18 February 2011

Exploring Moorish and Mudéjar influences in Aragon and Teruel

In the year 711, a loose confederacy of Berber, Black African and Arab tribes invaded and conquered most of what is now Spain. In English, we call these people Moors though that's not a term they used for themselves. They called their conquered territory Al-Andalus and they remained on the Iberian peninsula for nearly 800 years. The Islamic impact of the Moors was profound and it can still be felt and seen in modern Spain today. Here are some details of the Aljafería Palace in Zaragoza. This is true Moorish architecture.

Starting in the 1200s, a coalition of Christian kings started to drive the Moors from Spain in a three century long campaign called the Reconquista. As Moorish territory fell to the Christian kings of Spain, the Moors who stayed behind were allowed to continue to practice their religion. At least until the 15th century that is.

The Spanish called the Moors who remained in these newly conquered territories Mudéjar. The word itself is a Medieval Spanish reworking of an Arabic term for "the ones who stayed." Mudéjar is also the name of the architectural style from this period. Mudéjar is a hybrid of Moorish, Gothic and Romanesque styles.

It is this Mudéjar architecture that most non-Spaniards think of when they think of Moorish architecture. Mudéjar reached its highest degree of sophistication in the Spanish provinces of Aragon and Teruel. Thanks to the generosity of The Spanish Tile Manufacturer's Association (ASCER) and Tile of Spain, I had the chance to be in both of those places last week and to see for myself what Mudéjar looks like in person.

Here's a collection of architectural details and all of it is in the Mudéjar style. I took these photos in Zaragoza and Teruel and they're not in any particular order.

So the next time someone starts talking about Moorish or Moorish Revival architecture, ask that person to clarify whether he's talking about true Moorish or Mudéjar. It will make you sound smart.


  1. Gorgeous pics! You could sell prints of them. I'm especially in love with #6 and #13. (You could have made that easier for me by numbering them) ;)

    Great post! I always learn something from your posts.

  2. Moorish for me please!

    UGH, it's all so very very good. You have my undying love for writing this post.

    Happy weekend,

    If the Lamp Shade Fits

  3. I found this blog to be very interesting. I love looking at architectural details anyway. In my woodworking classes I learned that many of the details used in furniture making and finish carpentry were first used in buildings. Dentil molding is an example, and there are many more. Since then, though, I can never really look at a building without trying to develop a woodworking equivalent. I haven’t actually succeeded in that, but the beat goes on!

    My wife’s family was in Spain for several years while her father was a Naval Officer. One of the coolest things from that period, I think, is their pictures of the Alhambra, which to me, is a glory that exists on several levels: the building itself and Francisco Tárrega’s exquisite Recuerdos de la Alhambra.

  4. Lax, Raina and Joe: Thanks for weighing in. The things i saw in Spain last week are things that I'll carry with me for the rest of my life. What a country! Go to Spain!

  5. beautiful post Paul... Your pics capture how gorgeous and massive the Mudejar towers really are

  6. WOW!! How nice are those photos...Okay now I have to book my trip to Spain. Summer vacay? Most Def!

  7. Amazing pictures! Spain must be a dream come true! XoXo

  8. Ryan: Thanks, they were spectacular.

    Eric: Yes, go. I know i'll definitely be back.

    Macarena: Claro! Tienes que ir en Espana!

  9. Hi Paul.

    Great article on the Moors...wow, did not know a lot about their origin!! And your photography and video are striking!!! Thx.

  10. Thanks Jeff, get thee to Spain!

  11. Thanks for the architecture lesson Paul not to mention the wonderful examples of stonemasonry craftsmanship that you have captured in these photos. -Brenda-

  12. Great article . Very educative
    I'm a huge fan of Moorish architecture and Moroccan style interior design and i wanted to share this amazing source for Moorish architectural elements and Moroccan interior design located in San Francisco, California.
    Check them out at : http://www.sainttropezboutique.us




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