was conquered by he Christian army of Ferdinand III in 1233-34, playing a role as a frontier fortress after the fall of Granada in 1492. Baeza, a minor settlement in the Roman times, was taken over by the Christians in 1226-27. Both towns prospered for a time in the 16th century, and have survived until the present day. They are an exceptional example of the distribution of urban functions, so that the sum of the monumental site of Baeza (public, ecclesiastic and educational) and of Úbeda (aristocratic and palaces) make up a complete Renaissance urban scheme of high architectural quality.
Úbeda is almost square in form, with the site of the Alcázar in the south-east corner, which remained with no specific use. From here the streets spread towards the town gates. The medieval focus of the town was the mosque, transformed into the cathedral church, and the market in the centre of the urban area. There are still several medieval churches and convents, built in Gothic-Mudejar style. The renovation from the 16th to 19th centuries resulted from improved economy. Of this time the most important historic buildings include the Palace of Francisco de los Cobos, designed by Luis de Vega (now in municipal use); funerary chapel of El Salvador del Mundo; Palace of Vázquez de Molina; Hospital Honrados Viejos; Palace of the Déan Ortega (now a tourist hotel); Pósito (now a police station); Palace of the Marqués de Mancera (now a convent); Cárcel del Obispo (Bishop's Prison, late 16th century, now a law court); and Church of Santa María.
In Baeza the former Alcázar, facing south-west, has an oval form. In its general character the town resembles Úbeda, with its spontaneously grown urban layout and the winding narrow streets. The most representative buildings of Baeza are situated in an axis starting from the Plaza de Santa María and running through the steep Cuesta de San Felipe down to the Cañuelo Gate. The dominant reference point is the cathedral; in front of it are the Casas Consistoriales Altas, which is currently not in use. The Fountain of Santa María occupies a prominent position in the small square facing the cathedral, and then comes the former Seminary of St Philip Neri (1598-1660), now used as administrative offices for the Junta de Andalucía. Adjoining it is the Jabalquinto Palace of the late 15th century, currently not in use, and facing it is the Colegio de las Madres Filipenses, with the 13th-century Church of Santa Cruz beyond. The ensemble is completed at its lower end by the University, constructed in the second half of the 16th century.

Historical Description

Both Ubeda and Baeza have ancient origins. With the Moorish conquest of the 8th century, they became fortresses, which quickly attracted fortified urban settlement with a characteristic layout of narrow irregular streets. Ubeda was the Iberian Bétula, the Roman Ebdete, and the Arab Obdaz or Obdazza. It was conquered by Christian army of Ferdinand III in 1233-34, playing a role as a frontier fortress after the fall of Granada in 1492. Baeza was a minor settlement in the Roman times (Beatia or Biatia) but gained importance under the Arab rule. It was taken over by the Christians in 1226-27, and remained a place of invading armies. Both towns prospered for a brief period in the 16th century, and were partly renovated. In the Moorish period, until the 13th century, both cities had their Alcázar, the citadel that was also the residence of the governor. Outside the citadel, there developed an urban area, which was surrounded by defence walls. The street network developed organically, linking the citadel with the city gates. In the centre of the town there was the mosque, and next to it probably the market. Outside the town walls there were small settlements. In this period, both towns obtained the basic form which has since been retained.
After the Reconquista in the 13th century, the rural areas were initially abandoned. The towns obtained some privileges that allowed them to develop a new urban oligarchy. The urban fabric remained fundamentally Islamic, but there were some works of renovation in the houses and repair of the defence walls. The Alcázar loses its function but remains as a plaza de armas. A new centre develops in the town itself. In Ubeda, the former mosque is transformed into a church with a market on its side. Similar process takes place around Plaza de S. Paolo in Baeza. Convents and monasteries are introduced often in Mudéjar style.
The most important development takes place from the mid 15th to the 16th century. The economy is improved due to the development of agricultural activities, the growing of olives and vines. The society remains highly hierarchic, and the economy is in the hands of a small minority of nobles and the church. There is no substantial change in the general urban fabric, but there are a number of interventions that give new features to both towns. The wall that separated the Alcázar from the town is now demolished, and there are new housing and new public buildings built in free areas near the former Alcázar, which develop into a second centre of activities. There is also new expansion outside the town walls.
From the 17th to the 19th century, the towns suffer of abandonment and agricultural production is drastically diminished. In the 19th century, the land properties of the church are confiscated and small farming gradually develops. In the 19th and 20th centuries, there is some transformation inside the old towns, but the main development continues outside.

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