Church of Santa María, Tauste



CATEGORY: Religious


CONSTRUCTION DATE: 13th – 14th century

The church of Santa María in Tauste is the most important temple in the town. It dates from the end of the 13th century to the early 14th century, contemporary to the church of San Pablo in Zaragoza. There is also another Mudejar tower in this town, the tower of San Antón, which was constructed later.

The church originally had a single nave divided into three bays flanked by chapels set between the wall buttresses. The east end held an apse that was semicircular on the inside and five-sided on the exterior. Two small octagonal towers were erected at the west end, and the bell tower, also octagonal in shape, is set between them, popularly known as “la bien plantá”.

The tower of the church of Santa María is a striking example of Aragonese architecture of Islamic origin, not only representing the main architectural feature and the most emblematic symbol of the town, but also a landmark for the entire population and surrounding area. There is also another Mudejar tower in this town, the tower of San Antón, which was constructed later.

It has an octagonal floorplan and, according to Gonzalo M. Borrás, its structure can be classified as Almohad minaret style, in which an interior tower sits within an exterior tower, with a stairway in between them. The interior tower is divided into rooms on four levels covered by domical vaults with eight sides.

The entrance is raised to a height of six meters, level with the choir, which leads to the first room (underneath this there was a circular pit, which was filled in during the tower restoration in the 1980s).

It is located at the west end of the church of Santa María. However, they are actually two separate buildings and, according to research by Jaime Carbonel,

the tower already existed when the church was built and may have been a free- standing structure originally.

The decoration on the exterior of the tower is divided into several sections, but this representation does not coincide with the interior structure. The decoration begins partway up the tower, each decorative panel repeating in the same manner on all eight sides, framed by strips of angled bricks. Seen from bottom to top, the panels contain the following motifs: intertwined mixtilinear arches, four-part interlacing motifs forming octagons, inscriptions, a strip of mixtilinear diamond shapes and intertwining round arches. The tower is finished with embrasures and merlons on the parapet and topped by a turret, reaching a total height of 47 meters.
The panel with decorative inscriptions located below the large openings of the belfry is particularly unique, and Arabists have discovered the message of the Shahada there (“there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger”), in this case stating “There is no god but the Just”, according to F. J. Navarro Cabeza.

Gonzalo M. Borrás dated the construction of the church and tower to around 1300, which is the date most widely accepted by historians. However, other research from recent years proposes that the tower of Santa María could have been the minaret (repurposed as a bell tower) on an 11th-century mosque that was replaced by the Mudejar church we now see in the 13th century.

In 2020, a large necropolis of Islamic origin was discovered in the town. In the Islamic era, Tauste probably had a large population with enough inhabitants to have had a mosque and minaret.


Restoration, 20th to 21st century

From 1982 to 1986, the restoration of the tower was undertaken by the Ministry of Culture’s Directorate General of Fine Arts. The restoration work consisted in reconstructing the original roof system and replacing lost decorative motifs. It was managed by the architect J. Manuel Pérez Latorre.

From 1992 to 1994, the Government of Aragon and the Tauste City Council concluded a collaboration agreement for the restoration of the exterior wall at the back of the church and the adaptation of the main façade.

In 2004, some minor work and a geotechnical study of the tower was done.

Projects and interventions

Projects and interventions, and the driving forces behind them, define the history of monumental buildings and how they are perceived.


Declaration, 21st century

The church of Santa María de Tauste was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest under the Ministry of Public Instruction and Fine Arts Decree of June 3, 1931 published in the Gazette on June 4, 1931.

The Official Gazette of Aragon dated November 14, 2001 published the Department of Culture and Tourism Order of October 15, 2001, whereby the original declaration of the church of Santa María in Tauste (Zaragoza) is supplemented pursuant to Transitional Provision One of Aragonese Cultural Heritage Act 3/1999, of March 10.


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Church of Santa María

Plaza de Santa María
50660 Tauste (Zaragoza)

Visit Tauste

City Hall: 976 854 950

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