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Spanish art and architecture

Moorish and Asturian Influences

The full horseshoe arch introduced by the Moors (8th cent.) and extensively employed in the famous mosque at Córdoba (8th–10th cent.). In their palaces and mosques the Moors developed certain architectural features that have remained part of the Spanish tradition down to the present day. Moorish interiors, subdivided into isolated units, are cool and graceful and utilize intricate effects of light and shadow, as in the famous Court of the Lions in the Alhambra (Granada). This tendency to enframe space is reflected in the enclosed choirs of almost all Spanish cathedrals and collegiate churches. Other Moorish elements, such as multifoil and intersecting arches, influenced the Christian buildings of medieval Spain, as did the Moorish love of reiteration and multiplicity of small motifs in luxuriant flat ornament (exemplified in the Alhambra).

By 850 the Moors had conquered all Spain except the Asturias region. Characteristic of Asturian churches (9th cent.) is a basilican plan with square apses, rounded arches, and balustered windows. In Santa Maria de Naranco (mid-9th cent.) is found one of the earliest uses of barrel vaulting in the Middle Ages. The art and architecture of the Mozarabs (9th–11th cent.), combining Asturian and Moorish features, produced some of the most original and interesting European buildings of the time.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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