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Essay on A Comparison of Christian and Islamic Architecture in Spain

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A Comparison of Christian and Islamic Architecture in Spain


By the 6th century a Germanic tribe called the Visigoths, converts to Arian Christianity, had established themselves as the aristocratic elite. The Christians built many monumental basilica-plan churches. The Santa Maria de Quintanilla de las Vinas, Burgos, Spain and San Juan de Banos de Cerrato are two such churches that still remain today. In the beginning of the 8th century Islamic Muslims conquered Spain and ended Visigothic rule. They constructed militaristic and religious architecture including castles, watchtowers, rock castes, the Great Mosque, and the Red Palace. The remaining Christians adopted some of the Islamic styles and soon built upon a new style that ended up in northern Spain. Over time, Spanish architecture has become a blend of both Islamic and Christian styles, the northern parts influenced more by Christianity and the southern by Islam.

When the Moors, Islamic followers from Africa came into and conquered many of the previous Christian regimes that had been set up, they brought a new style of art with them. The southern portion of Spain, called Islamic Spain, occupied most of the land from the year 711 until 1492. Southern Spain is also referred to as Òal-AndalusÓ in Arabic. The Moors came to Spain around 711 and interrupted the Visigoths, capturing Cordoba and Toledo. They built three types of architectural structures in Spain; Islamic military, Islamic religious, and fortified palace structures.

The Moors built Spanish castles such as the Gormaz in 956 AD, the oldest and largest medieval fortress in Western Europe. The Caliph ordered the Gormaz to be constructed in Cordoba as a fortress to be used in attacking the Christian kingdoms in...


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...Red Palace. The Christians began to incorporate some Islamic styles with their own traditional styles and formed the Mozarabic. This style was forced North while the Moors stayed in the South. There is a major difference in the style of architecture, the main concentration of Christian architecture being churches, while the main focus of Islamic architecture was also churches, but just as importantly, defense structures.

Works Cited:

1. Beran, Bernard, "History of Spanish Architecture" London, B.T. Batsford, 1938.

2. Davis, Sean S., "Islamic Spain" Cordoba Productions, Inc. 1995. http://www.bethel.hampton.k12.va.us/spain/islamic.html

3. Stokstad, Marilyn, "Art History" Prentice Hall, Inc. and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York 1995.

4. Whitewall, Walter Muir, "Spanish Romanesque Architecture of the Eleventh Century" London, Oxford U.P.,1968.


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