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Spanish art and architecture

The Gothic Period: Architecture

With the gradual unification of the Spanish kingdoms, there was increased prosperity and artistic activity during the Gothic period (13th–mid-16th cent.). Castilian architecture was basically French-inspired, although a distinctly native taste can be felt in the proportions and more ornate decorative features. Outstanding examples include the cathedrals of Burgos, Toledo, and León, the last remarkable also for its stained glass. Catalan Gothic architecture, exemplified in the cathedrals at Barcelona and Palma de Majorca, made distinctive use of wide naves with two side aisles instead of the usual four; they have heavy interior buttresses and lateral chapels. At Girona the aisles were suppressed altogether, so that the cathedral had one of the widest vaulted spans of medieval Europe.

A pervasive element in Spanish architecture is the Mudéjar style, whose influence lasted well into the 18th cent. The favorite materials of the Mudéjar builders were brick, plaster, and wood, which they employed with singular versatility. Their decoration is distinguished by the use of the elaborate geometrical configurations and stylizations associated with most Islamic art. Gothic churches, particularly in the south, are frequently crowned by Mudéjar artesonados, or wooden roofs.

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

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