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Teruel: Mudéjar Architecture

Mudejar Art

The Mudéjar Architecture of Teruel was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site at 1986 because it illustrates a significant stage in the human history.

The word mudéjar refers to the Muslim residents that continued living in territory conquered by Christians during the reconquista (reconquest) of the Iberian Peninsula, a war that lasted nearly the entire duration of the middle ages. These mudéjares, or moriscos, that remained in Christian territory had certain obligations depending on their region of residency. One of the elements that all of these communities shared however, was that they maintained their artistic and architectural techniques, creating a style (mudéjar art) that is unique to Spain.

Mudéjar art has been best preserved in its architecture: not only in the structural expression displayed in the buildings themselves, but also in the decoration that adorns the building’s exteriors and wooden and ceramic ceiling spaces. Mudéjar architecture uses materials traditional to Islamic culture, such as brick, glazed earthenware, and carved wood, while Christian architects preferred using stone, carved or uncarved, for the construction of noble buildings. The period of mudéjar architecture extends from the 12th to the 17th century, when it coexisted with roman, neoclassical, renaissance, and baroque styles. Toward the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20 century, a movement emerged known as neo mudéjar, founded on a growing interest in the historical period.

The greatest concentration of mudéjar architecture from all of its periods can be found in the autonomous community of Aragon, more specifically in the area’s southern province of Teruel, between Castile-La Mancha and the Valencian Community. The capital of this province (of the same name) contains an impressive collection of mudéjar buildings. Read on and join us as we explore Teruel’s inspiring works of art.

This charming capital city of just 35,000 residents is like an enormous architectural museum, where exhibit highlights include the towers of the Cathedral and the churches of San Pedro, San Martin, el Salvador and la Merced. These, along with the apse of the Church of San Pedro, decorated with sebka designs and predominately green glazed earthenware and the Cathedral ceiling with its carved, polychrome wood decoration, all display a beauty that reflects the passage of time and reminds us of how each of the four season influences our lives differently.

A tour of mudéjar art always begins in the Cathedral of Santa María de Mediavilla, an architectural ensemble that showcases a gradual evolution of styles: its tower and ceiling correspond with styles from the late Middle Ages (13th and early 14th centuries), the lantern tower and the Chapel of the Kings with those of the 16th century (Modern Age), and finally the southern gate is an example of 19th century neo mudéjar style.

Leaving behind the Cathedral and following calle Los Amantes, we come across the fantastic Tower of San Martín, built between 1315 and 1316, which is of course the bell tower of the Church of San Martín. Continuing on calle Andaquilla, passing through the old Moorish quarter, and crossing the plaza of Pérez Prado and heading along Yagüe de Salas up to calle Salvador, we happen to reach the Tower del Salvador next to its church. This is the only tower that visitors can enter to observe its interior. To get to the Church of San Pedro, we take the callejón (alleyway) of Matías Abad. This is likely Teruel’s oldest mudéjar temple, dating even farther back than the Cathedral’s tower.

After taking in so much architectural splendor, it’s a good idea to take a break in one of the nearby bars or cafés before we continue exploring this city to look for some of the neo mudéjar works mentioned earlier, such as the Instituto de Enseñanzas Medias (high school) and the Casa de la comunidad (currently the Museum of Teruel), in which we can enjoy the wonders of ceramic art. The passion for mudéjar art is alive and thriving in this city, as can be seen in the headquarters of the Civil Guard, one of Teruel’s latest examples of this unique art form found in the beautiful city’s new buildings.