Convivencia as “Cultural Openness:” Examining Christian Visigothic Churches in al-Andalus

Brake, John, Harrison Undergraduate Research Award, University of Virginia
Gies, David, Department for Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia

The six Christian Visigothic churches still standing in southern Spain and Portugal symbolize the unique interfaith dynamic that existed during the Muslim occupation of al-Andalus from 711 to 1492. These structures confound the historical narrative that Christianity and its practitioners were excluded from public life in Muslim Iberia, as well as the assumption that Christians—even those who did not convert to Islam—assimilated to Muslim culture and Islamic forms of artistic expression. These churches propose a dual mystery because (1) they were not destroyed by the Muslim invaders, and (2) they were not updated in the hybrid Mozarabic style that came to dominate Christian architecture in al-Andalus. The overlooked stories of these structures support a narrative of the Muslim occupation as a remarkable period of interfaith cultural openness.

BA (Bachelor of Arts)
convivencia, Visigothic church, Islamic Iberia, Medieval architecture, Al-Andalus, horseshoe arch, interfaith tolerance
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