Mudejar Architecture of Aragon

Mudejar Architecture of Aragon

The development in the 12th century of Mudejar art in Aragon resulted from the particular political, social and cultural conditions that prevailed in Spain after the Reconquista. This art, influenced by Islamic tradition, also reflects various contemporary European styles, particularly the Gothic. Present until the early 17th century, it is characterized by an extremely refined and inventive use of brick and glazed tiles in architecture, especially in the belfries.

Architecture mudéjare d’Aragon

L’apparition au XIIe siècle de l’art mudéjar en Aragon est le fruit de conditions politiques, sociales et culturelles particulières à l’Espagne d’après la Reconquête. Cet art d’influence en partie islamique reflète aussi les différentes tendances européennes qui se sont développées parallèlement, notamment le gothique. Présent jusqu’au début du XVIIe siècle, il se caractérise par un usage extrêmement raffiné et inventif de la brique et des céramiques vernies, en particulier dans les clochers.

هندسة أراغون المدجّنة

يُشكّل ظهور الفنّ المدجّن في أراغون في القرن الثاني عشر ثمرة ظروف سياسيّة واجتماعيّة وثقافيّة خاصة بإسبانيا بُعيد الفتح الثاني. ويعكس هذا الفنّ ذات التأثير الإسلامي التوجهات الأوروبيّة المختلفة التي تطوّرت على خطٍ موازٍ وخصوصاً الميول القوطيّة. واستمرّ هذا الفنّ حتى مطلع القرن السابع عشر ومن خصائصه الاستخدام المنمّق والمبتكر لحجر القرميد والخزامة المطليّة خصوصاً في قبب الأجراس.

source: UNESCO/ERI



source: UNESCO/ERI

Памятники стиля мудехар в Арагоне

Развитие в XII в. искусства мудехар в Арагоне явилось следствием политических, социальных и культурных условий, сложившихся в Испании после реконкисты. Это искусство, питавшееся исламскими традициями, отражало также влияние различных современных европейских стилей, прежде всего – готики. Существовавшее до начала XVII в., это искусство характерно крайне изысканным и изобретательным использованием кирпича и глазурованной плитки в архитектуре, особенно при сооружении колоколен.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Arquitectura mudéjar de Aragón

La aparición del arte mudéjar en Aragón, hacia el siglo XII, se debió a las peculiares condiciones políticas, sociales y culturales de la España de la Reconquista. Influenciado en parte por el arte islámico, el mudéjar también muestra huellas de las tendencias coetáneas de los estilos arquitectónicos europeos, en particular el gótico. Los monumentos mudéjares –cuya construcción se prolongó hasta principios del siglo XVII– se caracterizan por una utilización sumamente refinada e ingeniosa del ladrillo y la cerámica vidriada, sobre todo en los campanarios.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Mudejar architectuur van Aragon

De Mudejar kunst ontwikkelde zich in de 12e eeuw in Aragon, als resultaat van de politieke, sociale en culturele omstandigheden die Spanje domineerden na de Reconquista. De kunstsoort werd beïnvloed door de islamitische traditie, maar weerspiegelt ook hedendaagse Europese stijlen, in het bijzonder die van de gotiek. Mudejar kunst was aanwezig tot het begin van de 17e eeuw en uitte zich in de architectuur door een uiterst verfijnd en inventief gebruik van baksteen en geglazuurde tegels, vooral terug te zien in de klokkentorens. De Mudejar kunst van Aragon symboliseert het vreedzame samenleven van de islamitische, christelijke en joodse cultuur en de onderlinge uitwisseling van kennis en ervaringen.


  • English
  • French
  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Japanese
  • Dutch
Mudejar Architecture of Aragon © Adam Mizrahi
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis 

The development in the 12th century of Mudéjar art in Aragon resulted from the particular political, social, and cultural conditions that prevailed in Spain after the Reconquista. Geographically, Aragonese Mudéjar art can be found mainly along the Ebro river valley and its southern tributaries in the northeast Iberian Peninsula. From a historical point of view, this artistic genre belongs to a lengthy period that lasted from the 12th to the 17th century. Mudéjar art is an artistic phenomenon that does not belong entirely to the cultures of Western Europe or Islam. Rather, it constitutes an authentic testament to the peaceful co-existence in medieval Spain of Christianity and Islam with contributions from Jewish culture, the fruit of which was a new form of artistic expression. This art, influenced by Islamic tradition, also reflects various contemporary European styles, particularly the Gothic.

The property comprises ten religious and secular monuments in the provinces of Teruel and Zaragoza. They include: the tower, roof, and cimborio of the Cathedral of Santa María de Mediavilla de Teruel; the tower and church of San Pedro de Teruel; the church tower of San Martín de Teruel; the church tower of Salvador de Teruel; the apse, cloister, and tower of the collegiate church of Santa María de Calatayud; the parish church of Santa Tecla de Cervera de la Cañada; the church of Santa María de Tobed; the surviving Mudéjar features of the Aljafería Palace of Zaragoza; the tower and parish church of San Pablo de Zaragoza; and the apse, parroquieta, and cimborio of la Seo de Zaragoza.

The Mudéjar architecture of Aragon is, on account of the formal solutions adopted and the techniques and materials of construction employed, a specific and extraordinary legacy, as well as a vivid reflection of a moment in history when three cultures with very different roots flourished together on Aragonese soil. Decorative motifs from a great variety of traditions can be seen in the ten monuments that make up this property including: Greco-Roman, Byzantine, Sassanid, Seljuq, Berber, and Visigoth among others. Thus, we can identify in these Aragonese monuments the rhombus-shaped mouldings (sebqa), stars, angled and interlaced brick friezes, arrows, lobed and multi-grooved arches, as well as elements of construction characteristic of Islamic art such as alfiz panels, decorated eaves (rafes), and lattice work. Other structures employed include Almohade-style minarets for the belltowers, collar beam roofs, and Moamar-style carved ceilings to cover various spaces. The materials employed, which are very varied in Aragon, were typical of Islamic art. These include brick, ceramics, plaster, and wood; all materials that are generally not very durable over time. Such materials were used as to follow the Islamic philosophy that everything is transitory and impermanent but for Allah, the only being that exists eternally.

The ten inscribed component parts are the most representative and reflect best this particular historic and cultural phenomenon, symbolising pacific cultural coexistence and the exchange of knowledge and experiences. Undoubtedly, the monuments that make up this historical legacy are silent witnesses to a a key moment in the history of Spain, in which its inhabitants, despite their different beliefs, were able to live side by side in peace. 

Criterion (iv): The Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon is an eminently representative example of a type of construction with a unique technology developed over the course of several centuries (12th to 17th) thanks to the co-existence of cultures and the combination of forms and building methods employed by Christians, Muslims, and Jews, through the exchange of their knowledge and experience. It expresses the evolution of Mudéjar construction techniques in both structural and formal terms and symbolises the integration of a range of art forms (architecture, ceramics, woodcutting, and painting) as an aesthetic process of approximation to beauty.


Mudéjar architecture developed in a concrete time period that lasted from the time of the decision that permitted the Mudéjars to stay in the Kingdom of Aragon in the 12th century until their definitive expulsion at the beginning of the 17th. The architectural forms and the unitary character of the Mudéjar tradition as a historical and cultural reality employ a wide range of techniques: painting, plasterwork, silver and gold ornamentation, woodwork, and ceramics are preserved within the inscribed component parts.

The historical and social factors in the 17th century led to a decline of the Mudéjar tradition and its replacement by other artistic movements such as the Renaissance and Baroque. Many aspects of this genuinely Aragonese, artistic form survived from the 18th century until the present day, giving rise to a new artistic style called Neomudéjar. The nine religious buildings are still in use today, and thus have been maintained and restored in an excellent state of conservation. In the case of the Aljafería Palace of Zaragoza, the use of part of the building for other functions did have an impact on large sections of the structure. Fortunately, the Mudéjar section was the part that was least affected. Due to the respectful restoration work carried out at the end of the last century, the Mudéjar elements have survived intact. Generally speaking, Mudéjar architecture is particularly vulnerable to various causes of deterioration, including climatic and human factors. The continuous use of nine monuments by the Church and the use by the Parliament of Aragon of the Aljafería Palace as its Council Chamber ensures their continued conservation and overall protection from threats. However, this continued use can also generate problems related to uncontrolled changes and alterations. Therefore, provisions in management and conservation plans are crucial to guarantee adequate conservation. In addition, the component parts need to be considered in relation to the surrounding built environment. Enforcement of regulatory measures that have been included in the respective cultural laws and urban planning tools will be essential to guarantee that the relationship between the monuments and their historic setting is maintained in the future. 


Mudéjar art is the only style unique to Spain due to its particular historical trajectory. The particular forms adopted and the exceptional techniques and materials of construction employed are evidence of the characteristics specific to the Mudéjar architecture of Aragon.

The decoration of these monuments is an additional documentation of Aragonese Mudéjar art, as the vast majority of Aragonese Mudéjar roofs conserved are adorned with paintings. This decoration features the usual heraldic and geometric motifs, as well as plants, animals, and narrative scenes of daily life during the Low Middle Ages. This is the case of the roof of the cathedral of Santa María de Teruel, where scenes relating to the traditional trades of carpentry, religious scenes, representations of the various social strata (the king, the nobility, the military orders, combats against the Muslims etc.), and other motifs illustrating medieval bestiary can be seen.

In the case of the Aljafería Palace, La Seo in Zaragoza and the church towers in Teruel, written documents have been preserved that record the construction process and allow for the understanding of relevant details, such as the commissioners, participating masters, dates of the works, costs, etc. These documents also contain a large number of terms from Arabic which survive in the Castilian (Spanish) language, and are another testament to its authenticity in a multicultural, historical context. In the churches of Cervera de la Cañada and Tobed, information was recorded on the monuments themselves. In these cases, masters in charge of their construction left proof of their work through two inscriptions, one carved and the other one painted, both on the inside walls of these temples.

Mudéjar architecture is recognized today as an art form in its own right. It is represented by a series of historic monuments that have been largely conserved; their materials preserved through the use of appropriate techniques in all restoration works by respecting internationally established principles and maintaining the use and functions of the buildings as they were intended. Moreover, their location in historic settings and urban areas continues unaltered. The urban zones in which the religious monuments are located conserve the characteristics of religious and political hubs within their metropolitan areas, while the Aljafería Palace displays a setting that is consistent with the isolated environment within which it was originally constructed. These conditions will need to be maintained through adequate protection of the settings in the ten component parts.

Protection and management requirements

All component parts of the property were classified as “cultural properties” by the Spanish State. Following the transfer of authority in the area of culture to the Autonomous Community of Aragon in 1983, the enactment of the Aragonese Cultural Heritage Law 3/1999, of 10 March, entailed that all such monuments were subject to a thorough review with a detailed description and precise definition of the movable elements and surrounding area in need of protection.

Currently, the component parts of the property are administered according to the general regulatory framework for the protection and conservation of Cultural Heritage Sites of the Cultural Heritage of Aragon. Within this, two key elements are the reports issued by the Provincial Commissions of the Cultural Heritage Directorate and the supervision conducted by the technical staff of the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage of the Government of Aragon, which carry out periodic inspections to the inscribed sites. Although there are currently no benchmark indicators (such as the monitoring of humidity, temperature, etc.) periodic comprehensive checks of the structural condition of the buildings are conducted (supporting beams, roofing, foundations, etc.), as well as the decorative elements (frescos, plaster etchings and carvings, ceramic mouldings, etc.), and the fixtures and fittings in each building.

In addition, and within the section of Research, Training, and Services of Supervision, training courses have been designed for the technical staff that works on the property in collaboration with the Central Office of the World Heritage Site Commission in Aragon and the various restoration training workshops, restoration centres, and laboratories in Aragon (including the Aragon Restoration Laboratory, a specialized library, courses for administrative staff and on-site workers, equipment for the analysis of materials and diagnosis of problems, etc.).

With regard to funding, the Government of Aragon provides the necessary means for the inscribed component parts and for other Mudéjar sites in the region, with conservation and restoration as the main priority. The need for maintenance and conservation work has prompted a series of technical interdisciplinary studies undertaken by the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage of the Government of Aragon. These resulted in the formulation of a Management Plan for the Mudéjar sites, with particular attention to the ten inscribed components, as well as comprehensive documentation to facilitate research and dissemination. It is expected that conservation work will also be systematically analysed to better understand the historical evolution of these buildings.

For the purpose of raising awareness of the importance of Mudéjar architecture, a plan for visits and field trips has been elaborated in collaboration with local bodies in order to improve various aspects of public information through, for example, the creation of a guide service, with specialised training and publication of information material, and the development of a feasibility study for visitors with reduced mobility to improve access to some areas.

Long Description

The Mudejar art of Aragon symbolizes pacific coexistence between the Muslim, Christian and Jewish cultures, exchanging knowledge and experiences. Within this special historical context Mudejar art came into being in Teruel, as in Toledo, Zaragoza and many other cities. These art forms drew their substance from both the Western tradition and the Eastern Islamic tradition, itself transformed by the artistic accomplishments in the Maghreb and the Emirate of Córdoba. The material culture has survived in space and time thanks to the historical processes of conquest and colonization of new lands.

The region owes its architecture to the singular nature of the reconquest, in the early 12th century, of territories dominated by the Moors since the 8th century. For various reasons, the Christians allowed the Moors to remain on the reconquered lands and keep their own culture and religion. On the other hand, Islamic art fascinated the Christians, who continued using its themes for a long time. Mudejar art represents the fusion of two artistic traditions, Islamic and Christian, in the region of Aragon. Here the easily available materials were brick, lime, ceramics, and timber, which were also economical in use.

The history of Mudejar art in Aragon can be divided into three phases:

  • beginnings (12th-13th centuries): the ceiling of the cathedral of Teruel, dating from the second half of the 13th century, is the most interesting artistic achievement of Mudejar art in Aragon;
  • full development and expansion, coinciding with the introduction of Gothic to the Iberian Peninsula. Mudejar art continued to predominate over Gothic, except in some minor areas in the south;
  • final period (16th-17th centuries): the Mudejars were forced to convert to Christianity, becoming 'new Christians' (Moriscos). This is followed by a period of intolerance, resulting in the expulsion of these new Christians in 1609-10. This is the period of the decline and extinction of Mudejar art, with the interruption of relations with the Islamic world and the introduction of Italian Renaissance. There were still some achievements in Zaragoza, Muniesa, Mara, Tierga, Alcubierre, Villamayor and Ricla.

The churches are divided into three groups: those with one nave, those with three aisles, and fortress churches. Another category is represented by the bell towers, the most visible element of Mudejar architecture, which are characterized by great richness in their decoration: a variety of geometric patterns of brick reliefs, different patterns of coloured ceramics, elements in gypsum, as well as various architectural forms, niches, windows, and buttresses. The towers can have different forms in plan: octagonal base, square base, or a mixture of both forms. Their internal structure differs from the Almohades model (with one tower inside another), and the stairs are additional feature. Another typical feature of Mudejar architecture is found in the painted and decorated wooden ceilings (e.g. Santa María de Mediavilla) of Teruel. Mudejar architecture is also found in monasteries, castles, and residential buildings.

In the Province of Zaragoza there are the Palace of La Aljafería, initially an Islamic royal palace; the Cathedral of La Seo del Salvador, built over a former Moorish mosque; the Church of San Pablo, which has a octagonal tower, and its Almohad-type minaret remains largely intact although with some Renaissance additions and a Baroque spire; the Collegiate Church of Santa María, Calatayud, replacing a former Moorish mosque, with the 14th-century cloister on the north side (the largest of such Mudejar constructions); the Parish Church of Santa Tecla, Cervera de la Cañada, built on top of an old castle; and the Church of Santa María, Tobed, which is well preserved and with fine interiors with carved and painted ceilings, built to the order of Pope Benedict XIII under the patronage of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

Teruel's monuments are: the towers of San Pedro, the cathedral with the painted ceiling, San Salvador and San Martin. The Teruel towers together form a coherent ensemble which is truly characteristic of Mujédar art after the Reconquista. The architects of the Christian churches copied the structure and decoration of Almohad minarets, although giving them new functions right from the start.

Historical Description

The Mudéjar art in Aragón is a direct consequence of the singular nature of the Christian Reconquest, in the early 12th century, of territories that had been dominated by the Moors since the 8th century. For various practical and political reasons, the Christians allowed the Moors to remain on the reconquered territories and keep their own culture and religion. On the other hand, Islamic art fascinated the Christians, who continued using its themes for a long time. Because of this cohabitation, many Islamic buildings were preserved, such as the Aljaferia Palace in Zaragoza and other palaces and mosques in Toledo, Córdoba, Seville, and Granada. In this cultural context, there also developed a new expression, Mudéjar art, which represented the fusion of two artistic traditions, Islamic and Christian. The region of Aragón became one of the principal locations for this development. Here the easily available materials were brick, lime, ceramics, and timber, which were also economical in use. Most master builders were Moors, who continued to contribute to the construction. Mudéjar art gradually declined with the interruption of relations with the Islamic world and the introduction of Italian Renaissance concepts in the 16th century.

The history of Mudéjar art in Aragón can be divided into three phases: a) the beginnings from 12th to 13th centuries, b) full development and expansion in the 14th and 15th centuries, and c) survival and extension in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Only few examples of Mudéjar art remain from the period immediately succeeding the Reconquest. The earliest surviving buildings are in Daroca and Teruel. In Daroca these include the tower of St Domingo and the apse of St Juan from the mid 13th century. Both constructions were initiated in stone and completed in brick. In Teruel the earliest examples are the church of St Maria de Mediavilla (cathedral), and the tower of St Pedro, of a slightly later date. Both of these have very similar decorative systems and structures: they are gate towers on a square base, allowing a passage under a pointed vault, reinforced with buttresses. It should be understood that, apart from their religious and military functions, these bell towers also had an important town-planning function in tracing the routes. The ceiling of the cathedral of Teruel, dating from the second half of the 13th century, is the most interesting artistic achievement of Mudéjar art in Aragón.

The full development of Mudéjar art in Aragón in the 14th and early 15th centuries coincides with the introduction of Gothic to the Iberian peninsula. In Aragón, Mudéjar art continued to predominate over Gothic, except in some minor areas in the south. The most common type of church has a single aisle, with a polygonal apse of five or six sides and without any buttresses. The structure presents some characteristics of Gothic architecture, showing the interrelation between these two art forms. Many of these churches were modified in later periods. The churches of Zaragoza (La Magdalena, St Gil, and St Miguel de los Navarros) correspond to this type. Perhaps the most distinguished type of church building in this period is one with a strongly military function, a fortified church with tribunes over the lateral chapels, opening towards the exterior. In fact, the patrons were mainly from military orders.

In the last period, starting from the beginning of the 16th century (1502-26), the Mudéjars were forced to convert to Christianity, becoming "new Christians" or "moriscos". This is followed by a period of intolerance, resulting in the expulsion of these new Christians in 1609-10. This is also the period of the decline and extinction of Mudéjar art, though there are still some interesting achievements, of which there are examples in Zaragoza, Muniesa, Mara, Tierga, Alcubierre, Utebo, Villamayor, and Ricla.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation
  • Extension of the "Mudejar Architecture of Teruel".