Isabelline architecture started with the alliance of the royal cousins, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1469. Their marriage brought peace to both kingdoms. The couple’s kingdom united when threatened by members of the family for power and position. 

The Beginning

The Treaty of Alcacovas ended the war in 1479 and returned the kingdom to Ferdinand. This war resulted in comprehending the significance of unity in a nation. Eventually, Ferdinand and Isabelline lead Spain to become the leading administered country of Europe. Hence kickstarting the prime years of the country Spain.

The Key Conquer

The rule of Ferdinand and Isabelline was at its peak when they conquered Granada and crowned themselves as Catholic Kings. This engulfed the local Muslims from Granada and made them a part of the Spanish community. In the 16th Century, religious purity and unity were believed to be crucial for existence in Europe. 

At the time, Spain was the most heterogeneous community, and the incoming of the non-Christians and Muslims seemed to compromise the country’s united front. Therefore, a choice of voluntary exile or adopting Christianity was given to the public. 

The Muslims in the conquered territory were named ‘Mujedars’ who lived as peasants and craftsmen in the new country.

The Merger of Transformation

During the rule of Isabelline in the 15th and 16th Centuries, Spain became a center of power, opening to immense trade and commerce. In the initial stage, highly influential European architects from the north brought in the Flemish influence. Duo’s of French and German architects drew the latest Gothic trends in Europe that are Flamboyant Architecture. This style consisted of elaborate windows with natural form ornamentations and pinnacles. 

The later stage was the Italian influence from imperial Rome. Isabelline and Ferdinand encouraged traveling and exploring (Funded Alexander’s Voyage to explore the world). The artists and explorers from Rome introduced the Renaissance mastery of construction to the existing buildings in Spain. Despite the invasion of overseas architectural impact, the Golden age of Spain blended in their native features. 

The Moorish ornamentation on the surface inspired by the Mujedars ( Muslim Christians in Spain) set forth the roots of Isabelline architecture on the home ground. As a result, a harmonious co-existence of Gothic and Renaissance was witnessed for the first time under the Isabelline and Ferdinand monarchy. 

The Isabelline Architecture

The conquest, the transfer, and the sharing of political, cultural, and artistic influence in Spain gave rise to its style of architecture and design. Due to the extensive use of stone ornamentation resembling the filigree patterns of silversmiths (Platero =silversmith), the Isabelline style started to be recognized as Plateresque Architecture.

The Plateresque Architecture went through two stages of refinement. The first being the Isabelline, as under her rule from 1480 to 1521. This phase belonged to the Gothic influence along with the elements of Flamboyant and Renaissance construction. The intricate patterns sculpted by the Moorish architects under the Christian rule added to the architectural authenticity of the country. This phase is made prominent by Enrique de Egas and Diego de Riano. 

The second phase belonged to the Renaissance influence in the Plateresque architecture from 1525 to 1560. The extreme Renaissance structural and decorative elements dominated the early Gothic influence in the existing buildings of the 15thCentury in Spain. 

Hence Isabelline and Plateresque are like two peas in a pod. Both share the same gene but evolved as variations of each other. With the organic detailing, the carving of wild figures, and emblem ornamentation, it will be safe to conclude that Isabelline OR Plateresque, are the most celebrated styles of stone ornamentation of architectural history in the world. 

The following are some of the most impactful architectural examples of the time when Spain was flourishing as an important power in Europe. 

1. Catedral de Toledo

Toledo’s Cathedral is one of the most famous evolved 14th Century cathedrals in Spain dedicated to the Virgin Mary. As an impact of the incoming Gothic influence, the cathedral’s interior is lushed with rose windows, flying buttresses, ribbed vaults, and pointed arches. Though the cathedral significantly displays intricate stonework detailing, it certainly has some significant features which highlight the growing Plateresque Style in Spain. 

The first being the massive altar of the main chapel standing high in gold. The second being the fresco of Saint Christopher ferrying the child Jesus across the river. The third is the crowning jewel of the cathedral. The Transparente, a hole is cut in the ceiling inviting abundant light into the church. The incoming light illuminates a baroque artwork on the floor elevating up to the roof. 

Catedral de Toledo - Sheet1
The facade of Toledo Cathedral ©https://travelpast50.com
Catedral de Toledo - Sheet2
The Golden Organ ©https://travelpast50.com
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The Transparente ©https://travelpast50.com
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The Saint Christopher in mammoth scale. ©https://travelpast50.com

2. The New Cathedral of Salamanca

The ancient city of Spain, Salamanca rests on the river Tormes is the oldest university town in Europe. It displayed a rich sense of Renaissance, Roman, Gothic, and Baroque style construction giving rise to the Isabelline / Plateresque style of Architecture. One of the prime examples in the showcasing style is the Old and the New Cathedral. 

After the transfer of power to Isabelline and Ferinand, a decision to have one grand cathedral for the town was made. Hence, the New cathedral was constructed in the 16th Century under the Catholic rulers. The New cathedral at Salamanca achieved a milestone in Gothic style construction in Spain. The main entrance welcomes with three richly decorated arches leading to three naves of the church. 

The interior is profused with finely intricate vaults, cornices, and slender pillars. The roof and the walls of the church are carved with sandstone and the paintings bring the authenticity of Salamanca into its cathedral. 

The New Cathedral of Salamanca - Sheet1
The New Cathedral ©https://www.thevintagenews.com
The New Cathedral of Salamanca - Sheet2
The Stonework Roof of the Cathedral ©https://www.thevintagenews.com
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(Left) One of The Naive in the Church; (Right) The main Alter ©https://www.thevintagenews.com

3. The Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes in Toledo

One of the key examples of Plateresque ornamentation in Spain is The Monastery of San Juan in Toledo. Commissioned by the Catholic rulers, Ferdinand and Isabelline, the Monastery was built in the 15th Century to commemorate the defeat of the Portuguese at Toro in 1476. 

The exterior is carved with stone balustrades and ornamented pinnacles which flash the Flamboyant Gothic style of detailing. The interiors consist of a single wide nave with the famous fluted half-rounded pillars wrapped in Plateresque ornamentation. The two-story monastery also has the famous Plateresque staircase inlaid with wood marketed by the Mujedars. Hence the Structure has set a great example of accomplishment, power, and culture of Spain in the form of the Monastery of San Juan.  

The Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes in Toledo - Sheet1
The Monastery of San Juan ©http://www.spainisculture.com
The Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes in Toledo - Sheet2
Interiors of the Monastry©http://www.spainisculture.com
The Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes in Toledo - Sheet3
Artesonado ceiling in the cloisters. ©https://www.spainthenandnow.com

4. The Iglesia (Church) de San Pablo

Iglesia built-in 1463 is one of the most outstanding examples of Isabelline Architecture in Spain. The selling feature of the church is the exquisite work done on the facade. The flamboyant influence is obvious with the Ogee arch framing the entrance. The aisle leading to the coronation of The Virgin Mary focuses on three more ogees under the rose window. The three levels above the aisle are rich in embroidered canopies and intricate stonework.

The Iglesia (Church) de San Pablo - Sheet1
The Church ©https://religiana.com
The Iglesia (Church) de San Pablo - Sheet2
The interiors of Iglesia ©https://commons.wikimedia.org

5. The College of San Gregorio 

The church is an astounding example from the Isabelline Architecture built-in 1488. Designed by Juan Guas, the pioneer of plateresque architecture in Europe. The ornamentation in the facade is intricate with the typical ogee arch flaunting the Flamboyant influence. The ogee arch points upwards to the heraldic device consisting of two lions symbolizing a royal shield atop an intricately carved tree. 

The façade leads to the courtyards around which the quarters are arranged. This courtyard gave access to the corridor that connected it with the chapel and the main chambers. The most impressive aspect of this layout is the ground floor plan of the main courtyard and the distribution of spaces. With such in-depth planning for the educational institutions, the catholic rulers ignited the need to impose the Christian ideals and goals. 

The College of San Gregorio Sheet1
The Facade of The College of San Gregorio ©https://www.dreamstime.com
The College of San Gregorio Sheet2
The Main Courtyard of the College ©https://courtauld.ac.uk
The College of San Gregorio Sheet3
The main Assemble Hall ©https://courtauld.ac.uk

Plateresque Architecture style construction is one of the most significant ones in the world. They were built under the committees formed by the church and great Spanish nobles. The diverse variety of structures under the style include hospitals, university colleges, churches, and palaces.

Tina Gupta
Author

Tina is an Architect and a Curator. She believes in balance and an admirer of the Prarie Style. She likes to brainstorms while ideating and curating. The ability to look beyond a defined use of material and molding and upcycling them is her USP.

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