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Mudéjar (from Arabic: مدجّن; meaning "domesticated" or "those who were allowed to stay") is an art movement and architectural style that emerged in various Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula (particularly Castile, Leon, Aragon and Portugal) as well as Andalusia during the 13th and 16th centuries. It is influenced by both Christian architecture (especially Gothic, Plateresque and Romanesque) and Islamic architecture (especially Hispano-Moresque ware). It flourished during periods of peace and fraternity between Christians, Muslims and Jews[1], showing influence from these religious groups.

Mudéjar architecture is characterized by its patterns and azulejos, extensive use of bricks as the principal material, not experimenting with new shapes or forms (unlike Gothic or Romanesque architecture) and reinterpreting western European architectural styles through Muslim and Jewish influences. Mudéjar art had important regional variations and influences, and one of the most developed substyles is Aragonese Mudéjar, which flourished in the city of Teruel.

The art and architecture is particularly heavily influenced by Islamic art styles, although they were generally made by Christian or non-Muslim craftsmen. Respectively, Mudéjar was also a word for muslims who remained in the Iberian peninsula but were initially not forced to convert to Christianity or got expelled, hence why it's named that way; they were like remnants of Islamic architecture but built for Christian purposes.

History[]

Mudéjar started developing in the 12th century because of political, social and cultural conditions that prevailed in Spain (at the time Castile-Aragon) and Portugal after the Reconquista period. Mudéjar art originally didn't have a name. This term was introduced for the first time by José Amador de los Ríos, a Spanish art historian and archeologist. He coined the term on his book El estilo Mudéjar, en arquitectura and named it after the "Mudéjares" (مدجّن; which means "those who were allowed to stay" or "domesticated"[2]). It was a slang term used throughout the Medieval age in the countries of the Iberian Peninsula to describe the muslims (but also Sephardic jews) who were initially not forced to convert to Christianity or got expelled back to northern Africa, although the art itself has little to do with that historical societal category. Basically, Mudéjar was architecture and art typically built by Christian craftsmen, although with a lot of influence from Islamic and Sephardic-Jewish architecture. José particularly chose that name because it describes how religious fraternity influenced the culture of central and southern Spain as well as southern Portugal during the Middle Ages.

The first and earliest examples of Mudéjar architecture can be found near the Duero river and trace back to the 12th century. To be exact, in the medieval towns of Sahagún and Cuéllar. It later became a more estabilished style in the 13th century and got exported to other cities in central Spain, including Zamora, Valladolid, Ávila, Guadalajara, Madrid and Segovia. The most important eras for Mudéjar architecture in Spain are the 12th, 14th and 15th centuries, particularly because the traditional materials were cheaper and had higher qualities. During its period of maximum popularity in the Iberian fine arts and architecture, the stone material which was prevalent in Gothic or Romanesque architecture was replaced by other ones that characterized this movement, such as bricks, gypsum and masonry, which were cheaper and more widely avaiable at the time, but also allowed architects to finish their projects faster. That's how elements traditional of Islamic architecture slowly started blending with those typical of Christian styles, creating Mudéjar as a new, distinct one[3].

Contrary to popular assumption, the influence of Mudéjar art wasn't limited to architecture. It heavily influenced decorative arts, with Hispano-Moresque lusterware, featuring metallic reflections on a ceramic surface, and it was later exported across Europe[4].

Decline[]

Mudéjar art, as it emerged from periods of religious peace, started declining in the 16th century due to political reasons in Spain. In 1492, with the Alhambra Decree, those who were religiously or ethnically Jewish (or Sephardic, to be more specific) were expelled from the country because it was a period of religious tension. Later, those who were considered ethnically "Moorish" (or simply, of North African or Arabian origin) were forced to assimiliate by the Crown of Castile (eg: converting to Christianity, speaking Castilian rather than Arabic, Mozarab or Amazigh languages) for years, although later in 1609, they were officially expelled from the country.

Characteristics[]

The most defining characteristic of Mudéjar architecture is its extensive use of brick as the primary construction material, a practice inherited from Islamic architecture. Buildings often display intricate brickwork patterns and decorative elements, including geometric designs, floral motifs, and calligraphic inscriptions.

The horseshoe arch, a hallmark of Islamic architecture, is another prominent element in Mudejar buildings, adding a distinct visual characteristic. Variations of the horseshoe arch, such as the multi-lobed arch, are also frequently employed.

Intricate wooden ceilings, known as artesonados, are another defining feature, often decorated with geometric patterns, floral motifs, and other elements. Glazed ceramic tiles, or azulejos, are commonly used for both interior and exterior decoration, adding color to Mudéjar structures.

While Mudéjar architecture incorporates numerous Islamic artistic elements, it also heavily reflects the influence of prevailing Christian architectural styles like Romanesque or Gothic, resulting in a hybrid style unique to some parts of the Iberian Peninsula.

Distribution & Regional Schools[]

Mudejardistribution

A map of the Iberian peninsula, with examples of Mudéjar architecture, colored by regional substyle.

Generally, Mudéjar art and architecture tends to be found more often in central and southern Spain and southern Portugal, with little examples found in the north. This is due to historical reasons: the northern regions and kingdoms stayed Christian for longer than the rest of the peninsula and therefore religious diversity wasn't significant. Some of the most interesting regional variations of Mudéjar art can be found in Aragon, and many of them are protected under UNESCO World Heritage[5]. As seen on the map, other regional variations include Castilian and Leonese Mudéjar (colored red), Andalusian Mudéjar (colored green), Manchegan Mudéjar (colored purple) and Portuguese Mudéjar (colored blue), while those that don't belong to any specific submovement are coloured white. Early examples of the Mudéjar style are colored as grey, and they can be found principally in Extremadura and Torquemada (northern Castile).

Aragonese Mudéjar[]

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Andalusian Mudéjar[]

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Castilian & Leonese Mudéjar[]

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Manchegan Mudéjar[]

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Portuguese Mudéjar[]

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Other Non-region Based Examples[]

There are certain examples of Mudéjar art that don't fit any of the regional categories (colored white on the map); this is especially true for monuments in Valencia and Murcia, and very few others that were built in northern regions (eg: Navarre and the Basque Country, Galicia) out of simply following the Mudéjar trend rather than socio-cultural and religious development. Some of these might also include the Neo-Mudéjar style.

Neo-Mudéjar[]

Neomudejar

The interior of the Iglesia de San Pedro, Teruel, Aragon.

Neo-Mudéjar refers to a substyle of Moorish Revival architecture that originated (again) in the Iberian peninsula and to a lesser extent in the Latin-American countries during the 19th and 20th centuries, with the trend officially starting in Madrid and Barcelona and later spreading elsewhere. It is really adjacent to the Orientalistic values in European art at the time. Contrary to how original Mudéjar was almost exclusively used in Christian buildings, this architectural style was often used in places related to entertainment rather than religion, notably smoking clubs, casinos, train stations, bullfighting rings or saunas. In Spain some artists participated in the trend because they saw Mudéjar as an "authentically Spanish" architectural style (unlike, for example, Romanesque architecture, which originally came from Italy, or Gothic art, from France). Architects such as Emilio Rodríguez Ayuso and Agustín Ortiz Villajos designed buildings with motifs proper of the historical Mudéjar art style, and created abstract brick constructions.

Gallery[]

References[]

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