The Handmade Spanish Tile and Mudejar Architecture

By Arpi Nalbandian,
Photos by Arpi Nalbandian.

Handmade ceramic tile use throughout Spain is prolific. Not only can it be seen on the floors and walls of Aragonese countryside homes, but these hand-crafted tiles also played an integral role in the everyday life and function of many embellished palatial royal dwellings. 


Located on the banks of the Ebro River, Zaragoza is best known for hosting Expo Zaragoza in 2008, an event that served to showcase the city’s commitment to water conservation and sustainable practices. Obviously, the benefits and long-lasting sustainable aspects of handmade ceramic tile and terracotta also played an integral role during this event.

However, the true highlights of Zaragoza lay beyond a pedestrian bridge in the historical part of the city. Walking through the Plaza de la Seo in Zaragoza, one notices two basilicas: the Cathedral of San Salvador (La Seo del Salvador); and Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar. Without a doubt, handmade ceramic tile played an aesthetic and architectural role with both these structures. The vibrant tiles in hues of blue, green and yellow are as energetic as when they were first carefully applied to the exteriors of these structures.


Teruel (a World Heritage city designated by UNESCO) is a center for Madejar (Moorish) art, a style influenced by Islamic tradition and more contemporary European architectural styles. The fortress-like city is characterized by extensive use of brick and hand-glazed tiles within its architecture. 

Built on high ground in the south of Aragon, Teruel preserves a medieval legacy within its historic center. The cathedral tower, along with those of San Salvador, San Martin and San Pedro, are the jewels of this group of Madejar monuments. 

According to UNESCO, Mudejar art in the Aragon region developed as a result of the Christian reconquest in the early 12th century. Following a series of campaigns to recapture territory from the Moors, such as in Spain and Portugal, Christians of the region allowed the Moors to remain on the reconquered territories, going so far as to allow the Moors to keep their own culture and religion, and most importantly, their expression of art. Because of the symbiotic relationship, Mudejar art and architecture flourished.

I hope you enjoyed this brief sprint through Spain, a country that I look forward to exploring many more times throughout my life!

(Top Photo) La Seo del Salvador features elaborate Mudéjar hand-made brick and ceramic pieces that make up the north wall of the cathedral.
(Bottom Photo)
 Examples of Madejar handmade, hand-glazed ceramic tile creations.

Handmade Tile Association
34 Thirteenth Avenue NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413

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