Califal, Mudéjar or Mozárabe?
Arabic heritage in Spanish architecture
Knowing about the history of Spain, we are certainly aware of the Arabic influence not only on Spanish society, but also on its art and architecture.
According to the respective periods of Arab invasion, we can distinguish three different architecture styles with elements of Muslim culture: Califal, Mudéjar and Mozárabe. But what’s the difference?
Architecture of al-Andalus
In relation to other European countries, the Muslim invasion of the 8th century implicated a unique art style called arte islámico o el arte andalusí. Its roots date back to the first buildings in the Califal style during the reign of the Islamic emirs: Abd al-Rahman I, Abd al-Rahman II, Abd al-Rahman III and the vizier Almanzor. The architecture of this period was characterized by a blending of previous Romanesque, Visigoth and Oriental elements, i.e. without any accurate repetitions of patterns and forms.
Beside the Medina Azahara Palace and the Cathedral Mosque of Toledo, the Cathedral-Mosque of Córdoba sticks out as one of the most important symbols of Califal art and is seen as a fundamental monument to the whole occidental Islamic world. In Córdoba, the capital of al-Andalus, the great Mosque was considered the central focus. It distinguishes itself not only by the countless pillars located in the hypostyle hall, but also by the main hall, used as a teaching and meeting room during the rule of Abd al-Rahman. Furthermore, the imposing tower or the picturesque courtyard and minaret are in any case worth a visit.Mudéjar
Mozarabic architecture flourished in the territories occupied by the Arabs before the Christian recapture. We are now talking about the period between the 10th and 12th century, when the Muslims considered as Mozarabs lived under Christian domination, conserving their original habits.
The Mozarabic architecture was generally characterized by the combination of Visigoth and Arabic features. Hence, it defines a great command of the technique in construction and used alfiz, horseshoe arches as well as columns with Corinthian capitals and vegetable decoration elements. In addition, one of the main characters of this style is the absence of exterior decoration and the different design of each floor plan.
If you got curious, you can visit the Malaga’s rock temple Church of Bobastro or the Church of Santa María de Melque, located in Toledo.Mozárabe
The Muslim population that settled in the Christian territory, while strictly maintaining their religion and costumes, was originally called mudejares. Due to the co-existence of two different cultures a crossing of Arabic and Christian art movements took place throughout the 13th and 15th century in the Middle Ages.
If we take for example the Synagogue of El Tránsito in Toledo or the Alcázar of Seville, we can notice among others Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance elements, forming part of the bygone Christian architecture. Plaster, wood, carving or ornamental metals are only a few dominant characteristics of the geometrical design. Nevertheless, the elements of most importance are doubtless the tiles: patterns of ceramic, glass or stone usually covering the floors and walls of the buildings.
Learn more about the variety of Arab architecture by watching the following video: