Tower of the church of Santa María, Ateca

Plaza de Jesús, 10. Ateca (Zaragoza)


CATEGORY: Religious



Middle Ages: Second half of the 13th century

Modern Era, 17th century: The second section of the Baroque tower replaced the original Mudejar tower.
This is a square-plan tower with two distinct sections, based on typology. It is attached to the last bay at the west end of the church of Santa María in Ateca, on the Epistle side of the temple. The tower was originally free-standing and traces of an ancient minaret can be seen in the lowest section. It was attached in an irregular manner in the 16th century to this final bay of the church.

The first section of the tower has a square floor plan and was built in the style of the Mudejar towers featuring an inner tower structure, around which another tower is wrapped, with a stairway between the two. The tower is divided rooms on four levels, one above the other, covered by barrel vaults. The stairway provides access to these rooms.

It is worth noting that, as one ascends the tower, the lower part of the stairway is covered by eight small barrel vaults made of brick laid in a sardinel bond arrangement. There follow six small quadripartite rib vaults and, finally, this roofing system, which is rather “experimental” in nature, is completed with a system of narrowing courses of brick like that seen in other towers such as the one in the church of Santa María in Tobed, which is the most widespread system in the second half of the 14th century and the 15th century.
The strong Muslim influence is noticeable on the tower exterior, which boasts protruding brick and ceramic decorative motifs. Pointed horseshoe arches, cross shapes and ceramic discs are some of the ornamental features that were widely used in Aragonese Mudejar art.

The lower part of the first section has apertures to allow light into the stairway. This light was subsequently blocked when the tower was attached to the church at a later date. The openings were built at the level where the stairs provide access to the rooms in the inner tower, with an ogee arch of oriental influence in the south wall while the west wall features a surbased arch with voussoirs that are split at the center and thick perpends between those near the impost molding.

At the top of this first section of the tower, there is a series of decorative horizontal friezes forming large panels filled with seven blind pointed horseshoe arches resting on cylindrical honey-colored and green shafts with ceramic discs of the same colors and stamped fleurs-de-lis within the spandrels of the arches; a frieze of five cross shapes inscribed within a square to form a fishbone pattern; and a frieze of angled bricks adorning discs, as well as friezes of intertwined pointed arches resting on brick pilasters, flanked by ceramic shafts.


The ceramic decorative work on the exterior was restored in 1970. The belfry, spire, façades and interior of the different sections have undergone diverse types of restoration work in recent years.

RESTORATION PROJECT, 20th CENTURY The restoration project was carried out in two phases, spanning from 1985 to 1994. A second restoration project was completed in 2001.

Projects and interventions

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


DECLARATION, 20th TO 21st CENTURY (1983-2001)
The church and tower of Santa María in Ateca were declared an Asset of Cultural Interest under the Ministry of Culture Decree dated January 12, 1983, which was published the Official State Gazette of March 5, 1983.
The Official Gazette of Aragon (BOA) dated October 22, 2001 published the Department of Culture and Tourism Order of September 25, 2001, whereby the original declaration of the church and tower of Santa María in Ateca (Zaragoza) is supplemented pursuant to Transitional Provision One of Aragonese Cultural Heritage Act 3/1999, of March 10.

Current condition

The tower of Santa María in Ateca is currently in ideal conditions of restoration and cleanliness after the successive phases of restoration work indicated above. One wise decision in this restoration work was to leave the interior wall of the tower leading to the arcade inside the church bare, without replacing the ceramic pieces, thus affording a view of the tower in its original condition prior to the restoration.


BORRÁS GUALIS, GONZALO M., Arte Mudéjar Aragonés, Caja de Ahorros y Monte de Piedad de Zaragoza Aragón y Rioja y el Colegio Oficial de Aparejadores y Arquitectos técnicos de Zaragoza, Zaragoza, 1985. 

GALIAY, JOSÉ. Arte mudéjar aragonés, Institución Fernando el Católico, Zaragoza, 2002.

MARTÍNEZ GARCÍA, FRANCISCO J. Ateca, desde sus orígenes hasta el año 1500, Institución Fernando el Católico, Zaragoza, 2015.

MILLÁN GIL, JULIÁN Y SANMIGUEL MATEO, AGUSTÍN (COORD.). Comarca de la Comunidad de Calatayud, Colección Territorio nº 20, Departamento dePresidencia y Relaciones Institucionales del Gobierno de Aragón, Zaragoza, 2005.

SANMIGUEL MATEO, AGUSTÍN. Torres de ascendencia islámica en las comarcas de Calatayud y Daroca, Centro de estudios bilbilitanos, Institución“Fernando el Católico”, Calatayud, 1998.

  • VV. AA. Tierra Mudéjar. El Mudéjar Aragonés, Patrimonio Mundial, Heraldo de Aragón, D.L. 2002.
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  • VV. AA. Las supuestas características almohades de la torre de Ateca, IV Encuentro de Estudios Bilbilitanos, I, Calatayud: Centro de Estudios Bilbilitanos, 1997.
  • MARTÍNEZ GARCÍA, Francisco José. Ateca, desde sus orígenes hasta el año 1500. Zaragoza: Institución Fernando el Católico, 2015.
  • SANMIGUEL MATEO, Agustín. Torres de ascendencia islámica en las comarcas de Calatayud y Daroca. Aragón (España). Calatayud: Centro de Estudios Bilbilitanos, 1998.


Tower of the church of Santa María

Plaza de Jesús, 10.
Ateca (Zaragoza)

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