Mudejar Architecture of Aragon
Mudejar Architecture Of Aragon
Cultural Spain Europe And North America Provinces Of Teruel And Zaragoza, Autonomous Community Of Aragon

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.