They find a complete rural mosque from the 11th century in the site of ‘La Graja’ in Higueruela




A new archaeological find in Castilla-La Mancha may mean a change in the historical conception of the Muslim occupation of these lands. The news jumped to the media yesterday: a complete 11th century mosque has been discovered in the archaeological site of ‘La Graja’ de Higueruela, in Albacete.

The Minister of Education, Culture and Sports, Rosa Ana Rodriguez, made these statements in a recent visit to the site. There he explained that it is an “exceptional find due to its state of preservation and unique in the province of Albacete”, since in the region only the mosques of the city of Toledo are known (among them the Cristo de la Luz and the de Tornerías) and the two excavated in the Medina of Vascos (Toledo).

The La Graja mosque is located in the middle of a large empty space in the form of a square that opens in the center of the unpopulated area, where some of the streets that articulate the urban fabric converge. Therefore, it can be deduced that its construction dates back to an early phase.

It is a canonical building within the types of rural Andalusian mosques that we know: it is made up of a prayer room with a rectangular floor plan, measuring nine by three meters. One of the long walls would be that of the quibla as it is oriented to the southeast, the Mecca direction towards which believers must bow during prayer, and is identified by the presence of a niche called ‘mihrab’. Next to the latter the entrance door opens from the outside.

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The building is made entirely of masonry bonded with earth mortar, which was intended to give relevance through the use of large vertical stone blocks or orthostats that are located in the corners, on the jambs and also in the middle of the walls. , between masonry panels, thus forming a rig that recalls the classic opus africanum and that in al-Andalus is documented in the earliest historical phases.

Although it has not yet been possible to excavate its surroundings, the superficial survey reveals that a room was attached to the western wall of the oratory and there was a fenced courtyard, as a space of respect, in front of the access door from the street. It is possible that burials will be located in its vicinity, as happens in other mosques, which will have to be verified in future campaigns.

This type of building was relatively common in al-Andalus since Muslim communities require for the development of their religious precepts a place dedicated to prayer. But, precisely because of its connection with the Islamic faith, after the Christian conquest most of the mosques were demolished and the few that have been preserved are those that survived in some cities that were deeply transformed and converted into churches, an even more pronounced phenomenon in the world. case of rural mosques that almost completely disappeared.

This study has been developed within the framework of a research project authorized and financed by the Community Board of Castilla-La Mancha and the Institute of Albacete Studies ‘Don Juan Manuel’, under the direction of Pedro Jiménez Castillo (CSIC-School of Arab Studies), José Luís Simón García (Institute of Albacete Studies) and José María Moreno Narganes (University of Alicante).

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