Architecture Around the World

Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz/Mosque of Christ of the Light

Toledo, Spain

Dating from the late 10th century, it is the only surviving mosque out of the ten that once stood throughout Toledo.

Built over the site of a Visigothic [Christianised in the second half of the 4th century] church, the Mezquita is one of the oldest Moorish monuments in Spain. An Arabic inscription on the facade tells us that it was constructed by one Musa Ibn Ali in 999 AD (390 AH).

Despite its dimunitive size, this mosque was very important in the Islamic era, due both to its location in a wealthy quarter and its proximity to the Alcazaba, an elevated fortress that stood on the site of the Alcazar.

The chapel derives its name from a legend: when King Alfonso VI rode into Toledo in triumph in 1085, his horse fell to its knees out front (a white stone marks the spot). It was then discovered that a candle had burned continuously behind the masonry throughout three and a half centuries of Muslim rule, illuminating a hidden crucifix.

The history is a little more obscure. After the conquest of Toledo in 1085, the building was still known as Bab-al-Mardum. It wasn't until 1186 that the mosque was converted to a chapel, when it was given by King Alfonso VIII to the Knights of St. John and named Ermita de la Santa Cruz (Chapel of the Holy Cross).

The first mass of the Reconquest was said here, and a transept was later added, along with a Mudejar apse decorated with blind arches. The church portion of the structure is thought to be the first product of the Mudejar style.

- Sacred Destinations  12/10

SW facade

Note Arabic writing: Arabic inscription on the SW facade with donor's name and date.

Blind arches

Visigoth columns and horseshoe arches divide the space into three aisles crossed by another three, forming nine small compartments. These are topped with square vaults.

Visigoth capital    features acanthus leaves

Foliated Visigoth capital

Islamic calligraphy at right


Apse mural

Semicircular apse brick wall, decorated with blind horseshoe  arches, was added aftr the synogogue's comnversion to a church in the 12th century  and is a fine example of Mudejar architecture (and quite possibly the earliest anywhere).

Apse mural: Christ Pantocrator on a blue background in the far east end.
Note mandorla surrounding Christ.

Apse mural: Christ Pantocrator

Apse mural: Christ Pantocrator

Photos and their arrangement 2010 Chuck LaChiusa
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