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

Church of Saint Paul the Apostle (ZARAGOZA)

The church of San Pablo in Zaragoza, the parish church of this popular neighborhood, is one of the most important in the city; it isn’t in vain that it is known as the third cathedral. The church largely preserves its Mudéjar construction, although it is highly masked by enlargements, reforms and dependencies.

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The parish of San Pablo has its origins in a working class district which, a little after the Reconquest of the city and during the 12th and 13th centuries, developed outside the walls of the Roman city. The church was built on the site of a little hermitage dedicated to Saint Blaise that, according to Jordán de Asso, was demolished around 1284. A few years before, in 1259, Bishop Arnaldo de Peralta constituted the parish of San Pablo that would be incorporated into the Archdeaconry of El Salvador.

Gonzalo Borrás establishes two phases in its construction. The first, datable to 1284, the year Jordán de Asso gives us for the demolition of the little hermitage, was the construction of a single-naved church of four bays with a five-sided polygonal apse, and chapels between the buttresses, which we will subsequently examine. Next to the church the bell tower was built; we have notice of it in 1343, along with that of San Gil, according to Diego de Espés, when the War Council decided that these two towers, along with that of the Convent of San Francisco, were to be demolished during the War of the Two Pedros if the troops of Pedro I of Castile approached Zaragoza.

The notable growth in population in the parish necessitated the amplification of the church at the end of the 14th century, according to Diego de Espés’s information. In this amplification, two side aisles with chapels, an ambulatory and a cloister at the foot were added.

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On the exterior, when it is viewed from a certain distance, these later enlargements can be seen, since they are lower than the original construction. But the upper zone of the nave and its buttresses and part of the apse with its windows can only be seen from the Calle San Blas. Along this same street, in front of the church, the exterior wall of the cloister added surrounding the bell tower and its extension, that of the narrow aisle added to the north side of the church, runs closest to the Plaza de San Pablo. On this façade are narrow windows with pointed arches as well as the portals of San Blas and Tramontana.

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Aside from the latter and the upper stories of the tower, little else can be seen of its exterior construction. Two big circular towers are visible on each side of the tower. In spite of their appearance, which might make a person think of defensive towers, these are simply buttresses of the bay at the foot of the church.

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