Triumphant Towers and Sites of Spolia in Almohad Spain and Morocco: The Case of the Sevillian Minaret




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Traditionally, art historians have viewed spolia and reuse as material taken from one site to be used in another for reasons of pragmatism, aesthetics, or triumph. Moreover, the art and architecture of the Berber Almohad Empire is viewed through the lens of Iberia, which is regarded as the culturally superior model for the far western Islamic lands. However, more recent studies are beginning to show other reasons for spoliation. These studies suggest that Almoravid and Almohad reuse of Umayyad spolia was a deliberate attempt to architecturally manifest the political power of the Berber regimes. This paper focuses on the reuse of tenth-century Umayyad marble capitals in the twelfth-century Sevillian minaret, popularly known as La Giralda. The thesis considers three means of interpretation: contemporary sources like those of Ibn Idhari, secondary scholarship, and a visual analysis placing the capitals in the distinctive, dynastic style of Madinat al-Zahra. Through this analysis, it is clear that the Sevillian minaret was a site of spolia, a place where elements were taken from one specific site for use in another to establish a visual and symbolic relation. Particularly, the deliberate reuse of Madinat al-Zahra marble in the most potent symbol of Almohad victory on the peninsula displays the Almohad quest to proclaim power, seek legitimacy, and associate their rule with that of the splendors of the Córdoban court.



Medina Azahàra (Extinct city), Seville (Spain)--Buildings, structures, etc., Giralda (Seville, Spain), Marble buildings


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