The origins of the Moorish
heritage in Spain
As the Roman
Empire declined, Spain was taken over by the
- originally from
Eastern Europe - who ruled from the sixth to the eighth centuries.
But in the year 711, Roderick,
the Visigoth king of southern Spain, was defeated by advancing armies
of Moors, from North
Africa. The Moors had recently converted to a new religion,
called Islam, and established Islamic caliphates through most of Spain.
Islamic Moorish culture blossomed through a large part of the Spanish
peninsula for almost the next 800 years. During these centuries
Christians from the north slowly pushed back the Moors in a long
historic process known as the "Reconquest". It was not until 1492 that
the Moors were finally
driven out of Granada, their last Spanish bastion.
The Patio de los Leones, in the Alhambra, Granada.
Mediaeval Spain was thus very different from the rest of
Europe, having a cultural heritage that was strongly rooted
both Islamic and Christian culture.
Spain's Moorish heritage takes three forms: classic "Almohad"
Moorish buildings and craft, dating from the time of Moorish rule;
Mozarab architecture, created by Christians living in Moorish Spain,
and producing "Christian" art and architecture in a Moorish style;
and Mudejar architecture and decoration, a style derived from the
Moorish tradition but used after the Christian Reconquest.
most impressive and significant sites of Spain's Moorish heritage.
Apart from these ten important sites, Spain is full of old churches,
castles and other buildings of Moorish or Mudejar inspiration -
particularly in the communities of Andalucia, Extremadura and Aragon.
The Moorish heritage is one of the multiple threads of Spanish culture
even to this day.
(Andalucia) : (UNESCO
site) - The Alhambra palace, the finest surviving Almohad
palace, the Generalife palace and gardens, next to the Alhambra; the
Corral del Carbon, a Moorish caravanserai or inn, in the city centre.
The Alcaiceria - small Moorish market streets, next to the Cathedral,
and once home to silk traders.
(Andalucia) : (UNESCO
world heritage site) La Mezquita, or the old Mosque, is an 8th to
10th century building that was once the second largest mosque
the Islamic world. Today it is part of the Cathedral. A uniquely
beautiful building, over 1000 years old. A few miles southwest is the
Castle of Almodovar del Río, or Moorish origin, and one of the
finest castles in Andalucia.
East portal of the Mezquita at Cordoba.
/ Seville (Andalucia): (UNESCO world heritage site) The
Alcazar, a fortress later transformed into a Royal Palace. Even after
the Reconquest, the kings of Spain continued to develop the building in
the Moorish style. Nearby, the Giralda, a large former minaret, is now
part of the cathedral.
(Andalucia) : The Alcazaba.
Surrounded by a double row of fortifications, the alcazaba at Malaga is
the best preserved among a considerable number of Moorish castles and
strongholds in Spain.
(Castilla la Mancha)
(UNESCO world heritage site) . The former mosque of Cristo de la Luz,
built in the year 999. A large ensemble of Mudejar and
the city gate Puerta del Sol, the synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca,
and the churches of San Roman, Santa Leocadia and Santo Tomé.
of Moorish Spain. San Roman church, Toledo, where classic Mozarabic
frescoes depict Christian iconography beneath Arabic
/ Saragossa (Aragon) (UNESCO world heritage site):
The Moorish Castillo de la Aljaferia; Mudejar architecture in parts of
the Cathedral la Seo, the churches of San Gil Abad and La Magdalena,
and in the tower and church of San Pablo.
(UNESCO world heritage site) : A collection of Mudejar churches and
buildings including the Catedral de Santa María de
the towers of San Martin and El Salvador, and the church of San Pedro.
of Léon :
Mozarab churches of Leon Province, remarkable for their use
horseshoe arches. San Miguel de Escalada, Santiago de
and the hermitage of San Tomas de la Ollas
(Aragon) : Castillo. the Moorish castle of Gormaz, built
in 756 AD, is
the largest early mediaeval fortress in Europe, built to protect
Spain from Christian incursions. It is 390 metres from end to end, and
has 28 towers.
El Aljibe - Underground Moorish water
located within the museum of Extremadura, in the old city of Caceres.
Moorish city walls (in part).
Illustrated descriptive catalogue
of Mudejar buildings in Aragon (in Spanish)
Full illustrated list of historic monuments in Toledo
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a Mudejar church tower -
Below: detail of Mudejar brickwork