Chapter 10 From Mosque-Cathedral to Gothic Cathedral: Rewriting and Rebuilding in Medieval Toledo

In: Art, Architecture, and the Moving Viewer, c. 300-1500 CE
Nicole Corrigan
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This chapter investigates the long-lasting process of converting Toledo’s Friday mosque to a cathedral, a process that took place not in a single moment, but rather over several centuries of the Middle Ages. The first step examined is that of consecration, which conceptually reoriented the space from Islamic to Christian while maintaining the same physical structure. In later centuries came the reconstruction of the mosque-cathedral into a Gothic cathedral, aligning the space with more Western European architectural styles. This phase was coupled with the multiplication of cult statues of the Virgin Mary, which helped further stake a Christian claim to the space. The final step was one of historical conversion, with the development of miraculous legends that linked the cathedral’s space and its Marian cult statues to the Visigothic past, effectively inventing a history that negated any Islamic claims to the space at any time. These conceptual, physical, and historical changes shaped how Christian devotees of Toledo viewed the architectural space and altered how devotion and ritual moved through the building. Ultimately Toledo’s acts became a roadmap for later mosque conversions throughout the rest of the peninsula, establishing a pattern of rebuilding and rewriting history in the name of the Virgin Mary.

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