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Spanish Renaissance - Examples

( Originally Published 1921 )


The Palace, Guadalajara (A.D. 1461), and the Collegio de San Gregorio, Valladolid (A.D. 1488–96), both have " patios " in which are mingled Moorish, Gothic, and Renaissance detail, showing the complexity of treatment in the transition period.

The University, Alcala de Henares (A.D. 1533), with its three " patios," characteristic windows with side scrolls and iron grilles, and arcaded upper storey, and the neighbouring Archbishop's Palace, with the spreading bracket capitals of its fine " patio," both exhibit in a special degree the lace-like character of Plateresque work.

The Casa de Miranda, Burgos (A.D. 1543) (p. 68o A), has a noted " patio " in two storeys of columns, with bracket capitals, so usual in Spain, suggestive of a timber origin.

The Casa de la Conchas, Salamanca (A.D. 1514) (p. 675 A), takes its name from the curious treatment of its facade, which is entirely covered with carved scallop shells. The small lower windows are guarded with grilles of elaborate Moorish ironwork, while the upper windows, also few in number, are enriched with heraldic carvings.

The Casa de Ayuntamiento, Seville (A.D. 1526–64) (p. 676), from the design of Diego de Riano, is one of the most charming examples of Plateresque architecture (p. 677), which is seen at its best in the south-east portion, but the other facades of later date still remain incomplete.

The Alcazar, Toledo (p. 679 A), an ancient castle of mixed Moorish and Gothic character and built entirely of granite, has a north facade (A.D. 1548), added in the Plateresque style for Charles V, when he converted the Alcazar into a Royal Palace, while the fine central " patio " has arcades of superimposed Corinthian columns. The facade forms a new front to the old castle, and, owing to the hard granite, is not richly sculptured. The central entrance is flanked by Ionic columns surmounted by statues, and the elaborate overdoor has a panel carved with the arms of Charles V. The first-storey windows, with iron balconies, are set off by plain walling, while the top storey has an unusual rusticated treatment, with a small Order on pedestals, surmounted by a flat balustraded roof. The monumental southern portion by Juan de Herrera contains a grand staircase enclosed under a barrel vault, leading up, in two branches, to a two-storeyed palace chapel, and upper arcade.

The Palace of Charles V, Granada (A.D. 1527) (p. 680 B, c), adjoining the " Alhambra" (p. 844), was commenced by Pedro Machuca, and forms one of the finest examples of the Renaissance in Spain. It is a square mass of building about 200 ft. each way, enclosing an open circular court Too ft. in diameter. The external facades are two storeys in height, the lower of which has rusticated Doric columns and the upper has Ionic columns (p. 68o B). In both storeys there are " ceil-de-bceuf " windows above the main openings, to light mezzanine floors. It is built in golden-coloured stone, while the centres of the external facades, designed in the manner of a Roman triumphal arch, with central and side entrances, are decorated with coloured marble and with sculpture by Berruguete. The circular " patio " (p. 68o c), Too ft. in diameter, also has super-imposed Doric and Ionic colonnades, and forms the chief feature of this monumental building, which, however, was never completed for occupation.

The Escurial (A.D. 1559–84) (pp. 681, 682), about thirty miles from Madrid, was commenced by Juan de Bautista for Philip II, but in A.D. 1567 Herrera was appointed architect. This austere group of buildings on a lonely site, 675 ft. by 685 ft., consists of monastery, college, church, and palace with state apartments (p. 681 B). The grand entrance in the centre of the west facade opens into the " Patio de los Reyes," which, lying between the great courts of the monastery and the college, forms the atrium of the church, the latter measuring 330 ft. by 210 ft. To the right of the atrium is the monastery, with its four courts, each 6o ft. square, surrounded with arcades in three storeys, beyond which is the Patio de los Evangelistas. To the left of the atrium is the college, with its four courts, and beyond this the great court of the palace is connected with the state apartments, which project behind the church and make the plan into the form of a gridiron, The church is similar in type to the Carignano Church, Genoa, and shows the influence of Italian art on the work of Herrera, but the Spanish character is seen in the position of the choir over a vaulted vestibule at the west end, which shortens the long arm of the Latin cross, so that the main building is a Greek cross on plan. The simple church facade (p. 682 A) has noble Doric columns, surmounted by granite figures of the Kings of Judah, and the windows between the statues light the raised choir within. The interior (p. 682 B) is cold, but impressive by reason of its simplicity, and the granite walls are in strong contrast to the frescoed vaults, while the magnificent reredos, with its quiet blending of colour, further emphasises the general subdued effect. This world-famous pile owes much of its character to the yellowish-grey granite in which it is built, both within and without, a material which imposed restraint upon the architect, and may indeed have accorded with the ascetic taste of Philip II. The external facades, five storeys high (p. 681 A), are in great blocks of granite, of such a size that the door architraves are in one stone, 10 ft. high, and there is no attempt at window grouping, such as in the Alcazar facade (p. 679 A), and openings generally are devoid of ornament. The external effect of the Escurial is remarkably dignified, with its plain facades and angle towers—representing the feet of the gridiron of S. Lawrence—the whole group culminating in the great western towers of the church and its central dome, 312 ft. in height. The impressiveness of this group of buildings, grand in its severity, is enhanced by its lonely and desolate environment and its mountain background (p. 681 A).

The Casa Polentina, Avila (A.D. 1550), (p. 679 B), has a fine " patio " (reminiscent of a Roman atrium), in which the columns have bracket capitals to support the architrave.

The Casa de los Guzmanes, Leon (A.D. 1560), (p. 675 B), is a characteristic building, with columned doorway and balcony flanked by statues, small windows protected by iron grilles, and continuous arcaded upper storey in the deep shadow of wide-spreading eaves.

The Casa Lonja, Seville (A.D. 1583-98), from designs by Herrera, has a handsome " patio " surrounded by well-proportioned arcades of the Doric and Ionic Orders.


S. Esteban, Salamanca (A.D. 1524-1610), is a church in the rich Plateresque style (p. 677), but much influenced by both Gothic and Moorish art. The high western arch of the facade, with superimposed pilasters, half-columns, and baluster shafts, encloses sculptured figures of saints in high canopied niches carried right across the elaborate facade, which is further enriched with heraldic shields and finished off with a truncated pediment. This forms a notable example of the bewildering complexity of Spanish architectural ornament.

Burgos Cathedral (pp. 523, 524) is conspicuous externally by its magnificent central tower, added in A.D. 1567. The four massive circular piers, built after the collapse of the previous Gothic piers in A.D. 1539, support pointed arches, elaborate squinches, and high octagonal tower. This tower has quasi-Gothic windows in two storeys, horizontal galleries, and lofty angle pinnacles adorned with statues, and through it all there lingers the old Gothic tradition.

Granada Cathedral (A.D. 1529) (p. 685 A, B), by Diego de Siloe, is one of the grandest Renaissance churches in southern Spain, and forms a memorial of the conquests of Ferdinand and Isabella over the Moors. The interior (p. 685 B) is a translation of Seville Cathedral into the Renaissance style, and the great piers of the nave are faced with the Classic Orders, while the radiating piers, supporting the dome of the circular "Capilla Mayor," show an ingenious and novel treatment. The late Gothic " Capilla Real," entered through a magnificent wrought-iron " reja," contains the famous Renaissance tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella and other kings and queens of Spain. The unfinished western facade is unusually imposing in design, with a great north tower and tall, massive piers to the cavernous arches, which front the nave and inner aisles.

Jaen Cathedral (A.D. 1532), (p. 685 c), and Malaga Cathedral (A.D. 1538), with its fine steeple, are other churches of the early Renaissance period.

Valladolid Cathedral (A.D. 1585) (p. 685 D), by Juan de Herrera, the Spanish Palladio, has the rectangular plan, 400 ft. by zoo ft., so typical of the later period, and contains some fine carved choir stalls. The imposing exterior, like so many other architectural projects in Spain, was never completed its intended appearance can be seen in Herrera's model preserved in the muniment room of the Cathedral.

Notre Dame del Pilar, Saragossa (A.D. 1677-81), (p. 682 c), is, like Valladolid, rectangular in plan, with a fine enclosed western " coro." The exterior, as seen across the River Ebro, forms an imposing pile of many domes, but only one of the four proposed angle towers was built.

S. Francesco el Grande, Madrid (A.D. 1761-84), built on the model of the Pantheon, Rome, to contain the tombs of famous Spaniards, has a two-storeyed portico and lateral towers, but is otherwise devoid of interest.

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