un recorrido por el arte mudéjar aragonés
webmaster: José Antonio Tolosa (Zaragoza -España-)


In the same way that the Alfajería was converted into the Royal Palace after the conquest of Zaragoza by King Alfonso I in 1118, the main mosque of Saraqusta, which had in turn been built over the Roman Forum, was consecrated to the Christian rite as Cathedral, under the advocation of the Holy Savior in His Epiphany, since there was already a Mozarabic church nearby dedicated to the Virgin Mary (the present Basilica del Pilar).

It was not much after this that they began the first modifications in the mosque in the Romanesque style, which was in turn enlarged beginning in the 14th century in the Gothic and Mudéjar styles. They first configured it as a three-aisled church, as had been the Romnesque one, to which in 1490 two additional side aisles were added, and two more transversal bays at the foot of the church around 1549. At the same time the first cupola was built between 1379 and 1412, a new main chapel in 1447, and the latter was rebuilt after its collapse around 1520. To this ensemble chapels were added in the apse, on the sides and at the foot during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and the octagonal Mudéjar bell tower was replaced by a Baroque one in 1685. Finally, in 1764, Julián Yarza executed the present façade, presumably on a more advanced plan than the earlier Gothic one.

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To all these successive phases must be added perhaps the most relevant Mudéjar feature, the Chapel of the Archangel Michael, popularly called the Parroquieta. The Mudéjar portions that have come down to us are the medieval construction, the cupola, the amplification of the Romanesque apses, the tower that was wrapped into the Baroque one, and the aforementioned chapel. In the interior, there is also the magnificent lectern known as “that of the Luna Pope,” because the Keys of St. Peter and the coat of arms of the Lunas appear on it; two lateral doorways of the choir with decorations in a pattern of eight, Mudéjar motifs on the Baroque cupolas of the chapels of Santo Domingo de Val and San Valero, as well as the beams and supports of Muel ceramics that adorn many of the chapels.

Of everything summarized above, in the following pages you are only going to be able to see an exhaustive and detailed chronicle of the Parroquieta because of its dependence on the Delegation of the Archbishopric Patrimony, since I only have exterior photos at my disposal. It seems that the Metropolitan Chapter of Zaragoza does not believe that the patrimony it guards should be shown on the Internet (I don’t understand this nor did they give me a logical reason why when they denied me permission to photograph the interior of the church). This has been the denial I have received in the many years of photographing, particularly in light of the fact that our Mudéjar patrimony is spread among so many categories: diocesan, religious orders, and state entities, whether autonomous, municipal or private. It demonstrates that the members of the Chapter are not excessively friends of new technologies, and among the great European Cathedrals, those of the Cathedral and El Pilar are practically the only ones who do not have their own web pages where information about themselves can be promoted.

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The Chapel of Saint Michael, or Parroquieta is constructed apart from the apse of the Cathedral, at its left side, and parallel to the crossing. It has its own exterior entrance to the left of the principal entry into the Cathedral. The chapel was commissioned by Don Lope Fernández de Luna, Archbishop of Zaragoza, between 1352 and 1382, who also gave impetus to the construction of the first cupola and the main doorway. The work appears to have begun in 1374, and completed towards 1381. As can be seen be seen in the course of these pages, everything indicates that they appropriated certain elements that still remained standing of dependencies of the original mosque, especially the brickwork of the exterior wall. This wall and the ceiling that covers the presbytery are two of the outstanding examples of Aragonese Mudéjar in terms of its brickwork, to which can be added the magnificent tomb of Don Lope, the recently discovered crypt and the construction of the nave itself.

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As for the exterior wall, although its construction has been posited along with the rest of the chapel during the dates mentioned above, it can’t be ruled out that it already existed when the construction work began, and at the latter time, only the ceramic pieces seen now were substituted.

María Isabel Álvaro Zamora, who has studied it in depth, established the hypothesis that the wall was completed in early and middle 1378, both in its brick and monochrome ceramic elements, which are not the present ones, but other simpler ones by Aragonese Mudéjar master craftsmen. This decoration did not please Don Lope, who called in two Andalusian tile craftsmen, who were already working in the city in 1378. Two payments in the year 1379, published by Don Manual Serrano y Sanz, give their names and origins. From the same documents, it is revealed that Garcí Sánchez y Lop would work on the wall at least from August of 1378 until May of 1379. The inclusion on this wall of ceramic work in the Andalusian style is a unique example in Aragon, which would have no effect on the development of Aragonese applied ceramic architectural decoration.

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The decorations of projecting brick and ceramic decoration covers the entire wall from the lateral apse of the Cathedral to the early Gothic doorway that gives entry to the chapel, right by the main façade, from which its vault springing at the corner is visible.

The wall is made up of 25 decorative horizontal bands, integrated within three big panels outlined in simple tilted bricks. Four windows illuminate the interior, two in the zone of the presbytery and two more on the nave.


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