A gem of Hispano-Moorish architecture rediscovered in Madrid

A gem of Hispano-Moorish architecture rediscovered in Madrid

A gem of Hispano-Moorish architecture rediscovered in Madrid

Hidden under the stucco for several hundred years, a spectacular wooden Mudéjar coffered ceiling resurfaces today in the Santa María la Blanca church in Madrid.

For more than 20 years this Spanish-Moorish jewel has been waiting to see the light again. Wednesday 19 February, Marta Rivera de la Cruz, municipal councilor in charge of Culture and Tourism, officially ended a 9-month restoration project on the ceiling of Santa María la Blanca church, a small parish church in the district of Canillejas north-east of Madrid. Created in the middle of the 16th century above the sanctuary chevet, this spectacular wooden box structure had been hidden for several hundred years under a false ceiling covered with white stucco * before being rediscovered by chance in the early years 2000. However, due to lack of resources, the updating and restoration work could not be started until last year after the City of Madrid finally invested 375,000 euros in the project.


The wooden roof, in an exceptional state of conservation, has been completely unblocked and consolidated, while an old opening allowing the entry of daylight has been restored. The intervention also revealed the presence, at the base of the ceiling, of a frieze of lime decorations, decorated with floral motifs and Franciscan shields. The Church of Santa Maria La Blanca, dated for its oldest parts from the middle of the 15th century, thus revives its history, while Canillejas was only a stopping place on the old royal road of Aragon. In the opinion of some specialists, Saint Teresa of Avila would have made a stopover in the sanctuary.


A jewel of Castilian architecture
The wooden covering of the apse of the Saint Maria La Blanca church is today the most remarkable example of carpentry in the Hispano-Moorish style of Madrid, both from the point of view of the techniques it implements and of its intrinsic artistic value. He is also a precious witness to Spanish religious architecture in the 15th and 16th centuries. The wooden planks of the coffered ceiling, carved on the surface with a covering scale pattern, alternate polygons and stars.


This decoration and this technique are characteristic of the Mudejar architecture which developed in the Iberian Peninsula from the 12th to the 16th century by combining the great principles of Islamic art and the different European tendencies, in particular Gothic. This architecture is characterized by an extremely refined and inventive use of brick and glazed ceramics but also by the creation of spectacular carved and polychrome wooden coffered ceilings, for the most sophisticated. Among the most remarkable examples of this type of decoration, let us quote in particular the ceiling of the throne room of the Aljafería of Zaragoza or the Justice Room of the Alcazar in Seville. By its simplicity, the ceiling of Saint Maria La Blanca also evokes that of the Synagogue of the Transition in Toledo. Classified as a Cultural Interest by the Community of Madrid last November, the Church of Santa María la Blanca still has other secrets: another carved wooden ceiling, although simpler, located above the nave, is still hidden under the stucco.

>> Read the rest of the article on the website of Connaissance des Arts