Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Fine Arts

Committee Chair

Fulton, Christopher B.

Author's Keywords

Architecture; Medieval; Iberia; Duero; Topography; Political


Church buildings--Spain; Church architecture--Spain; Spain--History--711-1516


This dissertation examines the architectural evidence in the ongoing debate surrounding the demographical and political value of the shifting Iberian frontier of the tenth through twelfth centuries. In particular, it seeks to problematize the current generalization of rural stone churches in the central Duero River basin as “repopulation” churches. Using postcolonial theory and comparative analysis, this project argues that the construction of stone churches on sacred sites at the frontier was a useful strategy employed by those seeking to establish authority over existing indigenous and heterogeneous populations. Convincing arguments were needed to not only justify the usurpation of power but more importantly, to persuade diverse inhabitants to submit their men and resources to the goals of the new order. Crucial to the appearance of legitimacy in a would-be ruler was the “restoration” of significant churches on holy topographies, the focus of chapters two and three. The template for a successful restoration included: the selection of a sacred landscape with a pre-conquest history, architectural forms associated with both the ecclesiastic hierarchy and Christian and Muslim political powers, and painting and sculpture that bolstered the patron’s claims of legitimate authority. These frontier restorations were deliberately modeled on the strategies employed by kings and abbots seeking to expand their influence over large tracts of land, for example, the holdings of San Millán de la Cogolla (Rioja) and San Juan de la Peña (Huesca). By using elite architectural elements at meaningful sites, non-royal patrons articulated their authority and the favor of God at frontier churches like San Baudelio de Berlanga (Soria) and Santa Maria de Wamba (Valladolid), the case studies for this project. While the specific ways in which patrons constructed churches varied according to place and time, the themes of “restoration” and lordship are pervasive. Over time, the symbolic dissemination of the idea that sacred centers had been “restored” to Iberian Christendom helped to transform a rationalization of territorial expansion into a heroic, Hispanic Reconquista.