Although, from the confusion of the past,
the wall at times was regarded as of Moslem origin, it can today be firmly said
that the classic second medieval wall was built in the second half of the 12th
The Christian wall must have been erected to
enclose and protect the newly consolidated districts and the ten parish
precincts. The urban surface that the wall encircles was considerably larger
than the "almudena", thus increasing as
well the number of gateways.
Seen in a hypothetical graphic
reconstruction of the areas, the wall of the 12th century rises as an addition
to the east of the first wall.
Three types of popular architecture.
To the left,
rubble-work wall done with trowel, with blue bases.
In the center, adobe and
wooden house with portico.
To the right, stone in the lower half and brick
In all cases, poor quality of materials is noticeable.
The wall the Christians
built did not run through any street but went through the center of blocks of
houses, between the streets called Angosta de Mancebos and Yeseros, between
Mancebos and Don Pedro, and between Almendro and Cava Baja; through the blocks
of Cuchilleros and Cava de San Miguel, between the streets called Espejo and Mesón
de Paños and Independencia and Escalinata.
All of this is known,
because in later times, the wall we are describing was put to use as a backing
with houses on both its sides, the wall serving as a party-wall between them.
And so, portions of this wall erected by the
Christians have been found in various buildings of the Cava Baja, and a section
of the same wall is visible in Almendro street 15-17. Such is their condition,
because the walls of Madrid were not preserved as in other cities, notably in
Avila or Lugo.
We have mentioned previously that the
population and inhabited surface of Madrid must have increased enormously in the
first half of the 12th century, as well as during the 11th century. And before
the Christian conquest suburbs must have appeared outside the first Moslem wall.
Growth during the 12th century was in
consolidation of barrios, all of them to be situated to the east of the old
These districts would become
more defined in the course of the century, and at various times parish churches
were to be constructed, some of which, such as San Nicolás, could have
existed during the Moslem period as mosques; but the greater portion were put up
Noble house of the final days of the 14th century or
beginnings of the 15th.
It combines work done in brick with stone masonry
done by trowel, in rather special form until well into the 18th century. The
main front, Gothic, is based on that of the Hospital of La Latina and the House
of the Lujanes. Its arrangement is typical since the Islamic era, that is, with
an interior patio and an independent entry way to stables and stock-pens.
These parish churches supplied the
structuralization classic to their parochial precincts in the medieval Christian
The evidence that all these ten parish
precincts had their origin in the 12th century is in the Fuero (Charter) of
Madrid, authorized in 1202, wherein are cited, one by one, the parishes of Santa
María, San Salvador, San Juan, San Santiago, San Pedro, San Andrés,
San Miguel de la Sagra, San Miguel de los Octoes, San Justo and San Nicolás.
Save some isolated elements of two of them,
San Nicolas and San Pedro (and the second-named is in doubt), nothing of the
buildings of these parish churches has come down to us.
They were razed and
substituted by new buildings, such as happened with San Santiago and San Justo,
and today we can hardly imagine their characteristics and structures.
To judge by what may be seen
in that famous Map of Madrid of 1656, the work of Pedro Texeira, the importance
of these churches was varied..
Some of these parish churches would have had
three naves, as at San Salvador, Santa María or San Andrés, but
others probably were more humble, with but a single nave, as at San Justo or San
Nicolás. Or perhaps with two, an infrequent occurrence but not entirely
With those churches that by wealth were more
powerful economically and in line with the disposable means of their
parishioners, stone construction would be used, in accord with the incipient
Mudejar (Moslem-Christian) models, which had their roots in Moslem construction.
Those few pieces of medieval
local architecture which do remain, relate strongly to Mudejar models, as
evidenced in the bell-towers of San Nicolás and San Pedro.
Synagogue, a very simple building; women were not
allowed to enter,
and had to occupy the gallery of the floor above.
furnishings, what is visible is only the book-shelves that look over at the
and in which the sacred books are kept.
On both sides of it, and
before it, are two benches for worthy members of the community.
Today we can do but little better than mere
imaginary reconstructions of the parish churches of Madrid. What can be inferred
in the 17th century map may be owing partly to additions and changes, such as
those done at the beginning of that century for those uniquely primitive parish
churches we have just mentioned.
The problem of whether the urban plan of the
12th century was already in existence before the Christian conquest, or if it
was a product essentially and culturally of Christian civilization remains a
Political and religious
divisions of the City, following such a pattern, are unmistakably Occidental,
but even allowing for the innumerable reforms, cut-offs, and openings-out of new
streets which were being made through all the centuries, still today our
urbanism has a distinctly Mudejar (Moslem-Christian) flavor.
Blocks of houses were set in
irregular lines, and streets and plazas were placed around in capricious ways,
laberinthine and erratic. Then by contrast at times, with striking economy, like
the lanes that go from gateway to gateway in the wall or from church to church,
linking with each other rapidly and efficiently.
Lanes and curving byways are
very abundant even in the era in which Texeira was making his famous map, and
the impression this produces, contemplating the medieval core, is that Madrid
was closer to an Islamic city than to some Christian settlement.
The contrast between the
medieval barrios of undeniably Mudejar characteristics, and those that rose
later in the epoch of the Austrian-Hapsburgs, with straight streets and
regular-shaped blocks, is unquestionable.
The scarcity of public space
within the walls, is another Mudejar factor, but the presence of small plazas in
front of each parish church, and into which come together various streets of the
district, is an unmistakable sign of Mudejar planning.
This influence which today
we can note only by a few architectural remains, must have been most intense in
all spheres of life, such as in clothing, foods, customs, festivals,
agriculture, stock-raising, etc.
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