Architectural Decoration: From Hispano-Islamic to Mudéjar

De la decoración arquitectónica andalusí a la mudéjar Sala 25. Al-andalus. La huella andalusí en las culturas peninsulares

Mudéjar art is the last original expression of Hispano-Islamic art, splendidly exemplified in architecture by the Great Mosque of Córdoba. There we find load-bearing elements such as typical Islamic horseshoe arches, tiered semi-circular arches, and intersecting multifoil arches, all with decorated voussoirs. The carved capitals supporting the arches are adorned with a profusion of ornamental plant motifs.

The arches served to delimit the different areas of the mosque, which had a front courtyard and, inside, a prayer hall divided into bays by columns with tiered arches. These bays extend towards and face the mihrab, a sacred space whose entrance is framed by a horseshoe arch. The maqsura, an area reserved for the caliph or imam, is bounded by multifoil arches that form the antechamber to the mihrab.

Some of these structural and decorative elements found their way into the architecture of the Christian kingdoms. The wooden ceilings typical of Hispano-Islamic architecture were especially admired by Christian nobles, who hired Mudéjar artisans to build them. Chief among these were the alfarjes, flat ceilings consisting of intersecting beams and rafters with panels nailed over both. Many ceilings combined Islamic decorative motifs (Arabic inscriptions) and Gothic Christian imagery (castles).

Other structures were more complex, such as the octagonal ceilings with tiered decoration that gave them a dome-like appearance. Many were covered with typical Islamic tracery or laceria, a pattern of lines that intersect to form star or polygon-shaped geometric motifs. Noble heraldic crests were also frequently depicted on these ceilings to reassert the patron’s importance.