The history of modern Spain is complex. Over periods encompassing many centuries, battles on the Iberian Peninsula for land and power raged between Christians and Muslims. Often conflicts also occurred between Christians as well as among different groups of Muslims.
Food, celebrations, cultural influences, and other facets of life blended or changed. As the powerful changed, so did the architecture of the day.
The period between 711 AD and 1492 AD is a time of significant upheaval in Spain. The architecture of this period reflects this turbulence in Andalucía in southern Spain. There the new architecture often built onto that of preceding rulers.
This story is about the architectural influences in southern Spain.
On visiting Seville one can readily see architecture exhibiting Arab influence that was later augmented by Christians following the 780 years of battles between Muslims and Christians in the “Reconquista” (reconquest). I have seen this pattern across the region including Granada and Córdoba.
There are several examples of what I call “augmented architecture” in the “Mezquita de Córdoba” (Great Mosque of Córdoba) and in the “Alhambra” in Granada that I have previously written stories about. However, architecture of the Seville Cathedral and the Royal Alcazar of Seville are exceptional examples of blended Arab architecture with a Christian cultural influence. Both locations are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The above pictured, 105m (343 feet) Christian bell tower of the Seville Cathedral was constructed atop the Muslim minaret of the Almohad Mosque (similar to what occurred at Córdoba and elsewhere).
A portion of the previous mosque also exists at the cathedral entrance now called the “Door of Forgiveness.” This door with a Muslim archway does not directly provide access to the cathedral. Instead it provides access to the “Patio de los Naranjos” (Patio of the Oranges) and the orange trees found there. In the 1500’s several Christian sculptures and bells were added around the pictured door.
Spain’s Royal Alcazar (pictured in the slide show below) expanded the palace compound and gardens following the Reconquista and today blends the architectural influences from Spain’s Arabic period, Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The harmony created between the architectural influences is one of the reasons why UNESCO selected it as a World Heritage Site.
My final example of Seville’s augmented architecture is the Torre del Oro (Golden Tower). Located adjacent to the old port on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, the twelve sided tower was constructed about 1220 AD and originally part of the Moor’s fortifications. Later, additional construction made it higher as it appears today.
At one time I viewed building onto another culture’s architecture as taking away from the architectural purity and was a disappointing disregard for the preceding architecture.
However, today I see the additions as a means to also remember each other’s achievements as demonstrated in the blended architectures.
These augmented architectures found in Seville and throughout Andalucía remind us of long and difficult times and the beauty and uniqueness left for all mankind as described above and pictured in the Alcazar images below.