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Mudéjar (/mˈdhɑːr/,[1] also US: /-ˈðɛh-, -ˈðɛx-/,[2][3] Spanish: [muˈðexaɾ], Portuguese: [muˈðɛʒaɾ]; Catalan: mudèjar [muˈðɛʒəɾ]; Arabic: مدجن‎, translit. mudajjan, lit. 'tamed; domesticated')[4] refers to an architecture and decoration style in (post-Moorish) Christian Iberia that was strongly influenced by Moorish taste and workmanship, reaching its greatest expression in medieval Aragon, Andalusia and the city of Toledo. The distinctive Mudéjar style is still evident in regional architecture, as well as in music, art, and crafts, especially Hispano-Moresque ware, lustreware pottery that was widely exported across Europe.

Etymology and background[edit]

Façade of Parroquieta Chapel of La Seo de Zaragoza, Aragon, one of the most elaborate examples of Gothic Mudéjar masonry

Mudéjar was originally the term used for Moors or Muslims of Al-Andalus who remained in Iberia after the Christian Reconquista but were not initially forcibly converted to Christianity. It was a medieval Spanish borrowing of the Arabic word Mudajjan مدجن, meaning "tamed", referring to Muslims who submitted to the rule of Christian kings. The term likely originated as a taunt, as the word was usually applied to domesticated animals such as poultry.[5] Another term with the same meaning, ahl al-dajn ("people who stay on"), was used by Muslim writers, notably al-Wansharisi in his work Kitab al-Mi'yar.[5]

Mudéjar was used in contrast to both Muslims in Muslim-ruled areas (for example, Muslims of Granada before 1492) and Moriscos, who were forcibly converted and may or may not have continued to secretly practice Islam.[6] A related word is mozarab, which refers to a Christian individual living under Islamic rule.[6]

The Treaty of Granada (1491) protected religious and cultural freedoms for Muslims in the imminent transition from the Emirate of Granada to a Province of Castile. After the fall of the last Islamic kingdom in the Battle of Granada in January 1492, Mudéjars, unlike the Jews who were expelled that same year, kept a protected religious status, although there were Catholic efforts to convert them. However, over the next several decades this religious freedom deteriorated. Islam was outlawed in Portugal by 1497,[7] the Crown of Castile by 1502,[8] and the Crown of Aragon by 1526,[9] forcing the Mudéjars to convert or in some cases leave the country.[10] Following the forced conversion, they then faced suspicions that they were not truly converted but remained crypto-Muslims, and were known as Moriscos. The Moriscos, too, were eventually expelled, in 1609–1614.

Mudéjar architectural style[edit]


Nuestra Señora de Loreto, Algezares, city of Murcia: wooden ceiling on "diaphragm" arches
Ceiling of Mudéjar carpentry, Segorbe town hall (former ducal palace), Valencia Region
Santa Eulalia Church in Totana, Murcia Region

In erecting Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance buildings, builders used elements of Islamic art and often achieved striking results. Its influence survived into the 17th century.[11]

The Mudéjar style, a symbiosis of techniques of building and decoration that emerged in the 12th century on the Iberian peninsula, where Moorish and European cultures met. It is characterised by the use of brick as the main material, in particular for bell towers. Mudéjar did not involve the creation of new shapes or structures, unlike Gothic or Romanesque, but applied the elements of Islamic and Jewish art and architecture to medieval and renaissance Christian architecture. Such influences included ancient Arabic calligraphic scripts, Kufic and Naskhi, which follow repetitive rhythmic patterns.[12][11]

The dominant geometrical character, distinctly Islamic, emerged conspicuously in the crafts: elaborate tilework, brickwork, wood carving, plasterwork, and ornamental metals. To enliven the surfaces of wall and floor, Mudéjar style developed complicated tiling patterns. Even after Muslims were no longer employed in architecture, many of the elements they had introduced continued to be incorporated into Spanish architecture, giving it a distinctive appearance. The term Mudejar style was first coined in 1859 by the Andalusian historian and archeologist José Amador de los Ríos.

Mudéjar often makes use of girih geometric strapwork decoration, as used in Middle Eastern Islamic architecture, where Maghreb buildings tended to use vegetal arabesques. Scholars have sometimes considered the geometric forms, both girih and the complex vaultings of muqarnas, as innovative, and arabesques as retardataire, but in Al-Andalus, both geometric and vegetal forms are freely used and combined.[13]

Historians agree that the Mudéjar style first developed in the town of Sahagún, León under Christian rule, as an adaptation of architectural and ornamental motifs, especially through decoration with plasterwork and brick.[12] Mudéjar then extended to the rest of the Kingdom of León, Toledo, Ávila, Segovia, etc., giving rise to what has been called brick Romanesque style. Centers of Mudéjar art are found in other cities, such as Toro, Cuéllar, Arévalo and Madrigal de las Altas Torres.

Locations of some of the main sites of Mudéjar architecture in Spain and Portugal, showing early examples (grey) and regional subtypes: Portugal (blue); Aragon (yellow); Castile & León (red); Toledo (purple); Andalusia (green); other (white)

It became most highly developed in Aragon, especially in Teruel[14] but also in towns such as Zaragoza, Utebo, Tauste, Daroca, and Calatayud. During the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, many imposing Mudéjar-style towers were built in the city of Teruel, changing the aspect of the city. This distinction has survived to the present day. Mudéjar led to a fusion between the incipient Gothic style and the Muslim influences that had been integrated with late Romanesque. A particularly fine Mudéjar example is the Casa de Pilatos, built in the early 16th century at Seville. Seville includes many other examples of Mudéjar style. The Alcázar of Seville is considered one of the greatest surviving examples. The Alcázar includes Gothic and Renaissance styles, as well as Mudéjar. The palace originally began as a Moorish fort. Pedro of Castile continued the Islamic architectural style when he ordered the palace expanded. The parish church of Santa Catalina (pictured) was built in the 14th century over an old mosque.

While international interest tends to emphasize Mudéjar masonry, including the sophisticated use of bricks and tiles, Spanish scholars also note Mudéjar carpentry, as well as the combination of the two. Several churches have slanting wooden ceilings supported by transverse arches of stone, called diaphragms.[15]


Wooden mudéjar roof of the chapel of the Royal Palace of Sintra (Portugal) with 4-, 6-, 8- and 12-point stars in girih strapwork

Portugal also has examples of Mudéjar art and architecture, although the examples are fewer and the style simpler in decoration than in neighbouring Spain. Mudéjar brick architecture is only found in the apse of the Church of Castro de Avelãs [1], near Braganza, which is similar to the prototypical Church of Sahagún in León. A hybrid Gothic-Mudéjar style also developed in the Alentejo province in southern Portugal during the 15th and 16th centuries, where it overlapped with the Manueline style. The windows of the Royal Palace and the Palace of the Counts of Basto in Évora are good examples of this style. Decorative arts of Mudéjar inspiration are also found in the tile patterns of churches and palaces, such as the 16th-century tiles, imported from Seville, that decorate the Royal Palace of Sintra. Mudéjar wooden roofs are found in churches in Sintra, Caminha, Funchal, Lisbon and some other places.

Latin America[edit]

Mudéjar tower of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception in Cali, Colombia

Latin America also has examples of Mudéjar art and architecture, for example in Coro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Venezuela. Other examples of the style in Latin America include the Monastery of San Francisco in Lima, Peru, and the Iglesia del Espíritu Santo in Havana, Cuba.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mudejar" (US) and "Mudejar". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  2. ^ "Mudéjar". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  3. ^ "Mudejar". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  4. ^ Wehr, Hans (1979). Arabic-English Dictionary. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. ISBN 0-87950-003-4.
  5. ^ a b Harvey 1992, p. 4.
  6. ^ a b Harvey 1992, p. 2.
  7. ^ Harvey 2005, p. 15.
  8. ^ Harvey 2005, p. 57.
  9. ^ Harvey 2005, p. 94.
  10. ^ Harvey 2005, p. 48.
  11. ^ a b "Mudejar Architecture of Aragon". UNESCO. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Arquitectura Mudéjar" (in Spanish). Arteguias. September 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  13. ^ Roxburgh, David J. (2014). Envisioning Islamic Art and Architecture: Essays in Honor of Renata Holod. Brill. pp. 28–30. ISBN 978-90-04-28028-1.
  14. ^ "Mudejar Architecture of Aragon". World Heritage Site. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  15. ^ Regiòn de Murcia, Arte mudéjar
  16. ^ Puig, Francisco Prat (1947). El pre-Barroco en Cuba: una escuela criolla de arquitectura morisca. Biblioteca Nacional José Marti.


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