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TOWER OF THE CHURCH OF SAN MARTÍN (TERUEL)


The tower of San Martin is found on the Plaza of Pérez Prado, facing the Calle de los Amantes. Like the towers of the Cathedral, San Pedro and El Salvador, this one is a tower-portal that crosses over the Cuesta de la Andaquilla, which carries us to the gate of the same name on our journey through medieval Teruel. Presently, three of its sides are visible, the fourth abutting the church of its same name built during the Baroque period, like that of El Salvador. The church has been profoundly restored which has dignified it, and brought to light remains of its old Romanesque structure.

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The tower has a square plan, although actually slightly diamond-shaped, with the passage of the street through it in approximately a north-south direction at the bottom part. On the west side one can see a talus-shaped stone reinforcement that hides the side almost up to the top of the lowest frieze of angled brick. It forms part of the 16th century work, concretely between 1549 and 1551, undertaken by the French Master of Works Quinto Pierres Vedel. This work consisted of the demolition of various attached houses that had been purchased from the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, which resulted in a plaza in front of the tower. In addition they constructed the aforementioned reinforcement to stop the deterioration of the lower part of the tower, certainly very eroded because of humidity. They particularly reinforced the corners, giving them the form of talus-shaped buttresses, enlarging the projection and base of the support. During the past century, this work was severely criticized, especially from the aesthetic point of view and its technical execution, particularly by Ricardo Garcia Guereta who published a study on the towers of Teruel in 1926. As final fact, it is said that this work cost sixteen thousand seven hundred sueldos and seven dineros.

The lower passage follows the same structure as those of the towers of the Cathedral and San Pedro, with pointed vaulting with reinforcing arches at both ends and in the center. It has the peculiarity that their springers, besides being situated at a low height, also vary in altitude from one side to the other with respect to the slope of the street. Both arches and pilasters from which they spring are made of brick, with the exception of a little stone socle that supports a pair of courses.

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Up to the height of the arch keystones including the spandrels, the tower is empty of decoration. Above this, the decoration of projecting bricks and glazed ceramics begin, which extend over the almost forty meters of the two sections of the tower.

At the first level there is a band of angled brick which, on the plaza side, is shown alternating with little tubes of 20 cm. high glazed ceramic, while on the opposite side the angled bricks are in a saw-tooth pattern without any ceramics.

Above this, a first section is filled with crossed mixtilineal arches which, in groups of eleven are supported by small green ceramic columns of between which are placed four white rings. The arches alternate a curved branch with another at a right angle extending to form a sebqa pattern which is almost immediately interrupted given the shortness of the height of the panel (2.24 m.) In the center arch is a narrow and elongated window.

The interiors of the diamond-shapes are decorated with a green ceramic disk or plate, while the arches have the following sequence of ceramic elements: on the lowest part, a checkerboard formed by sixteen alternating squares of green and white. Then come three green disks between which are placed two little diamond shapes based on four squares like those seen on the checkerboard, with the white squares vertical and the green ones disposed horizontally.

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Above this panel is another band of saw-tooth-angled brick framed by a border of brick arrowhead pattern alternating the colors of white and green.

 

 
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