Santa María de Melque has been dated variously from 650 to 930, a broad span of time encompassing periods of both Visigothic and Muslim rule. The earlier date would make Melque a prototype for churches built late in the Visigothic period. The later date would have it be a unique, surviving, freestanding church built under the Muslim emirate of Spain. It is argued here that Melque is an eighth-century church built during the reign of the first Umayyad emir of Spain, Abd al-Rahman I (756-788). This is indicated by structural and decorative features at Melque that evince Syro-Umayyad influence, the closest analogies being with the Umayyad palace of Khirbet al-Mafjar (739-743). In terms of both style and atelier tradition, Melque represents close affiliation with the Visigothic past in conjunction with receptivity to ideas that must have been introduced with the Syrians in the court of Abd al-Rahman. Thus, Santa María de Melque indicates an accommodating attitude on the part of the recently conquered Christian populace. It also bears witness to a circumstance that, contrary to some recent supposition, was uncommon in Spain: legal church construction under Muslim rule.
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Research Article| September 01 1992
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Sally Garen; Santa María de Melque and Church Construction under Muslim Rule. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 1 September 1992; 51 (3): 288–305. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/990688
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