Fun Architecture at its Finest: Uncovering Mudejar Style in a simple guide for a layman
This page helps explain the characteristics of a fun Mudejar style, and shows examples of iconic Mudejar buildings that still exist today in Europe.
Mudejar architecture is an unusual and fun style that developed in the Iberian Peninsula during the medieval period. It combines Islamic and Christian elements and even has some Jewish influence reflecting the rich cultural history of the region.
On this page you will see pictures and videos of some of the most iconic examples of the style. To understand what you see better, I will also explain the characteristics of Mudejar style, arising from its history and the cultures it represents.
Mudejar architecture is my favorite style of old architectures and I would love to share my passion with you by uncovering the beauty and allure of Mudejar architecture.
You do not need to be an architect to appreciate the beauty of Mudejar architecture, but it is more fun to have some knowledge about this style to enjoy it even more. Hence, this guide for a layman.
Hello, I am Tatiana—an architecture addict fascinated with beautiful old buildings and the best places in Europe to find them. I share with you how they look and the practical steps for getting there!
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Video of Chapel of Sant Bartholomew
Characteristics of Mudéjar architecture
Decorative Elements of Mudejar style
Structural elements in Mudejar architecture:
Distinct style of building materials
Use of Brick, Plaster and Ornate Tilework
Contribution of Jewish culture to Mudejar style
Examples of Mudejar Architecture
Examples of famous buildings in the Mudejar architecture
Mudéjar style around the world
Highlights of Mudejar ARCHITECTURE
Fun arabesque patterns!
Outstanding, lavishly decorated archways and domes!
The Chapel of Saint Bartholomew is a fine example of Mudejar architecture in Andalusia representing the use of all elements of Mudejar style together in one small room.
What is Mudejar style
History and Origins of Mudejar architecture
Mudejar architecture appeared during a period of cultural exchange between the Moorish Muslim rulers in Al-Andalus and the Christian Europeans who had conquered much of the region by the late 11th century. This exchange created a unique blend of architectural styles which blended both Islamic and Christian features together to form a distinct new style that eventually became known as Mudéjar.
Mudejar architecture was mostly specific to Andalusia area of Spain, but was also spread to the neighboring Portugal and the rest of Iberian Peninsula.
The term "Mudéjar" [moo-the-hah-r]. comes from the Arabic word mudajjan, which means "those who are allowed to stay"—a reference to the Muslim people who were allowed to remain in the Iberian Peninsula under Christian rule.
The Mudéjar style has been influential in many areas around the world, particularly in Latin America, where it was adopted by settlers from Spain during colonial times. No wonder they did it - Mudejar style is just so much fun, and Latin America knows how to have fun!:)
It has also been adapted into modern Islamic architecture in countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey, making it a truly global influence.
Let’s see what characteristics define Mudejar architecture.
Characteristics of Mudéjar architecture
Combination of Islamic and Christian Styles of Architecture
Mudejar style was used as a way to integrate the two cultures, Islamic and Christian, and it features elements from both in unique ways.
Mudéjar style buildings are characterized by their combination of Islamic and Christian elements. They often feature intricate decorative elements; geometric patterns, arabesques, quatrefoils, and star shapes, which reflect the influence of Islamic art.
At the same time, architectural features such as columns, domes, and arches have been used in a way that is characteristic of Gothic and Romanesque styles.
This blend of two styles has created a distinct new style - Mudéjar.
Christian architectural styles that influenced Mudejar architecture
The Christian architectural styles that influenced Mudejar architecture include:
Gothic-Mudejar style is characterized by the use of brick and glazed tiles in the decoration of the walls, arches, and vaults. Some of the notable examples of this style are the Alcazar of Seville, the Cathedral of Teruel, and many Palace in the Alhambra.
2. Renaissance-Mudejar style: This style was a fusion of Mudejar and Renaissance elements, which was popular in the 16th century. Buildings in this style feature ornate woodwork, intricate plasterwork, and tilework. The Palace of Carlos V in Granada and the Church of San Francisco in Santiago de Compostela are examples of this style.
3. Baroque-Mudejar style: This style emerged in the 17th century and was characterized by the use of polychrome ceramic tiles and colorful decoration. The Royal Chapel of Granada and the Palace of the Marquis of la Vega Inclan in Sevilla are examples of this style.
An angled entryway, typical of the Gothic style, surrounded by Moorish tiles results in Mudejar style element.
Decorative Elements of Mudejar ARCHITECTURE
There are some distinctive decorative elements in architecture built in Mudejar style, such as quatrefoils, star patterns and arabesques.
Mudéjar architecture also has its own distinct style of building materials. Mudéjar buildings are often constructed with brick walls which are covered with stucco or plaster. This gives them a unique look, which is both decorative and practical.
The most common features include the use of arches, vaults, domes, ornate tile-work, brick, plaster and decorative elements such as quatrefoils, star patterns and arabesques.
Quatrefoils are one of the most recognizable decorative elements of Mudéjar style architecture.
Quatrefoils (four-petaled flowers) are geometric designs that feature four lobes or petals arranged into a symmetrical star-like shape.
Often seen as an ornamental motif on both the interior and exterior of buildings, quatrefoils can be found on walls, ceilings, doors or other architectural features. The quatrefoil is believed to have originated from Islamic art and design, which was then adapted by Christian architects working in Mudéjar style during the Middle Ages.
Quatrefoils are also used in many other architectural styles, including Gothic and Renaissance architecture, making them a versatile and timeless design element.
A typical example of quatrefoils decorative element of Mudejar architecture
Arabesque patterns are typically composed of geometric shapes, such as circles and stars, that are often combined with decorative motifs to create a beautiful and unique design.
Aren't they fun?!:)
These patterns can be seen in wooden windows found in Mudejar buildings across Portugal and Spain . The use of arabesque patterns within the windows adds an element of beauty and elegance, while still maintaining a connection to the Islamic roots of the Mudéjar style.
Fun and happy arabesque pattern on the wall in Alhambra, Spain. It was so beautiful I took a rare selfie to save the moment of happiness from seeing that room.
Here is a typical example of Mudejar style element - arabesque pattern on Alcazar de Real in Spain
Latticework is a type of decorative feature often seen in Mudéjar style buildings, mostly on the windows and door frames. It comprises interlocking pieces of wood or metal, arranged to form geometric shapes such as stars, circles, squares and triangles, to add an extra layer of detail to the building's exterior.
In order to create latticework designs, you need to measure out the size and shape of the design you want to make first. Once you have these measurements, use a saw or jigsaw to cut each piece; then use nails or screws to connect them together. When all the pieces have been connected, sand down any rough edges and paint if necessary for a finished look.
Of course, YOU don't have to do anything like this!:) We all can just admire what the craftsmen of Andalusia created, and the current Government preserves! This one of the reasons European destinations are so popular!
Here is another beautiful example of an Mudejar elaborate woodwork over an archway
Here is an example of a Mudejar elaborate woodwork over an archway in Alcazar de Real in Sevilla
Arches are a fundamental element of Mudéjar architecture; they are both decorative features and structural elements. These arches create an open and airy feel that helps to bring light into the building and provides a sense of space. Using multiple arches also allows for complex designs and inner courtyards, commonly found in Mudéjar buildings.
Structural elements in Mudejar architecture
Mudéjar architecture is characterized by the use of some typical structural architectural elements like arches, vaults, and domes, combined in a complex and interesting way.
The keychain shaped archway in Mudejar architectural style
A very fun looking entranceway in Cordoba, Spain
Vaults are another important element of Mudéjar architecture.
A vault is an arch-shaped structure that is used to span a space and provide support for the roof or ceiling of a building. They can often be seen on ceilings or walls, creating interesting shapes that add depth to the design.
The vaults themselves can be constructed using different material like stone, steel, or other materials and provide stability while keeping the space open and airy. Vaults are commonly seen in Mudéjar architecture as they help to keep the unique aesthetic of an Islamic-influenced building, while creating large open spaces - domes.
Watch the video at the beginning of this post about Sant Bartholomew Chapel to see the best example of Mudejar vaults both on the ceiling and the wall.
This vaulted ceiling in a closer in Geronimo Monastery is an example of a typical element in Mudejar architecture - vaults. It also shows another element of Mudejar style - arches.
Domes in Mudejar architecture
Domes were an important feature of Mudéjar architecture.
Domes are semi-circular or polygonal structures that provide strength and stability to a building, while at the same time creating an impressive aesthetic when adorned with decorative motifs.
Use of intricate tile work in domes made them a key element of the Mudéjar style.
A fine example of the Mudejar dome - the dome in Sintra National Palace.
Distinct style of building materials; Use of Brick, Plaster and Ornate tile-work
Mudéjar architecture has its own distinct style of building materials. Mudéjar buildings are often constructed with brick walls, covered with stucco or plaster, and ornate tile work to create intricate patterns and designs that can be seen on walls, ceilings, vaults, and other architectural elements.
This combination of building materials creates this distinctive style, typical of Mudejar style.
Mudéjar style plaster
Mudéjar style plaster is a type of decorative plasterwork that is characterized by intricate patterns and carvings inspired by traditional Islamic art.
Mudéjar style plaster typically comprises a combination of sand, limestone, gypsum powder and water. This mixture is then spread over the surface of walls or ceilings and carved into intricate designs. These designs often incorporate Arabesque patterns, stars, quatrefoils, lattice-work and other motifs, inspired by Islamic art, described above.
The technique also allows for the use of vibrant colors as various pigments can be added to the plaster mix to create unique designs with multiple hues. It's one of the reasons Mudejar architecture is so much fun!
Mudéjar style plaster has become a popular decorative material in modern architecture because of its ornate designs and versatility.
It is often used for interior decoration in homes, hotels and other buildings where it adds a touch of elegance and fun to any space. It is also durable enough to be used outdoors and indoors, making it an ideal choice for exterior decoration on building facades.
But in is known the most for its use in Mudéjar architecture in medieval Spain and Portugal.
In conclusion, the use of all these described above materials, decorative and structural elements, are responsible for the unique look and feel of a Mudéjar architecture
a great example of a distinctive element - Mudejar style plaster on this archway in Royal Alcazar
In Mudejar architectural style, ornate tile-work is a prominent feature that adds a unique and distinctive touch to the design. The use of ornate tile-work in Mudejar architecture is a reflection of the Islamic tradition of using intricate geometric patterns and calligraphy in their art and architecture.
The tiles used in Mudejar architecture are typically made of glazed ceramic and are often brightly colored. They are used to decorate walls, floors, and ceilings, and are arranged in intricate patterns and designs. The patterns often include geometric shapes, floral motifs, and calligraphy, and are arranged in a way that creates a sense of harmony and balance.
Looks at the staircases. Aren't they fun?! :)
Contribution of Jewish culture to Mudejar style
Do you know that besides being a blend of both Islamic and Christian cultural features together, Mudéjar style of architecture has also some Jewish influences?
Because the Mudejar style developed in Spain during the 12th to the 16th centuries, during this time Spain was a diverse society, when Islamic and Christian cultures were coexisting and collaborating. The style also absorbed Jewish influences from the Sephardic Jewish community that lived and also peacefully coexisted in Spain along with the Christian and Islamic communities.
The Mudejar style is characterized by the use of brick and ornamental tile work, as well as the use of geometric patterns and arabesques. These elements were borrowed from Islamic architecture, which was prevalent in Spain during the Middle Ages. However, Mudejar architecture also incorporated elements from Christian and Jewish cultures, such as Gothic arches, the use of wood carvings, and decorative motifs from Jewish culture.
Jewish artisans played a key role in the development of the Mudejar style, especially in the construction of synagogues and other Jewish buildings that blended elements of Islamic and Christian architecture. Many of these synagogues were later transformed into churches or other Christian buildings, but elements of the Mudejar style can still be seen in their design and decoration.
So, Jewish culture did have an influence on the Mudejar style of architecture, along with Islamic and Christian cultures, and played a role in the development of this unique style in Spain.
This rich cultural exchange helped shape the Mudéjar style of architecture and made it a unique symbol of Spain's multicultural heritage.
What are the examples of mudejar architecture?
One of the most iconic examples of Mudéjar architecture is the ceiling in the Alcazar de Real in Seville, Spain. This stunning example of Islamic-influenced art features intricate plasterwork and tile designs that create a beautiful effect. The ceiling contains a plethora of symbols and motifs, including quatrefoils, stars, latticework and Arabesque patterns that draw inspiration from traditional Islamic art.
Another example of Mudéjar architecture is the Royal Chapel in Granada, Spain ( see below). The chapel was built in 1536 and features a stunning Mudejar style dome with complex carvings and colorful tiles. The dome is made up of two different levels; an upper level with more elaborate designs and a lower level with simpler designs that are still striking to look at.
examples of famous buildings of Mudejar architecture
Below are some examples of famous buildings built in Mudejar style
Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain
The Alhambra Palace is one of the most famous examples of Mudéjar architecture. This palace was built by the Muslim rulers of Al-Andalus in the 13th century and features a unique combination of Islamic and Christian elements. It includes several towers, courtyards, gardens, pools and other decorative structures as well as intricately carved stonework and ornate tile-work.
The Alhambra is onne of the most notable examples of the use of ornate tile-work in Mudejar architecture is the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain. The palace is adorned with intricate tile-work that covers the walls, floors, and ceilings, creating a stunning visual effect.
It's impossible to describe all the amazing examples of Mudejar architecture in Alhambra, so I will just write another post about it soon.
Sintra National Palace
This stunning and fun example of Mudejar Architecture is not to be missed! Learn more about it by following the link to my post.
Iglesia de San Miguel in Toledo, Spain
The Iglesia de San Miguel is another example of Mudéjar architecture. This church was built in the 15th century and features a combination of Gothic and Mudéjar elements. It includes several towers, arched doorways, vaults, domes and intricate tile work that gives it a unique look.
Jeronimos monastery in Lisbon, Spain
The Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, Spain, is a wonderful example of Mudejar architecture. Built in the 16th century, this monastery is composed of two structures: the main church and the Cloister of Saint Jerome, built in a traditional Mudéjar style with brightly colored tiles and intricate stonework.
There are many examples of Mudejar architecture in Spain and Portugal Here is a list of a few.
Alcazar Palace in Seville, Spain
Giralda bell tower in Seville, Spain
Casa de Pilatos in Seville, Spain
Mudéjar Pavilion in Maria Luisa Park, Seville, Spain
Cathedral of Santa María de Mediavilla in Teruel, Spain
Tower and church of San Pedro in Teruel, Spain
Church tower of San Martín in Teruel, Spain
In what city do you see great examples of Mudéjar?
What is the meaning of Neo-Mudéjar?
Neo-Mudéjar is a contemporary interpretation of Mudéjar art styles that were prevalent in Spain and Portugal during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This artistic style incorporates traditional Mudéjar elements like arches, tiling, and brickwork, alongside modern materials such as cast iron and glass.
As this style has been gaining popularity in the region, some Spanish architectural companies have taken these designs to the Arabic-speaking countries of Morocco, Algeria, and Eastern Arabia.
As well as impacting architecture from the West to the East, Mudéjar characteristics have been influencing modernizing styles across many different countries.
Muslim architects are embracing technical advances while also keeping true to their aesthetic expertise reminiscent of Mudéjar styles and art. It's inspiring how they stay true to traditional forms while at the same time innovating new designs that continue to be sought after both locally and worldwide.
Mudéjar style around the world
Mudejar architecture and style has spread across Europe and the world over many centuries, influencing a variety of other architectural styles.
In Latin America, Mudejar architecture has left a strong imprint on many colonial cities, especially in Mexico and Peru. These structures are characterized by their use of bright colors, ornate geometric patterns, and intricate details. In the Middle East, Mudejar styles have been adapted to incorporate modern materials like steel and glass, but still keep the same decorative motifs found in historical Mudéjar structures.
Mudejar architecture is a style of architecture that is particularly significant in architectural history because it combines the architectural styles of Muslim, Christian and even Jewish cultures. So, basically all the groups living back then!
The Mudejar style also had an influence on later architectural trends, such as the 19th century Neo-Mudejar style of architecture. As a result, Mudejar architecture is a key part of Spanish architectural history and has had a lasting influence on the development of architecture both in Spain, Portugal and around the world.
We must appreciate and preserve buildings in Mudejar style, as they are not only beautiful but also represent a significant point in history.
So the next time you visit a region with examples of Mudejar architecture, take some time to admire its intricate details and appreciate the fusion of a few cultures that created this stunning style. Besides, they are just so incredibly beautiful and unique!
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