The Mudejar, a genuinely Spanish art
Detail of San Martín Tower in Teruel
Anyone interested in really understanding Spain, marvelling at its turbulent history and experiencing the rich diversity of its culture should make a point of learning about Mudejar art. This art, unique in the world, is a symbol of the peaceful coexistence of peoples, and combines all the best aspects of Moorish and Christian traditions. Its exceptionally beautiful civil and religious buildings have been awarded the World Heritage designation by the UNESCO.
A shining example of a hybrid art style, the origins of the Mudejar date from the 11th century. The advance of the Christian armies in their reconquest of the lands occupied by the Arabs allowed many Muslim master craftsmen to stay in their homes and work for the kings and lords of Castile and Aragon. The result was a new architectural style, genuinely Spanish, with a pervasive personality which amazes and delights both tourists and experts.
There are many religious and civil Mudejar buildings still standing in Spain to this day: Christian chapels, Jewish synagogues and royal palaces. They combine elements of the Romanesque and Gothic styles in their floor plans, with many typical traits of Andalusí art such as semi-circular arches, wooden roofs and friezes and, above all, the use of brick, plaster and tile, rather than stone, as building materials.
Although the Mudejar can be seen all over Spain, there are three main centres which contain some of the most beautiful examples of this art: Aragon, Castile-León and the city of Toledo.
Aragon in particular boasts a proud Mudejar heritage. Several of the buildings built between the 11th and 14th centuries have been awarded the UNESCO World Heritage designation: for example the collegiate church of Santa María , in Calatayud; the church-fortress of Santa Tecla, in Cervera de la Cañada; the church of Santa María in Tobed; and in Zaragoza, the Aljafería Palace , the parish church of San Pablo, and the cathedral of La Seo.
Prior to that, the splendid towers of San Pedro, San Salvador and San Martín, along with the cathedral tower, roof and dome, all in Teruel, had already been declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1986. Teruel is considered to be the capital of Aragon's Mudejar art.
The Mudejar in Castile-Leon has less of an Andalusian influence, although it is no less spectacular. The town of Sahagún (Leon), is well worth visiting, since this is one of the early centres of this art, and is home to the churches of San Lorenzo and San Tirso. Other important Mudejar sites in Castile and Leon are the town of Toro (province of Zamora), Coca Castle in Segovia, and Lugareja Church in Arévalo (province of Avila). The province of Valladolid has various Mudejar monuments such as the Royal Palace in Tordesillas and the church of San Pablo in Peñafiel, along with a Mudejar-themed attraction in the town of Olmedo, with exact scale models of Castile and Leon’s most emblematic Mudejar buildings.
Toledo is the third great centre of Mudejar art, and this style can be seen in many works of civil architecture, such as the Taller del Moro museum; military elements such as the Puerta del Sol gateway; and, of course, religious buildings, including the parish church of Santiago del Arrabal. In addition, the Gothic-Mudejar style is extremely well represented in two synagogues in which the city’s Christian and Arab heritage are perfectly merged with its Jewish heritage. These are Santa Maria la Blanca (13th century) and the Transito synagogue (14th century), today the site of the Sephardic museum.