(active late 9th century in León)

Exterior view

San Miguel de Escalada, León

In western Spain, in modern Castile and León and as far as Galicia and the upper Ebro, land that had been reconquered from the Moors was repopulated in the 10th century by Christians from Asturia in the north, by native Hispano-Visigoths and by Mozarabs (Christians who had maintained their religion under Muslim rule) from the south; together these groups developed a heterogeneous art known as Mozarabic. Mozarabic architecture was characterized by the fusion of European and north African elements, which it introduced into the west. Surviving churches display varied plans, making frequent use of the Moorish arch in apses and on façades, the latter normally with panels. They are topped by a variety of types of vault.

The most monumental examples of Mozarabic churches were built in Castile and León, for example the abbey church of San Miguel de Escalada near León. It was founded in the late 9th century, under the rule of Alfonso III, by a group of Christian monks from Córdoba led by Abbot Alfonso. They settled on the remains of a Visigoth church dedicated to the Archangel St Michael.

The monastery church's nave has three aisles separated by columns and large horseshoe arches, with their apses and a crossing, which is not covered by a central tower. The choir is separated from the principal nave by three horseshoe arches.

Despite the ground plan, the building appears from the exterior as a rectangular block. Notable is a meridional porch fixed by twelve horseshoe arches, which were built in two different phases: the seven occidental arches, with columns and steeples are in the moorish style, while the Mozarabic work from the 10th century is preserved in the alfiz (an Islamic Arab architectonic ornament) decorations around the arches.

The photo shows the exterior seen from the west.

View the cross section and ground plan of the building.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.