Turismo Prerrománico > Countries > España > LAS IGLESIAS DE BOBASTRO


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Historic environment

The city is the creation of a legendary figure for his religious whims (he was born a Muslim, converted to Christianity in 899, and finally became a Shia in 913) ‘Umar ibn Ḥafṣūn (847-917), who from this place (with his sons who inherited his power once he disappeared) built a political entity against the Umayyads of Córdoba between the years 880 and 928. See BASILICA OF BOBASTRO.


In the city of Bobastro built by ‘Umar ibn Ḥafṣūn we find at least three churches, which respond to a constructive program carried out by that character after his conversion to Christianity in the year 899. As you wish that in some Arabic source there is talk of the “cared and lavish churches” of Bobastro in the year 903, most of that program would be finished on this last date.

The most famous of Bobastro’s churches is located in the peri-urban area of the madīna, 13 km from the town in whose municipal area it is located, Ardales [CHURCH I]. Their relationship typological and conceptual with all the building tradition produced in Hispania in Late Antiquity (paleochristian) or the High Middle Ages (Visigothic and Mozarabic cycle of the north of the peninsula) is very evident.

Its location, on the slope of Las Mesas facing north and west, reveals a clear propaganda sense, as it was conceived to be seen from afar by the surrounding populations. And, contrary to the idea that people have of it as an isolated entity with no relation to the environment, the church is the center of a large monastic complex or dayr of a fortified nature whose construction was undoubtedly carried out in the period of Ibn Ḥafṣūn’s rule, which includes a necropolis, storage rooms and silos, a quarry and a wall of great forcefulness worked with rope and brand.

The constructive conception of the building is more typical of a sculptural work than an architectural one, since the building seems more sculpted than built. The sandstone rock finally chosen was emptied by intense stonework following the East-West axis typical of the orientation of Christian temples. Where rock was lacking or scarce, the work had to be completed with brick and masonry walls and, resting on these, it would have to be covered with an armor of wooden beams that would support a gabled tile roof.

However, the theoretical project as it was proposed (a rectangle inscribed in the rock with a basilica plan in an east-west direction) and the final result of the execution of the work are quite different, which has been attributed to the impossibility of applying Modifications in a construction where it is not possible to demolish what has been carved to correct errors. It seems to be, as has been repeated, that the building was never completed, perhaps because the club chosen was too small for the measures required by the proposed project. There is, however, a crack that develops at a certain level in the walls and stone pillars that may have had to do with the fact that the temple was left unfinished.

The final result is a basilica temple with a maximum length of 16.45 m crowned by their respective apses (the two lateral ones are quadrangular and the central one has a horseshoe morphology), preceded by with transept or transept, separated from the apses by a small step. These three quadrangular rooms correspond to each one of the apses. At the feet, three ships, the southern side being higher than the other two. For practical purposes, this means that this nave was not part of the ecclesial complex, which does not mean that the temple did not have a liturgical use.

The distribution of the interior spaces would be completely conditioned by the liturgy of the Hispanic or “Mozarabic” rite, in such a way that watertight compartments had to be created in the manner of independent chapels in which different trades could be carried out. The clearest separation would have to be the one that separated the apse/transept area from the rest of the temple (naves), surely with an iconostasis or wooden screen to make it difficult to visualize the liturgical act that would take place in the central apse or, even, on the sides that would act as chapels.

The interior separation solution between the three naves would have to be resolved by means of horseshoe arches (four would be provided for in the theoretical planning, reduced to two in its final result) supported on cruciform pillars, like the two that are preserved, unfinished, between the nave central and the southern side. The two horseshoe arches carved into the rock, approximately 1.80 m in diameter, offer, due to their degree of opening, a typically Emirate chronology. On the stone wall, the lines of what would be the pillars and the lower span of the two arches that are located in the separation wall between the southern and central naves are indicated in elevation.

Under the northernmost nave we find what is the beginning of a crypt, although there is the possibility that, partially at least, part of the hole has been produced by the detonation of drill holes in the 19th century by looters in their unbridled search of “treasures”.

The “sister church” of this is the one that was discovered in the Madīna de Bobastro (2001), next to the citadel of El Castillón [CHURCH II]. It consists of a portion (around a third) of the metropolitan church built at the initiative of Ibn Ḥafṣūn, who did not hesitate to organize his own diocese with the position of bishop, Ibn Maqsīm. The similarities in the plan and in the measurements with the famous cave church they are absolute: basilical plan, with three naves, transept with triple compartments, three apses at a higher height, with arch morphology The central one is horseshoe-shaped and the two sides are quadrangular and measures approximately 15 m. in east-west longitude and almost 10 m. north-south wide, separating the transept from the naves by a couple of steps.

The church, which maintained an exceptional floor made with lime mortar painted in an intense red red color, exhibits a head carved in the rock in the cave manner and some walls raised with sandstone ashlars from the area. In the northernmost nave, attached to the internal side of the perimeter wall of the basilica, a small masonry baptismal font was found (maximum external diameter, 0.50 cm). During the excavation it was possible to verify that the building was demolished, a fact that is confirmed by what is stated in the written sources that speak of a systematic demolition of all the buildings the rebel ʻUmar had built in Bobastro.

Finally, the third church, the furthest from the city, is the one that houses the patron saint of the town of Ardales: hermitage of Nª Sra. de Villaverde [CHURCH III]. It is located next to the Granado stream in the Tajo del Buitre whose use as a modern church dates back to the 16th century at the earliest. Several simple rock-cut pit tombs are located next to the church. Around this set, a settlement was distributed that took advantage of the shelters and small caves made in the tafonis, conditioned for such a residential function. Unfortunately, the church was completely renovated in the 50s of the last century, but from some preserved images we can assume that it was similar to the cave church (see above).

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Other interesting information



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