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 century.

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 above.
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 "almudena."

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 new.

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 city.

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 rare.

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.
Without furnishings, what is visible is only the book-shelves that look over at the nave,
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 disquieting enigma.

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.


Copyright © 2002 by JLL & FWF

All rights reserved