From mosque to cathedral: the social and political significations of Mudejar architecture in late medieval Seville

From mosque to cathedral: the social and political significations of Mudejar architecture in late medieval Seville

By Danya Alexandra Crites

PhD Dissertation, University of Iowa, 2010

sAbstract: During the late Middle Ages, Iberian Christian and Jewish patrons commissioned intriguing monuments that incorporate Islamic-derived features. Determining possible reasons for the patronage of this architecture, commonly referred to as Mudejar architecture, has the potential to provide important insights into the complex, multi-cultural society that produced it, yet studies on its patronage have been limited in number and scope. Most of the early Spanish scholarship on Mudejar architecture focuses on formal issues and simply attributes its patronage to economic factors, an admiring fascination with the exotic, or a desire to subjugate Islamic culture. More recent scholarship has shifted to examining the motivations of patrons in specific case studies; however, many of these case studies are still framed within the overarching theory that Mudejar architecture was the result of a common architectural heritage among Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The reasons for Mudejar patronage cannot be confined to a single broad theory, but instead individual projects and patrons must be studied within their specific contexts and then compared to one another to provide a more accurate understanding of Mudejarismo.

This dissertation traces the development of Mudejar architecture in Seville from the time of the city’s conquest by Christian forces in 1248 to the early sixteenth century, just after the expulsion of Muslims and Jews from the Kingdom of Castile, in order to demonstrate the changing nature of Mudejar patronage in the city and how it relates to the relations among Christian, Jews, and Muslims. In establishing the chronology and the patronage of Seville’s Mudejar monuments through a close analysis of their formal elements, three distinct phases in their construction become apparent: 1) the approximately fifty years following the city’s conquest; 2) a period between the earthquake of 1356 and the initial construction of the Gothic cathedral in the 1430′s; and 3) the remainder of the fifteenth century through the first years of the sixteenth century. Prevalent features of Mudejar architecture during each of these phases are considered within the socio-political climate of the time as evidenced in primary sources. While economic, social, and demographic factors contributed to the construction of Mudejar architecture in Seville, its patronage was largely the result of the changing political agendas of the city’s ruling elite. Shortly after the city’s Castilian conquest, Alfonso X favored Gothic over Mudejar features because of his goals of asserting the new Christian authority in a city still threatened by Muslim forces and creating for himself a cosmopolitan imperial image. By the mid-fourteenth century, when Christian hegemony was no longer a concern, Mudejar forms signified the absolute power desired by Pedro I and his rebellious half-brother Enrique II. The construction of Seville’s enormous Gothic cathedral throughout much of the fifteenth century in addition to the patronage of the Catholic Monarchs and the rise of the Renaissance largely ended Mudejar patronage in the city with the exception of centrally-planned chapels and elaborate wooden roofs, which by this time had become a source of local pride. Thus, no general theory can encompass all of the reasons for Mudejar patronage in late medieval Seville, which were varied and continually in flux.

Click here to read/download this thesis from the University of Iowa

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

medievalverse magazine
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons