Open main menu

Mudéjar (/mˈdhɑːr/,[1] also US: /-ˈðɛh-, -ˈðɛx-/,[2][3] Spanish: [muˈðexaɾ], Portuguese: [muˈðɛʒaɾ]; Catalan: mudèjar [muˈðɛʒəɾ]; Arabic: مدجن‎, romanizedmudajjan, 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 elements are still evident in regional architecture as well as in art and crafts, especially Hispano-Moresque ware, lustreware pottery that was once widely exported across Europe. The term "arte mudéjar" was coined and described by the Spanish art historian José Amador de los Ríos y Serrano in his induction discourse El estilo mudéjar, en arquitectura at the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in 1859.


Etymology and BackgroundEdit

Façade of Parroquieta Chapel of La Seo de Zaragoza, Aragon, a gothic building with elaborate 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 Castilian 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.[5] The term Mudéjar also can be translated from Arabic as "one permitted to remain", which references Christians allowing Muslims to remain in Christian Iberia. 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.[5] Mudéjars in Iberia 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.[6]

Mudéjar style in architectureEdit

Ceiling of mudéjar carpentry, Segorbe town hall (former ducal palace), Valencia Region

In architecture Mudéjar style does not refer to a distinct architectural style but to the application of traditional Islamic ornamental and decorative 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.[7]

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)

Islamic decoration and ornamentation includes stylized calligraphy and intricate geometric and vegetal forms. 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.[8] 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 were 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.


Nuestra Señora de Loreto, Algezares, city of Murcia: wooden ceiling on "diaphragm" arches
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.[9] 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. 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.[10]

It became most highly developed in Aragon, especially in Teruel[11] but also in towns such as Zaragoza, Utebo, Tauste, Daroca, and Calatayud. During the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, many grand Mudéjar towers were built in the city of Teruel, and these unique features have survived to the present day. A particularly fine example of Mudéjar-Renaissance style 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.[10] Above all, the Alhambra in Granada, Spain is an extraordinary example of Islamic craftsmanship in Spain, and a long lasting iconic image in Spanish artistic and cultural history.[12]

The Alhambra is an example of the Muslim architecture that inspired the Christian mudéjar style of ornamentation and decoration.


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 has fewer and simpler examples of mudéjar elements incorporated into its architecture. The Church of Castro de Avelãs in Braganza features classic mudéjar brick work. Mudéjar also tended to be applied to the gothic Manueline style in Portugal, which was very lavish and ornate.[13] Portuguese use of mudéjar developed particularly in the 15th and 16th centuries, and structures such as the Palace of the Counts of Basto and the Royal Palace feature characteristic mudéjar wooden roofs that are also to be found in some churches in towns such as Sintra and Lisbon. Since trade was an essential part of Portugal's culture in the 16th century, imported mudéjar decorated tiles from Seville appear in churches and palaces, such as the Royal Palace of Sintra.[14]


Latin AmericaEdit

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

Mudéjar style decoration was carried across the world by Christians for four centuries.[15] 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[dubious ] are derived from that of Spanish mosques.[citation needed] 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.[16]

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.[17]

Mudéjar style in other artsEdit

Decorative ArtsEdit

Detail of Mudéjar tile work from the palace garden of Charles V in Seville.

The dominant geometrical design, 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.[18]

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 allowed the tiles to be laid closer together with less grout, making the compositions more intricate and cohesive.[18]

Hispano-Moresque ware, Mudéjar luster ware with animal (figurative) motifs and calligraphy.

Mudéjar ornamentation is also seen in wood, ivory, metalwork, and ceramics.[19] 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, artisans would apply a layer of opaque white glaze before the colors. On top of the white, cobalt blue, green copper, and purple manganese oxides were used to make vibrant, traditional Islamic earthenware colors. Similarly in tile and stucco work, ceramic motifs included vegetal patterns, in addition to figurative motifs, calligraphy, and geometric patterns and images. There are also Christian influences in the imagery, such as boats, fern leaves, hearts, castles, etc.[20]


Following the return to Christian rule, Muslims in Castile, Aragon and Catalonia gave up the Andalusi Arabic dialect in favor of Castilian, Aragonese and Catalan. Mudéjar texts were then written in Castilian and Aragonese, but with Arabic letters.[21] 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.[19]

Legacy of Mudéjar StyleEdit

Mudéjar has experienced modern revivals such as neo-mudéjar, that appeared in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has been combined with modern techniques and materials, such as cast iron and glass, with traditional arches, tiling, and brickwork.[22]

With contemporary Islamic architecture internationalizing, Spanish architectural firms have turned their attention to building projects in the modern Arab world, specifically Morocco, Algeria, and the Persian Gulf region. Mudéjar influences are so iconic that despite modern Spanish styles, many commissions ask for Muslim-Spain (Al-Andalus) style housing. Mudéjar characteristics continue to act as a foundation for modernizing styles. Muslim architects are also currently making great strides in terms of modern architecture, reflecting the technical and engineering feats, as well as aesthetic expertise, reminiscent of the Mudéjar period.[23] Buildings from the Mudéjar period remain classic examples of Spanish architecture, proving the long lasting intercultural influence of the Islamic world.

Neo-Mudéjar style in an office building in Madrid.

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 978-0-87950-003-0.
  5. ^ a b Harvey 1992, p. 4.
  6. ^ MacKay, Angus (1977). Spain in the Middle Ages : From Frontier to Empire, 1000-1500. St. Martin's Press.
  7. ^ Harvey, L. P. (1 November 1992). Islamic Spain, 1250 to 1500. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-31962-9.
  8. ^ Reputation garden guide : flower seeds, garden seeds, garden bulbs, grass seeds /. Duluth, Minnesota: Duluth Floral Co. 1930. doi:10.5962/bhl.title.147501.
  9. ^ "Arquitectura Mudéjar" (in Spanish). Arteguias. September 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Historia del Arte - Arte del Renacimiento - Arte mudéjar - Región de Murcia Digital". Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  11. ^ "Mudejar Architecture of Aragon". World Heritage Site. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  12. ^ "Art in Spain and Portugal |". Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  13. ^ "Manueline | architectural style". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  14. ^ Makrickas, Augustas. "Islamic influence on western Architecture".
  15. ^ 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. JSTOR 24314027.
  16. ^ Sheren, Ila Nicole (2011-06-01). "Transcultured Architecture: Mudéjar's Epic Journey Reinterpreted". Contemporaneity: Historical Presence in Visual Culture. 1: 137–151. doi:10.5195/contemp.2011.5. ISSN 2153-5914.
  17. ^ "Basilica and Convent of San Francisco, Lima", Wikipedia, 2018-09-12, retrieved 2019-03-09
  18. ^ a b Sweetman, John; Gardner, A. R. (2003). Moorish style. Oxford Art Online. 1. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.t059437.
  19. ^ a b "Mudejar | Spanish Muslim community". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  20. ^ "La Cerámica Mudéjar". Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  21. ^ "Aljamiado | David A. Wacks". Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  22. ^ Time out Madrid (8th ed.). London: Time Out. 2010. ISBN 9781846701207. OCLC 655671274.
  23. ^ Gonzalez , Elena. “Spanish Architecture in the Arab World .” Andalusi and Mudejar Art in Its International Scope: Legacy and Modernity , 9 Sept. 2015, pp. 197–211.


  • ARTEHISTORIA, director. El Arte Mudejar . YouTube, YouTube, 17 June 2008,
  • Boswell, John (1978). Royal Treasure: Muslim Communities Under the Crown of Aragon in the Fourteenth Century. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-02090-2
  • Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Manueline | architectural style". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  • Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Mudejar.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 20 July 1998,
  • Encyclopedia. "Art in Spain and Portugal |". Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  • Garma, David de la. “Mudejar Ceramics .” Arte Celta (ARTEGUIAS), 2012,
  • Gonzalez , Elena. “Spanish Architecture in the Arab World .” Andalusi and Mudejar Art in Its International Scope: Legacy and Modernity , 9 Sept. 2015, pp. 197–211.
  • Harvey, L. P. (1 November 1992). Islamic Spain, 1250 to 1500. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-31962-9.
  • Harvey, L. P. (16 May 2005). Muslims in Spain, 1500 to 1614. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-31963-6.
  • King, Georgiana Goddard. Mudejar. Longmans Ed, 1927.
  • Linehan, P. (Ed.), Nelson, J. (Ed.), Costambeys, M. (Ed.). (2018). The Medieval World. London:Routledge,
  • Makrickas, Augustas. “Islamic Influence on Western Architecture.”, 2013,
  • Menocal, Maria Rosa (2002). "Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain". Little, Brown, & Co. ISBN 0-316-16871-8
  • Rubenstein, Richard (2003). "Aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages." Harcourt Books. ISBN 0-15-603009-8
  • “Scattering Seeds from the Garden of Allah.” Teposcolula Retablo, 2000,
  • Time Out. “Architecture.” TimeOut Madrid, Time Out Guides, 2010, pp. 32–34.
  • Voigt. “Tile Style.” Moorish Tile History, 1 Jan. 1970,
  • Wacks, David A. Cultural Exchange in the Literatures and Languages of Medieval Iberia. 30 Oct. 2013,

External linksEdit