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Group of Mozarabic buildings on the Iberian Peninsula

Date of Submission: 01/02/2019
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture and Sports of Spain
State, Province or Region:
Castilla y León, Galicia and Castilla-La Mancha
Coordinates: N41 35 37.94 W5 55 25.7
Ref.: 6377

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Mozarabic art developed in the Iberian Peninsula between the late 8th century/early 9th century and the mid-11th century as a result of the convergence and hybridisation of various cultural traditions. Architecture, sculpture and items of furniture form part of an exceptional whole based on their monumental nature, their conservation status and uniqueness.

The Mozarabic is a unique art, eclectic in nature, a product of the syncretism of different sources, taking place in a specific time and geographical setting, based on the exceptional development of events in Iberia in the early Middle Ages. It is thus a direct reflection of the combination of the local tradition and the foreign innovation that arrived on Iberian shores along with the Muslim population in 711.

This all transcends the idea of the existence of a uniform style, although this richness is the essential value and unifying element of this art.




Geographic coordinates



Church of San Pedro de la Nave

N41 35 37.94 W5 55 25.7


Quintanilla de las Viñas

Shrine of Nuestra Señora de las Viñas

N42 7 28.34 W3 28  22.18


San Miguel de Escalada

Monastery of San Miguel de Escalada

N42 34 16.5 W5 18 9.56


Peñalba de Santiago

Church of Santiago de Peñalba

N42 25 27 04W6 32 27.04


Casillas de Berlanga

Shrine of San Baudelio

N41 29 27.66 W3 0 36.98



Church of Santa María

N41 40 34.23 W4 55 3.96


San Cebrián de Mazote

Church of San Cipriano

N41 40 51.39 W5 8 48.99


San Rosendo de Celanova

Oratory of San Miguel de Celanova


UTM X: 586273; UTM Y: 4667367


San Martín de Montalbán

Monastic Complex of Melque

382380 4401013 30S




Church of San Pedro de la Mata

415268 4385338 30S


Church of San Pedro de la Nave
In 1930, this church was transferred from its original location to the current site in Campillo to save it from the waters of the Ricobayo reservoir. It is surely monasterial in origin; its ground plan is a hybrid between cruciform and basilica, all inscribed within a rectangle from which only the main chapel and the shorter porticoes of the transept arms extend, and therefore the cruciform volume is also defined in the elevation.
It was built using sandstone, with carefully carved ashlars, joined in some cases with double dovetail wooden joints. The planimetry shows a highly compartmentalised space, the main indication of its monastic function. Originally, it was possibly fully vaulted in the same sandstone ashlar work, while today its nave, aisles and crossing are covered with wooden ceilings. The doors, windows and arcades are in the shape of horseshoe arches. 
Its architectural sculpture is of great interest, featuring a rich set of friezes, imposts and capitals decorated with plant and figurative motifs, as well as an horologio (sun clock) on the entrance to the main chapel. The most famous and unique capitals are in the span of the crossing, featuring scenes from the sacrifice of Isaac and Daniel in the lions’ den.

Historical assessment 
The traditional historiography has considered San Pedro de la Nave to be a fundamental example of Visigothic art, although the more recent work based on the archaeology of the architecture seem inclined to date it to the later Repoblación period (the 9th-century repopulation of a large region between the River Duero and Cantabrian Mountains) (reign of Alfonso III). It is, in any case, a unique and unquestionable example of High Medieval art. If there is one building that reflects the work of the craftsmen in the late 9th century, it is San Pedro de la Nave. Its archaeological study reveals how its ornamentation was carved by two masters of workshops of sculptors who were working at the same time and in coordination on the construction project, but some were responsible for creating the friezes and others the capitals and imposts of the crossing (roughly speaking). On the other hand, the figurative motifs are some of the first one created not only on the Iberian Peninsula, but in all of Western Europe.
San Pedro was transferred from its original location in the town of El Campillo, a process carried out scrupulously by the architect A. Ferrant Vázquez between 1930 and 1932, supervised by M. Gómez-Moreno, safeguarding the form and structure and representing a milestone in the history of restoration. Later additions were removed at this time. There are records of new restorations in 1969 (L. Menéndez Pidal), 1973, 1976, 1983 and 1992-3. When the Ricobayo reservoir was emptied, the church’s original plot was excavated in the 1990s (L. Caballero), finding evidence of other buildings that surrounded the original church.
A new restoration was carried out recently (2013-2015) as part of the Atlantic Romanesque Programme (Regional Government of Castilla y León, Iberdrola Foundation, Portuguese Government, Santa María la Real Diocese and Foundation), focusing in particular on the ceilings, as well as treatments for wall facings, woodwork and lighting. A visitor centre was built in the vicinity and the surroundings were improved.

Shrine of Nuestra Señora de las Viñas
This was originally a three-nave church, of which the chancel (chapel and transept) still remains, with the remainder of the body being known due to archaeological excavations carried out in the 1930s. Two rooms once opened up at each end of the transept. The entire church was possibly vaulted in tuff stone, combining barrel and sail structures. It is notable for its exceptional iconographic repertoire, complex and with enigmatic meaning, on both the outside and inside. Two superimposed bands with rinceaux run along its external walls as well as three on the wall of the apse, showing grapevine tendrils, tangent circles of braiding, birds, turkeys, Gallinae, vines, some monograms with disputed interpretation, imagined or real animals, etc. The chapel is accessed via a large horseshoe arch decorated with rinceaux featuring grapevines and birds. The two springer blocks have anthropomorphic representations of the sun and moon. The shrine is freestanding, on a slight slope.

Historical assessment 
Until recently, this has for the most part been considered a 7th-century Hispano-Visigothic basilica that was one of the latest built.
However, archaeological, documentary and epigraphical study show that the church would have been founded in the early 10th century by Flámola, the wife of the count Gonzalo Téllez and one of the few female patrons known in the European early Middle Ages, whose name is carved on the shrine itself.
The architectural sculpture of the Quintanilla shrine stands out for the extraordinary quality of its carvings, with motifs of marked Eastern origin, and for their external location, with friezes (unfinished) that cover the elevations of the chancel and the transept and maybe those of the main body that no longer stand. This characteristic makes it unique among early medieval Spanish monuments, which are mainly decorated on the inside.

Monastery of San Miguel de Escalada
This monastery stands on a hillock, on top of a 4th or 5th century villa. According to an inscription that has since disappeared but was recorded in the 18th century, the original church was consecrated in honour of the Archangel Michael, it fell into ruin and was restored by the abbot Alfonso, who had emigrated from Córdoba with several monks during the reign of Alfonso III (late 9th century). The restored church was consecrated by Bishop Genadio in 914. The south side was enlarged with a portico around 20 years later. The southern door used today was created in the 11th century, according to an inscription found there, while the Romanesque tower and so-called Chapel of San Fructuoso were built at the end of that century. That construction entailed the refurbishment of the eastern half of the south portico. In 1155, the community became attached to the French abbey Saint-Ruf d’Avignon. The last prior died in 1869 and the monastery was abandoned and was involved in a later process of ecclesiastical confiscation.
The church has a basilica ground plan, a nave and two aisles separated by horseshoe arches on marble columns with monolithic shafts, varied capitals with a predominance of the Corinthian order and braided necking and cymatium to support the springers. An iconostasis or high chancel screen with three arches separates the central nave from the crossing. In the 15th century, the main body was covered with wooden trusses that are slightly elevated over the original walls, replacing the original, simpler framework that was also wooden. The chancel consists of three apses, with a linear appearance from the outside, but a horseshoe-shaped ground plan and segmented vaults on the inside. A portico was added on the south side with a similar arcade of columns framed by alfiz mouldings.  The spaciousness and diaphanous nature of the interior and the volumetric unity of the exterior are all notable. Other contemporary decorative elements such as sawtooth brick friezes, chancel screen plates, lattice windows, doors or the mullioned window of the portico contribute to completing the original form and volumes of the building and to articulate it as a great summary of Spanish pre-Romanesque architecture.

Historical assessment 
This is the most important monument in Mozarabic art, as it is almost fully preserved in its original stage. It makes use of remains from earlier stages, such as Roman tombstones and bricks and Visigothic and 9th-century materials, forming a true symbiosis of forms and techniques of the Spanish pre-Romanesque. Archaeological work has documented part of the rooms from the monastic complex on the north side. This is also considered one of the most aesthetically beautiful and elegant churches of the complex.

The decorative work is hugely rich both in types of elements (friezes on the vaults, chancel screen plates, capitals, modillions, altars), as well as media (wood, stucco, stone) and forms (a result of combining reused and new elements in the basilica, and of the action of two workshops at two successive moments in time: those that decorated the interior and then the portico around 930), thus evidencing the participation of different specialists (stonemasons, stuccoers, carpenters, etc.) in two building efforts. Its high chancel or iconostasis is the only one of its genre that still stands on the Iberian Peninsula.

Recent archaeological study has made it possible to also identify the origin of the stone material for the construction, which was supplied from multiple outcrops in the immediate surroundings as well as in farther away areas, obtaining the material to be used to carve the arcades of the hall from here. Lastly, San Miguel de Escalada reflects the considerable structural knowledge of its builders, who were concerned about reinforcing the high basilica structure with wooden beams that run across its walls lengthwise.
All these aspects serve to underline the action of a patron with abundant resources, linked to the royal power, as proven by the consecration cited that is now lost.

Church of Santiago de Peñalba
Freestanding church, integrated into the present-day town of Peñalba de Santiago. It has a Latin cross ground plan formed of one nave in two spans with opposing apses and two side chapels or sacristies. The eastern section of the nave is elevated and stands out in elevation as a crossing.
The nave is divided into two spans with different heights, separated from one another and from the apses, which have an ultra-semicircular ground plan on the inside but appear straight from the outside, by horseshoe arches on columns with Corinthian capitals, counteracted by strong buttresses on the outside. On the south side of the western section of the nave, a door opens framed by alfiz with a double horseshoe arch on columns with monolithic shafts, Corinthian capitals with cymatium mouldings and attic bases; the apse at the bottom holds the tombs of the saints Genadio and Urbano. Both apses are covered with seven-section segmented vaults, while the side chapels are covered with barrel vaults running N-S. The first and highest section of the nave is covered with an eight-section segmented vault, like a dome, rising on four rounded formerets. The tiled roofs sit on eaves supported by large lobed modillions that are more developed on the outer end, with carved rosettes on the sides.
A broad sample of mural painting still remains, with geometric themes, of great significance due to being some of the original wall decoration. Some medieval and baroque pictorial decorations are preserved, barely intact, as well as a unique collection of parietal engravings. A tomb recess was added in the 12th century, with a rounded double opening, on the outside of the north side. The walls of the building were built using slate masonry, the corners reinforced with larger pieces, while the columns, their shafts, bases and capitals, are made from polished grey and white marble.

Historical assessment 
San Genadio built a monastery between 909 and 916. Salomón, his disciple, partially rebuilt that monastery between 931 and 937, adapting it to be his master’s tomb. It was consecrated in 1105 and flourished until the 13th century. Thanks to recent interventions, it is one of the most studied and most well-known Mozarabic buildings. It is preserved nearly in its entirety, thus possessing a notable constructive purity, while the pictorial decoration gives it an undeniable added value. Its fully vaulted form reflects the considerable structural knowledge of the builders who erected it, mastering the counterweights of different types of vaulted forms (barrel and segmented) by means of the compartmentalisation of spaces, the measurement of the light shafts and thicknesses of the walls. Its monumental facade - the only one carved in new (possibly local) marble - and its interior painting (simulating brickwork), make Santiago de Penalba a unique example, although its similarity to San Miguel de Celanova (Galicia), is undeniable, with both presenting the same structure (albeit on a different scale), and common elements such as the horseshoe arches with alfiz or segmented ceilings. In recent studies, the painted inscription for the first consecration has been identified on the impost of the eastern apse. It represents like no other church the process of religious establishment in the valley, from eremitical phenomena to the monasteries promoted by the Leonese monarchy.

Shrine of San Baudelio
This Mozarabic shrine sits on a bare hillock on the outskirts of the town of Casillas de Berlanga, next to a spring. It is a simple space with a rectangular, almost square ground plan (8.5 m x 7.5 m), with a crossing that is quadrangular as well (4.1 m x 3.6 m). The walls are ashlar bond, and largely rubble masonry. The roof is a square hip roof, originally in stone, but today in wood. The light comes from the horseshoe doorway that is on the Gospel side, accessed via several steps, as well as from the window in the sanctuary, also shaped like a horseshoe. The internal structure is interesting, with a cylindrical pillar rising from the centre, from which eight ribs radiate like palm branches, running towards the corners and the centre of each side, also with a horseshoe shape. On top of the pillar, inside the bunch of ribs, is a small opening that does not lend itself to easy explanation and is covered by a dome with crossed ribs that is Cordoban in style. At the bottom of the shrine, there is a small gallery that almost reaches the above-mentioned pillar. It sits on a group of small columns, arches and vaults. The chancel chapel is covered with a simple barrel vault with no imposts. Besides the building’s morphological originality, it is of great interest due to the set of Romanesque paintings it had, some of which are still preserved in situ. Outside the apse is a rock necropolis with around 20 anthropomorphic tombs. Their initial excavation can be dated to around the 10th century, although they were able to be used successively, possibly up to the 16th century.

Historical assessment 
The shrine was built in the late 11th century, in a late stage of Repoblación art, which is explained by the late reconquest of this area. Possibly a Mozarabic cenobitical establishment, its location in the borderland between the Christians and Muslims can justify the hybridisation of influences, although the construction has a component with a clear Islamic influence. The paintings on the inside, dating from the 12th century (1136 is the first documentary mention), are also difficult to classify from a stylistic perspective. Some of the paintings was lost (they were sold), while others are in the Prado Museum in Madrid and several other museums in the United States. The shrine represents an exceptional document given its originality and the later pictorial stage. 

It has a connection with an adjacent rocky space, which increases the possibility that it is the evolution of an eremitical space.Its vaulted structure with a central pillar is one of a kind in Europe and is not found in any other building (at least among those still standing), giving it a formal singularity and unusual technological capacity.

Church of Santa María
A church that is today a parish church, with ashlars and rough ashlar and masonry. There are documentary records of a monastery in this place in the years 945 and 951, which mention the abbot Nuño, to whom it is assumed this church corresponds. The oldest part is the chancel and the first eastern section of the aisles and nave – Mozarabic in origin from the mid-10th century – while the rest of the church (three western sections of the aisles and nave) is late Romanesque from the end of the 12th century (it belonged to the Knights Hospitaller). Other buildings from the old monastery and later, more modern parish church still stand.

The chancel is composed of three quadrangular chapels, the central one being largest and tallest. The first eastern section of the aisles and nave – the only original section – follows the same ground plan, and is divided into three sections by square pillars with imposts with step mouldings that support horseshoe arches, like those that found in the chapels and presbytery. All these spaces were vaulted with barrels with a horseshoe-shaped profile. In the main chapel, there are remains of 10th-century wall painting in the Mozarabic style. The square tower was erected over the crossing during a later period, and has a single body and double windows on each face. The naves and facades are Romanesque, as described. There is an inscription with the date 1195 over the tympanum on the western facade. Inside, there are also Gothic tombs (15th century) with tomb recesses, some painted, and Renaissance reredos, as well as adjacent outbuildings in the old cloister, with a baptistry (13th century), Chapel of Doña Urraca (16th century) and Chapel of Las Ánimas (ossuary).

Historical assessment 
It is compared with the Church of Santa María in Lebeña (Cantabria), as both basilicas are compartmentalised into rectangular sections and fully vaulted with barrel ceilings with a horseshoe profile at different heights.
The existing documents offer little certainty about the church’s origin. It is suggested that it was founded by Frunimius or Frunimii, the bishop of León, before he resigned in 928, and who was known as Bishop of Wamba until 948. Doña Urraca, wife of Ferdinand II and mother of Alfonso IX of León, was later buried here. This building’s structure is completely different to that of the nearby Church of San Cipriano in San Cebrián de Mazote, although its technological and material resources are similar, as both are defined within the same repopulation period under Alfonso III.
The church at Wamba stands out for its structural complexity, with full vaulting, and its pictorial richness, and may be compared in this sense only with the scarce traces preserved at Mazote and the vestiges at Peñalba.

Church of San Cipriano
This church was already documented in 916, part of the monastery erected shortly before by Mozarabic monks from Córdoba, together with Christians from the north, who later founded the Monastery of San Martín de Castañeda in Sanabria. It features a rich set of architectural compositions and construction methods. The church has a basilica ground plan with two aisles, lower than the central nave and with no light shafts, that flank the main nave, which is wider and taller and has four rounded hollows on each wall. The nave and aisles are separated by two rows of horseshoe arches on marble columns, with monolithic shafts and Corinthian capitals. A Latin cross is inscribed within this rectangle, with the arms of the transept finishing off in exedra, a one-of-a-kind feature in Spain. Each end of the central nave has various chapels with a ground plan that is horseshoe-shaped on the inside, but with a square appearance from the outside. The chancel is articulated with three apses with large horseshoe arches on columns, the central apse having a horseshoe-shaped ground plan, while the two side apses are square. The nave and aisles are covered with a wooden roof, and the arms of the transept, the presbytery and the apse at the far end (or counter-apse) are covered with segmented vaults, typical of Mozarabic art, and the side apses with stone groin vaults (possibly modern). On the outside, the volume of the dome and central nave stand out, as well as the remains of decoration featuring scrolled modillions. There is a door in the north arm in the shape of a horseshoe arch, which originally led to the outside, possible connecting with the monastic rooms, and later with the sacristy built here in the 16th century. The monumental belfry was erected at the bottom of the nave in the late 18th century.

Historical assessment
This is a church that has suffered many modifications both historically and in its subsequent restorations. It stands out for its large size, the valuable set of new and reused capitals and the original decoration in stucco (arch of the north entrance with bichrome voussoirs). Although notably restored by F. Íñiguez in the 1930s, it retains a large part of its original form and structure, with the imposing arcade in the nave, the largest of the whole Mozarabic ensemble, rising on reused Roman bases, shafts and capitals, the latter of which are combined with some newly produced capitals. The segmented vault over the crossing is the work of F. Íñiquez, who used the similar vault in the Church of Santiago de Peñalba as his model.
Recent archaeological analysis makes it possible to affirm that the people responsible for building the Church of San Cipriano knew those who had built the Church of San Miguel de Escalada – if they were not one and the same – as evidenced by the technical gestures shared by both churches (types of vaults, carving tools, reuse of Roman materials combined with other new materials, ground plan).

Oratory of San Miguel de Celanova
The small Oratory of San Miguel de Celanova is the Galician prototype of Mozarabic architecture, whose exceptional construction quality explains why it remains intact in the garden of the baroque Monastery of San Rosendo where it was built. As is usual in 10th-century architecture, the property is accessed from the south side, creating a wow effect due to the 90-degree turn necessary to be able to take in the full architectural space.
The ground plan is formed around a peculiar combination of geometric bodies, creating three different spaces: one that is rectangular (nave), a square structure that stands out from the nave in ground plan and elevation, and the apse, which is square from the outside but horseshoe-shaped on the inside. The first space is a small area covered with a barrel vault, separated from the next space using a horseshoe arch formed by radial granite voussoirs with radial cutting. The central body, with a square cross section, is the vertical architectural axis of the oratory, covered with a groin vault supported by formerets resting on scrolled modillions, between which appear small openings with a horseshoe shape and interior splay. The apse is accessed via a horseshoe arch with large voussoirs arranged radially, very canted and framed by an alfiz, and the area is covered by a cupula starting from the wall, with a horseshoe-shaped cross section. The complex articulation of the internal volumes is complemented with an exterior formed by large dry-stacked granite ashlars and buttresses, which, devoid of a main facade, is perceived as a whole. This building summarises Spanish pre-Romanesque architecture through the diaphanous interior, the external volumetric unity and the use of very specific decorative elements, such as sawtooth brick friezes, chamfered chancel screens, lattice windows, mullioned doors and windows.

Historical assessment 
There are records of continuous occupation of the site of the Monastery of San Miguel de Celanova since Roman times and the transformation of a small church into a monastery.

The markedly Mozarabic style of the chapel, determined by the organisation, volumes and decorative language, is rounded off with the link to the constructions from the reign of Ramiro II in the linear arrangement of its spaces, separated from one another by walls punctuated with horseshoe-arch-shaped openings, as well as with the Islamic artistic language through the use of the small semicircular apse, the windows framed by an alfiz and the ceiling of the apse with an ultra-semicircular cross section.

The extraordinary nature of this oratory’s architecture is not limited to the formal aspects evident at first glance. Its position in line with the monastery’s baroque church and the granite rock Christianised as the base of a Calvary, located to the east of the chapel, connects to a phenomenon observed by Xosé Benito Reza (1997): the chapel of San Miguel is almost oriented exactly to capture the light of the rising sun that comes in cleanly through the east and west windows of the oratory, after clearing San Cibrao Hill, during the spring and autumn equinoxes, forming an amazing rosette of light for a few minutes.

The oratory’s dedication itself to St Michael – traditionally recognised as the guardian of Christian armies against enemies of the Church and as the protector of Christians against satanic powers, especially at the hour of death, who receives the souls of the chosen ones when they leave their bodies – is explained with the spread of the veneration of St Michael during the conquest of the Moors. As prince of the celestial militia, this saint took on special meaning following the 10th-century reconquest.

The high level of skills of the workshop that erected this building is evidenced by the high quality of the ashlars, carved true and square, and it is the only example, possibly due to its size, that is built fully using this technique. The oratory’s small volume concentrates all the prototypical elements of the Mozarabic style: horseshoe arches with alfiz, segmented vaulting, pictorial decoration, lobed modillions.

Monastic Complex of Melque
The Monastic Complex of Melque is integrated into the Mediterranean landscape of the middle basin of the Tagus, a short distance from the town of San Martín de Montalbán.

The main building, in terms of both conservation and substance, is the Church of Santa María de Melque. It is a construction with a cruciform ground plan and an apse that is horseshoe shaped on the inside and straight on the outside, with chapels at the sides and a portico in the western area. The walls are of solid construction with a double layer of granite ashlar work and a gravel and mortar core. The ceilings have granite ashlar vaulting in different styles. The remaining decorative elements include stucco on some of the transverse arches of the crossing, as well as carved liturgical elements, always in reused marble of Roman origin.

This church is the centre of a monastic complex with a significant number of constructions and infrastructures, including the masonry wall that tends to have a rectangular ground plan (650 m x 400 m) adapted to the orography of the terrain, which includes the group of dams that collected water from two nearby streams.

Despite having been the centre of significant debates related to its date of construction and use, the latest excavations carried out under the direction of Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) researcher Luis Caballero Zoreda, have revealed a stratigraphic sequence with four periods:
Phase I. Original period of construction of the complex until its abandonment, which would have begun in the late 7th century and lasted until the mid-9th century, dates confirmed both by the stratigraphy and archaeological materials as well as radiocarbon and thermoluminescence dating.
Phase II. Replacement of the monastery by an Islamic settlement.

Phase III. Use of the Islamic settlement and replacement of this settlement by another so-called reconquest settlement, of which evidence remains of part of its walls and the necropolis.

Phase IV. Alterations of the church in the early modern era, with periods of significant vitality in the 17th and 18th centuries and abandonment of the church following the Confiscation in the 19th century.

Following Toledo Provincial Council’s acquisition of the parcel where the church is located 50 years ago, in recent years the complex has been developed with the adaptation of the archaeological remains and creation of an interpretation centre.

Historical assessment 
The execution and conservation of Melque’s structure, as well as the excavations carried out in the 1990s together with the recent archaeological studies of the architecture, petrographic analysis and investigations of the infrastructures in the immediate surroundings, make the Monastic Complex of Melque the best preserved exponent of the constructions and establishment of religious complexes in the early 8th century in the region of Toledo. It is the biggest fully vaulted early medieval church still standing in Western Europe, and also has other innovative elements such as the stucco decoration on the inside. Its construction, exclusively in granite ashlar work, also evidences the participation of labour that was specialised in the extraction, carving and use of this material.
The study of the five dams that served the Monastery of Melque – of which some of its associated rooms are also known – highlights the economic strength of this centre, located at a crossroads, as well as the knowledge and use of water resources for the functioning and supply of the complex.

Church of San Pedro de la Mata
The Church of San Pedro de la Mata is located in the vicinity of the parish of Casalgordo, within the municipal boundaries of Sonseca and the so-called crystalline plateau of Toledo, between the Tagus valley and the Toledo Mountains.

The building is moderate in size and has a cruciform ground plan with a freestanding rectangular apse, side chambers located in the eastern corners and a side aisle to the south. It would have surely been covered with stone vaulting. The church stands on graded granite slab with no foundation pit for the walls, which are made from double-skin ashlar work with a masonry core.

According to recent archaeological studies of the architecture, the building evolved in three different phases. The first was a structure from the early medieval period with a rectangular apse, a pre-apse and transverse nave and crossing with four transverse horseshoe arches and a western aisle. In the apse, there would have been an altar with a single base, of which the impost remains. This first building would have been decorated with marble reliefs, which today are preserved in the Santa Cruz Museum in Toledo and the Arisgotas Visigothic Culture Museum, or were reused in the enlargements of the church itself.

This first structure would have fallen into ruins very quickly and would be rebuilt, adding angular rooms on the eastern and western sides, as well as a transverse nave.

In the late medieval period, in the mid-13th century, the building was reconstructed and used as a church. The most evident alteration was on the apse that was rebuilt, where the side benches built into the walls were installed and the rounded arch was built. The rest of the building also has traces of clear remodelling.

The identification and characterisation of the stone materials in San Pedro de la Mata have shed light on its chronology, constructive evolution and sources of raw material supplies. It has thus been possible to conclude that the granite material was extracted in two areas located to the northwest and southwest of the church within a 400-metre radius. As regards the origin of the marble material used in the decorative reliefs, its quarry of origin has been identified in the place known as ‘La Estrella’, around 3 kilometres from the property. It is worth noting that these ornamental elements were created from scratch for the church and are not the product of reuse. With these construction data as well as the data regarding the extraction of raw materials, the construction of the first design can be dated to the 8th/9th centuries at the earliest.

Historical assessment 
The recent research on the Church of San Pedro de la Mata and the areas supplying raw materials for its construction and ornamentation, has set a precedent within the study of churches around the city of Toledo, positioning this one as a benchmark for identifying post-Visigothic constructions as opposed to the traditional historiography, which suggested its origin in the mid-7th century.
Nothing remains of the monastic complex the church belonged to, but its marble sculptural body (new, not reused like at Melque), can only be explained by the implementation of a significant construction project that launched the working of quarries and benefited from craftsman capable of working this material.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

These early medieval Christian artistic expressions represent an ensemble of exceptional and unique universal value, as they are the result of a cultural trajectory that is original, individual and exclusive to the Iberian Peninsula, characterised by successive historical phenomena of convergence and syncretism that is not repeated elsewhere. The early medieval period in the Iberian Peninsula generated artistic models specific to the region.

The presence of the human Mozarabic component, i.e. the Christians – some of whom were monks – from Islamic territories who emigrated northwards, and their role in the development of architectural forms starting in the 9th century, with borrowed Moorish styles alongside northern ones, is an example of the uniqueness and originality of the local aesthetic and structural formulas, which have only survived in the central and northwestern areas of Spain.

These expressions are characterised by the presence of structural and decorative elements that are for the most part foreign to the earlier Hispanic tradition, which must therefore be considered innovative in both formal and technological terms. The widespread use of horseshoe arches, frequently framed by alfiz mouldings in the case of doors and windows; the positioning of the main entrances in the side walls; the attachment of roof eaves with modillions carved in stone; the construction of segmented, ribbed and sail vaults; animal and plant architectural sculpture, carved using chamfering and drilling; or the geometric and/or plant pictorial ornamentation, sometimes with bichrome cuts, are just some of the elements that have clear Islamic roots. These features are, in reality, a reflection of the work of craftsmen who received good training in al-Andalus and who were very familiar with the techniques that had been used there since the early 8th century. Thanks to the above-mentioned migration process, motivated by the burgeoning power in the north, these craftsmen were active in the northern half of the peninsula during subsequent centuries. The relationships with the Asturian architectural culture – partially contemporary with the Mozarabic culture – are evident in aspects such as the architectural sculpture, the compartmentalisation of spaces and the liturgical articulation or vaulting in stone. The differences between the two cultures are equally significant, however, demonstrating that they are the products of social contexts that are near, yet far.

Although these churches may adopt different ground plans (basilica, cruciform, with simple and opposing apses), elevations (with vaulted or wooden ceilings, supported by pillars and/or columns, etc.) and construction techniques (masonry or ashlar work, brickwork), the above-mentioned characteristics are present in all of them. In other words, although these churches do not fit a single formal principle, they respond to the same technological and social context, where the differences are exclusively due to the resources of the patrons who sponsored them and the skills of the craftsmen who built and decorated them. Each building is unique, while at the same time forms part of a uniform group, a wonderful contradiction that would be lost in the subsequent Romanesque period. 

All these churches are also monastic, which explains some of their formal coincidences (compartmentalisation of spaces, openings with restricted access for the clergy in the choir spaces, arrangement of the chancel screens) and subsequent evolution, with nearly all of them surviving as local parish churches before they were turned into monuments starting in the early 20th century. Thanks to their agricultural and commercial activity and their association with aristocratic and royal power, the monasteries to which these churches belonged were important economic and cultural centres, as evidenced by the fact that the Beatus manuscripts would be written and decorated in them, items that required significant funding for their production, as well as specialist mastery. Although these monasteries did not have a standard architectural and spatial layout, they did have all the areas (church, wall, dining hall, courtyard, etc.) that would define later European monasteries in the Romanesque period. There are barely any remains of these sites throughout Western Europe, and some of the Iberian examples (Escalada, Melque) are those that are the most well known at material and document level.

Despite the fact the examples show a certain geographical dispersion, falsely appearing as only typical of rural areas and areas far from what were the centres of power at that time (although some urban monasteries are documented, such as Palaz del Rey in León), their location clearly responds to the expansion of Christian power in the northern Iberian Peninsula, mainly during the period of Alfonso III (866-910), with this power materialising in this territory through the founding and construction of these monastic centres. The sources tell us of around 1,000 monasteries founded in the north by the end of the 10th century, making these examples rare gems of unquestionable material, historical and artistic interest, in addition to being of immense value for being conserved and disseminated.

Ultimately, these are architectural complexes that have value as centres for creating and transmitting culture, knowledge, as well as being active elements in the regional consolidation of Asturian/Leonese power in both urban and rural areas, in addition to their value as regards innovations to respond to religious ritual needs. The reinterpretation of older forms and introduction of new, innovative ones – in addition to the knowledge these forms required in order to be implemented – gave rise to an extremely original and uniquely Hispanic chapter over a long phase at the start of the Middle Ages, the result of socio-political and cultural conditions that were likewise one of a kind in the Western sphere.

These are buildings that exemplify the syncretism and convergence of traditions of the Christian patrons who sponsored the construction of the churches and hired Islamic masters or those trained in al-Andalus to build them. It is precisely the craftsmen and patrons who are the main protagonists of the Mozarabic phenomenon.

The former were skilled labour, with Moorish technology and forms that imbued their artistic productions with personality. Their workshops moved and interacted with one another, explaining the similarity and difference between the churches. They were the creators and transmitters of the architectural and decorative know-how of the time, as well as the technique and forms, importing hitherto-unknown tools (flat chisel and drill for sculpture, ruler and square for masonry) and trained in al-Andalus by workmen from the East. Their high level of skill is clear in the execution of different types of vaulted forms, in the use of structural reinforcements in the elevations (wooden beams, lead discs, braces) and in the functional selection of the materials used. Mozarabic churches are the materialisation of the craftsmen’s work and the only element for analysing this intangible know-how of the masters of this age, because in the churches it is possible to read the traces of the tools used by these workers, the structural knowledge they possessed or the experience they held. In an age when the written sources about all these characters are non-existent, these constructions are the only window we have to peer into this period and its architectural culture.

The churches are likewise the material reflection of a society, specifically of the patrons who had sufficient economic resources and surpluses to spend on implementing ambitious projects, such as the construction and maintenance of a monastery, whose churches are often the only element that remains. These architectural projects changed the region with their presence, the perception of power by the society who used them; they facilitated collaboration between different specialists and thus contributed to transmitting architectural knowledge in Iberia, blurring the lines between Christian and Islamic culture.

The proposal Group of Mozarabic buildings in the Iberian Peninsula includes 10 cultural properties belonging to seven Spanish provinces, which as a whole form a ‘serial property’ as defined in paragraph 137 of the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention. Pursuant to current legislation, they are all currently considered Properties of Cultural Interest. 

Criterion (i): These expressions are characterised by the presence of structural and decorative elements that are for the most part foreign to the earlier Hispanic tradition, which must therefore be considered innovative in both formal and technological terms. The widespread use of horseshoe arches, frequently framed by alfiz mouldings in the case of doors and windows; the positioning of the main entrances in the side walls; the attachment of roof eaves with modillions carved in stone; the construction of segmented, ribbed and sail vaults; animal and plant architectural sculpture, carved using chamfering and drilling; or the geometric and/or plant pictorial ornamentation, sometimes with bichrome cuts, are just some of the elements that have clear Islamic roots. These features are, in reality, a reflection of the work of craftsmen who were trained well in al-Andalus and very familiar with the techniques that had been used there since the early 8th century. Thanks to the above-mentioned migration process, motivated by the burgeoning power in the north, these craftsmen were active in the northern half of the peninsula during the following centuries.

Criterion (ii): This group of Mozarabic architecture is the result of the exchange of cultural values and forms from different groups of humans over a particular time and space. It would be inexplicable without the successive concurrence, in the Iberian territory and over the late Roman substratum, of people with Germanic and Islamic roots, of the phenomena of acculturation and stylistic contributions (Eastern arts, Byzantine models, etc.), of the religious and ideological reaction (the influences of the northern populations and Asturian art, as occurs in the controversial Mozarabism and its neo-Visigothic character) and of the development of the war events and territorial restructuring and repopulation entailed by the Reconquista

This group represents an undeniable architectural and aesthetic contribution, different in meaning and language with regard to the last monumental architectures of antiquity as well as the full medieval styles of European origin that would take hold in later centuries.  These monastic churches were, furthermore, economic centres for the creation and transmission of culture.

Criterion (iii): The properties forming the above-mentioned group represent an exceptional testimony to forms of coexistence and cultural hybridisation, with specific and exclusive features of a historical period with very particular characteristics, as well as of a geographical space. These Mozarabic buildings represent the materialisation of and the only element for analysis that we have to know about the intangible heritage represented by the know-how of the masters of this age, whose skill is one of a kind in Europe, where elements such as those appearing on the Iberian Peninsula in the 10th century (vaults, for example), would not be common until a later time (end of the 11th century onwards).  The arrival of the Islamic world and the training from al-Andalus explain this uniqueness.

Criterion (iv): The group is represented by identifiable architectural types that are characteristic and illustrative of a historical and cultural stage. Each of the examples has monumental and heritage value on its own, given their uniqueness, scarce number and age, but it is obvious that they have clear value as an ensemble, even with their formal diversity, as they are some of the most revealing expressions of the characteristics of the societies that produced them.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The conditions of authenticity set out by the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention and the Nara Document on Authenticity are duly present in this group of buildings, considered both as an ensemble as well as in terms of individual examples. There is a long list of scientific studies, research and technical reports, together with the historical information of a documentary nature, that recognises the fact that these properties belong to the chronological stage defined, with all the cultural implications this means in the Christian sphere of the central and northwestern Iberian Peninsula.

These studies, research, reports and historical information all agree on the exceptional nature of these expressions and their representativeness as extraordinary testimonies – given their originality and the scarcity of the sample preserved – of a unique art and an exclusive historical period.

In parallel with the advance of the knowledge of the historical stages to which these properties belong and the study of the general conditions that brought about their construction, there has been a good degree of clarification as regards their artistic dimension, their documentary significance, even the role in the population and territorial organisation of the communities they served, as surviving elements of old monasteries (as is the case, for example, of San Miguel de Escalada, Mazote or Wamba), expressions of the consolidation and increasing complexity of the eremitic and cenobitic phenomena (as is the case, for example, of Peñalba de Santiago or San Baudelio de Berlanga).

As a whole, they preserve their original design, modest in size, although high in quality from an architectural standpoint (mostly stone constructions, even the vaults and domes that remain; presence of few decorative elements although of great iconographic and symbolic value; use of marble and excellent carved capitals, frequently reused from other places; etc.).

On the other hand, in terms of integrity, the properties selected form a sufficiently significant sample of the characteristics of the Mozarabic style and this sample contains the necessary elements to express the Outstanding Universal Value of this serial property. The churches benefit from a good state of conservation and do not suffer the negative effects of urban development, as they are located in a rural setting that has worked to conserve the properties and their surroundings.

Comparison with other similar properties

The properties most closely comparable to those proposed here are, logically, those in Spain, as they are ensembles with marked cultural and historical similarities.

The inscription of the Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of the Asturias (1985 and ext. 1998, Ref. 312bis) must be mentioned first, as their relationship with the properties we are including is contemporaneous both thematically and typologically, due to corresponding to a comparable chronological stage (particularly the 9th century).

Although the research field has pointed out the formal and conceptual similarities between of some of the buildings in Asturian art and part of the churches in this proposal, it is true that there are totally original aspects in the Mozarabic ensembles, such as the systematic use of horseshoe arches, the real icon of the period, either due to Visigothic or Islamic influence, which is barely documented in the Asturian ensembles. In this regard, the contribution of the so-called Mozarabic would become a distinctive and original feature for our properties. Likewise, the iconography and decorative elements with eastern roots are more present in the buildings in this nomination, while the Asturian examples seem to have a link that is more deeply rooted in the late Roman style (in the mural painting, for example), probably because they are older.

Another aspect that differentiates the two proposals is that this one spans a different time period (9th-11th centuries) and geographical area (ancient kingdoms of Castilla and León) with the specific inclusion of properties considered Hispano-Visigothic.

The inscription of the San Millán Yuso and Suso Monasteries (1997, Ref. 805) is also related to this nomination as it is a property that expresses the introduction and survival of Christian monasticism without interruption from the 6th century onwards, the transformation of a spiritual centre from eremitic origins up to today, as occurs with some of the examples included in this proposal.

The inscription of this property in the region of La Rioja, which refers to a unique religious complex and which incorporates the role of this complex in the development of the Spanish language, are aspects that set this apart from our nomination.

The Mudéjar Architecture of Aragón (1986, Ext. 2001, Ref. 378ter) is another inscription we can note here based on its nature as original ensemble arising from the 12th century thanks to the peculiar socio-political and cultural conditions of Reconquista Spain, the convergence of styles and languages due to being definitively Christian art influenced by Islamic aesthetics and construction systems.

This is another example of cultural syncretism, where the presence of the Islamic (without forgetting other sources), primarily, as a Hispanic peculiarity, again attains a remarkable representativeness. The group, which includes 10 properties, is comparable to the sample proposed in this nomination. However, the Mudéjar Architecture of Aragón is a phenomenon with different historical and artistic perspectives. The chronology of the Mudéjar ensemble inscribed (which dates to the 12th-17th centuries), its involvement with contemporary European architectural styles (Romanesque and Gothic) and its compositional and decorative aesthetic (predominant use of brick, glazed ceramics, the presence of high bell towers, etc.) distance it to a certain extent from the content of this proposal.

Finally, although corresponding to a lesser degree, we might find certain similarities with the Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí, in the province of Lleida (2000, Ref. 988). As in our case, this is a group of medieval Christian churches (nine buildings), with a certain spatial dispersion, closely linked to rural territories, representative of the integration of Romanesque art through the area of the Pyrenean valley, associated with the development of the medieval population in this same zone. In this case, its character and exclusive concept of Romanesque buildings and its chronological development between the 11th and 13th centuries are aspects that distance it from the proposal we are presenting.

Considering that Mozarabic art, as we have stated at the beginning, is a unique art, eclectic in nature, a product of the syncretism of various sources and that responds to the exceptional development of events in Iberia in the early Middle Ages, it is difficult to compare it to other European architectural expressions, although we can find some concomitance with examples such as the following:

In Italy, on the northern coast of Sicily, we find the Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale (2015, Ref. 1487), an inscription comprising nine civil and religious constructions (palaces, churches, cathedrals and a bridge) belonging to the last three quarters of the 12th century and corresponding to the Kingdom of Sicily. Collectively, they are again an example of the syncretism between Western, Islamic and Byzantine cultural models, which gave rise to new concepts of space and decoration that was very widespread in the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages. It is art that is the product of the successful coexistence of peoples with different traditions and their internal reworking.

While the Norman-Byzantine culture developed in Italy starting in the 11th century and the elements of the inscription have a date focused on the 12th century, the cultural phenomenon to which the inscription refers is strongly influenced by the substratum of the earlier Arab and Byzantine culture, from the 6th to the 11th centuries, and it is also true that these expressions have clear dependencies on Islamic art and concomitances, on another scale, with the properties we are including in the proposal (horseshoe arches, wooden trusses, centralised ground plans with domes, etc.). The survival and reworking of the mosaic works form a unique aspect that is not repeated in our case, although, on the other hand, the group proposed in this nomination developed in an earlier period, with completely different relationships, although both cases complement one another.

Correspondence might also be found with the Carolingian Westwork and the Civitas Corvey (2014, Ref. 1447) site in Germany, a monastic complex with the only Carolingian structures remaining in the country, and the archaeological evidence of the original imperial abbey and urban settlement, or civitas, in the vicinity. This is a site from the Frankish period, under the Carolingian dynasty (8th and 9th centuries), erected between 822 and 885, which clearly illustrates the role played by imperial monasteries in the Frankish Empire, ensuring territorial control, administration, the spread of Christianity and the Carolingian political and cultural order in Europe as a whole.

We have here again an example of the early configuration of medieval Europe, with a fusion of Western and Islamic traditions and a restoration of classical traditions (the so-called Carolingian Renaissance), which is not far from the processes of ‘neo-Visigothism’ established on the Iberian Peninsula by the initiative of the new monarchies at the start of the Reconquista. The nomination proposed here is chronologically later.