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Mudéjar (/mˈdhɑːr/,[1] also US: /-ˈðɛh-, -ˈðɛx-/,[2][3] Spanish: [muˈðexaɾ], Portuguese: [muˈðɛʒaɾ]; Catalan: mudèjar [muˈðɛʒəɾ]; Arabic: مدجن‎, translit. mudajjan, lit. 'tamed; domesticated')[4] refers to a style of ornamentation and decoration in post-Islamic Christian Iberia that was strongly influenced by Moorish taste and workmanship. Historically, the term also applies to the large group of Muslims who remained in Iberia in the late medieval period despite the Christian reconquest.

Mudéjar style is still evident in regional architecture, as well as in art and crafts, especially Hispano-Moresque ware, lustreware pottery that was widely exported across Europe. The Mudéjar style was first characterized as a specific aesthetic trend by Spanish art historian Pedro de Madrazo in 1888.[5] 


Etymology and backgroundEdit

Façade of Parroquieta Chapel of La Seo de Zaragoza, Aragon, one of the most elaborate examples of Gothic Mudéjar masonry

Mudéjar was originally the term used for Moors or Muslims of Al-Andalus who remained in Iberia after the Christian Reconquista but were not initially forcibly converted to Christianity or forcibly exiled. The word Mudéjar references several historical interpretations and cultural borrowings. It was a medieval Spanish borrowing of the Arabic word Mudajjan مدجن, meaning "tamed", referring to Muslims who submitted to the rule of Christian kings. The term likely originated as a taunt, as the word was usually applied to domesticated animals such as poultry.[6] The term Mudéjar also can be translated from Arabic as "one permitted to remain", which references Christians allowing Muslims to remain in Christian Spain. Another term with the same meaning, ahl al-dajn ("people who stay on"), was used by Muslim writers, notably al-Wansharisi in his work Kitab al-Mi'yar.[6] Mudéjars in Spain lived under a protected tributary status known as dajn which references ahl al-dajn. This protected status suggested subjugation at the hands of Christian rulers as the word dajn resembled haywanāt dājina which meant "tame animals". Their protected status was enforced by the fueros or local charters which dictated Christians laws. Muslims of other regions outside of the Iberian Peninsula disapproved of the Mudéjar subjugated status and their willingness to live with non-Muslims.[7]  

Mudéjar was used in contrast to both Muslims in Muslim-ruled areas (for example, Muslims of Granada before 1492) and Moriscos, who were forcibly converted and may or may not have continued to secretly practice Islam.[8]

The Treaty of Granada (1491) protected religious and cultural freedoms for Muslims in the imminent transition from the Emirate of Granada to a Province of Castile. After the fall of the last Islamic kingdom in the Battle of Granada in January 1492, Mudéjars, unlike the Jews who were expelled that same year, kept a protected religious status, although there were Catholic efforts to convert them. However, over the next several decades this religious freedom deteriorated. Islam was outlawed in Portugal by 1497,[9] the Crown of Castile by 1502,[10] and the Crown of Aragon by 1526,[11] forcing the Mudéjars to convert or in some cases leave the country.[12] Following the forced conversion, they then faced suspicions that they were not truly converted but remained crypto-Muslims, and were known as Moriscos. The Moriscos, too, were eventually expelled, in 1609–1614.

Mudéjar status in SpainEdit


The Muslim population in Castile originally immigrated from Toledo, Seville and other Andalusi territories. They were not original to the land in Castile. Muslim immigration into Castile was sponsored settlement by the Kingdom of Castile. It is hypothesized that the slow-growing Christian population demonstrated a need to bring more people into Castile. Primary documents written by Castilians in the 13th century indicate that Muslims were able to maintain some agency under Christian rule. The Mudéjars were able to maintain their religion, their laws, and had their own judges. The Mudéjars in Castile spoke the Romance languages and dialects as their Christian neighbors.[7]

Aragon and CataloniaEdit

Like the Mudéjars in Castile, Aragonese and Catalan Mudéjars also spoke the Romance languages of their Christian counterparts. However, unlike the Mudéjars in Castile, there were Muslim villages in Aragon and, to a lesser extent, in south-western Catalonia which populated the land before the Christian reconquests, setting up a history of Muslim cultivation and population of the land. Besides the large Muslim populations in Granada and Valencia, the Aragonese Muslim peasants were the most well-established Muslim community in the region, while in Catalonia Muslim authoctonous presence was limited only to the Low Ebro and Low Segre areas. Aragonese and Catalan Muslims were under the jurisdiction of the Christian Crown and were designated a special status. This status applied to the Mudéjar cultivators, the exarici, and this status made them subservient to their Christian superiors because by law, they were required to cultivate the land of royal estates. However, this status was also beneficial as the law suggested that this land be passed down through Muslim family members. Despite their expulsion at the end of the Morisco period, the Mudéjars in Aragon left evidence of their style in architecture[7], while in Catalonia only some reminiscences of this can be appreciated in some Gothic churches and cathedrals in some shires of Lleida.


In the 13th century, the Aragonese Christians conquered Valencia. Unlike in Aragon, the Mudéjar population in Valencia vastly outnumbered Christians in the area. In Valencia, the majority of communities were Arabic-speaking and Muslim. Although there was a disparity between Christians and Muslims, it is important to note that a Christian king ruled over Valencia, and not a sultan or an imam and this shaped the experience of Mudéjars in this region. An effect of Christian rule were the outbreaks of rioting against Mudéjars in Valencia. Mudéjar communities were frequently attacked by Christian rioters, despite being protected by the Crown. Violence against Mudéjars in Valencia was common.[7]

Mudéjar Style in architectureEdit

In archtecture, Mudéjar style does not refer to a distinct architectural style but to the application of traditional Islamic ornamental elements to Christian Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance architectural styles, mostly taking place in Spain in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, although it continued to appear in Spanish architecture well after this period. It also appeared in the architecture of other countries and regions, most notably Portugal, and later in the Spanish colonies in the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Islamic ornamentation includes stylized calligraphy and intricate geometric and vegetal forms, and the classic architectural Mudéjar elements include the horseshoe and multi-lobed arch, muqarna vaults, alfiz (molding around an arch), wooden roofing, fired bricks, glazed ceramic tiles, and ornamental stucco work.[13] Mudéjar often makes use of girih geometric strapwork decoration, as used in Middle Eastern Islamic architecture, where Maghreb buildings tended to use vegetal arabesques. Scholars have sometimes considered the geometric forms, both girih and the complex vaultings of muqarnas, as innovative, and arabesques as retardataire, but in Al-Andalus, both geometric and vegetal forms are freely used and combined.[13]

Even after Muslims were no longer employed in architecture, many of the elements they had introduced continued to be incorporated into Spanish architecture, giving it a distinctive appearance. The term Mudejar style was first coined in 1859 by the Andalusian historian and archeologist José Amador de los Ríos.


Nuestra Señora de Loreto, Algezares, city of Murcia: wooden ceiling on "diaphragm" arches
Ceiling of Mudéjar carpentry, Segorbe town hall (former ducal palace), Valencia Region
Santa Eulalia Church in Totana, Murcia Region

Historians agree that Mudéjar first developed in the town of Sahagún, León under Christian rule, as an adaptation of architectural and ornamental motifs, especially through decoration with plasterwork and brick.[14] Mudéjar then extended to the rest of the Kingdom of León, Toledo, Ávila, Segovia, etc., giving rise to what has been called brick romanesque style. Centers of Mudéjar art are found in other cities, such as Toro, Cuéllar, Arévalo and Madrigal de las Altas Torres.

The main sites of Mudéjar architecture in Spain and Portugal: Early examples (grey) and regional subtypes: Aragon (yellow); Castile & León (red); Toledo (purple); Portugal (blue); Andalusia (green); other (white)

It became most highly developed in Aragon, especially in Teruel[15] but also in towns such as Zaragoza, Utebo, Tauste, Daroca, and Calatayud. During the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, many imposing Mudéjar-style towers were built in the city of Teruel. This distinction has survived to the present day. A particularly fine example of Mudéjar-Renaissance is the Casa de Pilatos, built in the early 16th century at Seville. Seville includes many other examples of Mudéjar. The Alcázar of Seville is considered one of the greatest surviving examples of Mudéjar Gothic and Mudéjar Renaissance architecture.

While international interest tends to emphasize Mudéjar masonry, including the sophisticated use of bricks and tiles, Spanish scholars also note Mudéjar carpentry, as well as the combination of the two. Several churches have slanting wooden ceilings supported by transverse arches of stone, called diaphragms.[16]


Wooden mudéjar roof of the chapel of the Royal Palace of Sintra (Portugal) with 4-, 6-, 8- and 12-point stars in girih strapwork

Portugal also has examples of Mudéjar art and architecture, although the examples are fewer and the style simpler in decoration than in neighbouring Spain. Mudéjar brick architecture is only found in the apse of the Church of Castro de Avelãs [1], near Braganza, which is similar to the prototypical Church of Sahagún in León. A hybrid Gothic-Mudéjar style also developed in the Alentejo province in southern Portugal during the 15th and 16th centuries, where it overlapped with the Manueline style. The windows of the Royal Palace and the Palace of the Counts of Basto in Évora are good examples of this style. Decorative arts of Mudéjar inspiration are also found in the tile patterns of churches and palaces, such as the 16th-century tiles, imported from Seville, that decorate the Royal Palace of Sintra. Mudéjar wooden roofs are found in churches in Sintra, Caminha, Funchal, Lisbon and some other places.

Mudéjar tower of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception in Cali, Colombia

Latin AmericaEdit

Mudéjar style decoration was carried across the world by Christians for four centuries.[17] Mudéjar quickly became part of the architectural history of Latin America, especially in present day Mexico and Peru.

The Church of San Miguel in Sucre, Bolivia, provides an example of Mudéjar in Latin America. The interior decorations and the open floor floor plan are derived from that of Spanish mosques. The Islamic preoccupation with geometry can be seen through its octagonal patterned wood ceiling and the underside of the supporting arches are carved with a vegetable motif based on the arabesque. San Miguel is a direct inheritor of the Mudéjar and Islamic architecture tradition of the expansion and multiplication of an initial pattern. Around the octagonal dome, there are more wooden ceiling panels carved with the same pattern as the church’s ceiling.[18]

Other examples of Mudéjar style can be found in Coro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Venezuela, and the Iglesia del Espíritu Santo in Havana, Cuba.[16]. The Monastery of San Francisco in Lima, Peru also contains Mudéjar elements. The vaults of the central and two side naves are painted in Mudéjar style. The halls of the head cloister are inlaid with Sevillian glazed tiles, and the main altar is made entirely from carved wood.[19]

Mudéjar Style in other artsEdit

Decorative ArtsEdit

The dominant geometrical character, distinctly Islamic, emerged conspicuously in the crafts: elaborate tilework, brickwork, wood carving, plasterwork, ceramics, and ornamental metals. Objects, as well as ceilings and walls, were often decorated with intensely complicated designs, as Mudéjar artists were not only interested in relaying wonder, but also continued the practice of horror vacui, or a fear of empty spaces. Thus, many aspects of Islamic art were packed with intricate and beautiful patterns and imagery. Many decorative arts were applied to architecture, such as the tiling and ceramic work, as well as carving practices.

To enliven the surfaces of wall and floor, Mudéjar style developed complicated tiling patterns. The motifs on tile work are often abstract, leaning more on vegetal designs and straying from figural images (which is common in Islamic work). The colors of tile work of the Mudéjar period are much brighter and more vibrant than other European styles. The production process was also unique: the tile was fired before it was cut into smaller, more manageable pieces. This approach meant that the tiles and glaze work shrank less in the firing process, and retained their designs more clearly. This meant the tiles were able to be laid closer together with less grout, making the compositions more intricate and cohesive.[20]

Detail of Mudéjar tile work from Carlos V's palace garden.

Mudéjar ornamentation is also seen in wood, ivory, metalwork, and ceramics.[21] Ceramics have long been a popular art form in Islamic work. Mudéjar style ceramics built upon techniques developed in the early centuries of Islamic art. Pottery centers all over Spain - e.g. Paterna, Toledo, Seville - focused on making a range of objects, from bowls and plates to candlesticks and turrets, etc. Artists typically worked in three “styles:” green-purple ware (manganese green), (cobalt) blue ware, and gold ware (luster earthenware).  In terms of color, tin glazes were added to waterproof the ceramics and also to create gloss, hence the reference to Islamic ceramics as ‘lusterware.’ This technique was carried on from the Nasrid period. Typically, they would apply a layer of opaque white glaze before the colors. On top, cobalt blue, green copper, and purple manganese oxides were used to make vibrant, traditional Islamic earthenware colors. Similar in tile and stucco work, ceramic motifs included vegetal patterns, in addition to figurative, calligraphy, and geometric patterns and images. There are also christian influences, as boats, fern leaves, hearts, castles, etc. appear in images.[22]

Mudéjar luster ware with animal (figurative) motifs and calligraphy.


Following the return to Christian rule, Muslims in Castile, Aragon and Catalonia gave up their native Andalusian Arabic in favor of Castilian, Aragonese and Catalan. However, they continued to write in Arabic, and this gave way to the Aljamiado literature. These texts were written in Castilian and Aragonese but with Arabic letters.[23] Most of this literature consisted of religious essays, poems, and epic, imaginary narratives. Often, popular texts were translated into this Castilian-Arabic hybrid, and the traditional stories were even Islamized.[24]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Mudejar" (US) and "Mudejar". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  2. ^ "Mudéjar". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  3. ^ "Mudejar". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  4. ^ Wehr, Hans (1979). Arabic-English Dictionary. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. ISBN 0-87950-003-4.
  5. ^ Sheren, Ila Nicole (2011). "Transcultured Architecture: Mudéjar's Epic Journey Reinterpreted". Contemporaneity: Historical Presence in Visual Culture. 1.
  6. ^ a b Harvey 1992, p. 4.
  7. ^ a b c d MacKay, Angus (1977). Spain in the Middle Ages : From Frontier to Empire, 1000-1500. St. Martin's Press.
  8. ^ Harvey 1992, p. 2.
  9. ^ Harvey 2005, p. 15.
  10. ^ Harvey 2005, p. 57.
  11. ^ Harvey 2005, p. 94.
  12. ^ Harvey 2005, p. 48.
  13. ^ Reputation garden guide : flower seeds, garden seeds, garden bulbs, grass seeds /. Duluth, Minnesota :: Duluth Floral Co.,. 1930.
  14. ^ "Arquitectura Mudéjar" (in Spanish). Arteguias. September 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  15. ^ "Mudejar Architecture of Aragon". World Heritage Site. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  16. ^ Regiòn de Murcia, Arte mudéjar
  17. ^ CUÉLLAR, IGNACIO HENARES; GUZMÁN, RAFAEL LÓPEZ; Suderman, Michelle; ALFARO, ALFONSO; Fox, Lorna Scott; LAHRECH, OUMAMA AOUAD; Shtromberg, Elena; SÁNCHEZ, ALBERTO RUY; ZAHAR, LEÓN R. (2001). "MUDEJAR: VARIATIONS". Artes de México (55): 81–96. ISSN 0300-4953.
  18. ^ Sheren, Ila Nicole (2011-06-01). "Transcultured Architecture: Mudéjar's Epic Journey Reinterpreted". Contemporaneity: Historical Presence in Visual Culture. 1 (0): 137–151. doi:10.5195/contemp.2011.5. ISSN 2153-5914.
  19. ^ "Basilica and Convent of San Francisco, Lima", Wikipedia, 2018-09-12, retrieved 2019-03-09
  20. ^ Sweetman, John; Gardner, A. R. (2003). Moorish style. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.
  21. ^ "Mudejar | Spanish Muslim community". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  22. ^ "La Cerámica Mudéjar". Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  23. ^ "Aljamiado | David A. Wacks". Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  24. ^ "Mudejar | Spanish Muslim community". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-03-09.


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External linksEdit