Architecture - Baroque and Neoclassicism

Hospital de la Caridad
Hospital de la Caridad

The reaction to Renaissance sobriety came in the form of the curves, colours, sense of motion and dramatic Baroque architecture. Although early Spanish Baroque tended to be austere, the movement gathered steam in the later 17th century and reached a peak of elaboration in the 18th century. Andalucia was one of the places where Baroque blossomed most brilliantly.

Although Baroque was based on classical architecture, there was a great deal more ornamentation, particularly on facades and portals, with ornate stucco sculpture and lots of gilt paint. This was the era when the retablo (large, usually 3-part sculptural altarpiece) reached the height of its opulence.

Before full-blown Baroque was reached there was a transitional stage from the Renaissance, exemplified by more sober, simple works such as Alonso Cano´s 17th century facade for Granada cathedral. Then came an outburst of greater exuberance of which the most elaborate work is termed Churrigueresque after a family of Barcelona sculptors and architects called Churriguera. Although the families' own style was fairly restrained, it had many flamboyant imitations. One of Churrigueresque's hallmarks, helping to give its typical top-heavy look is the estipite - apilaster (pillar projecting only partly from the wall) in the form of a very narrow upside-down pyramid.

Seville has probably as many Baroque churches per square kilometre as any city in the world, and elaborate is certainly the word for them. Two of the most impressive are the Iglesia de la Magdalena and the Capilla de San José. The Monastario de La Cartuja in Granada, by Francisco Hurtado Izquierdo (1669-1728) is one of the most lavish Baroque creations in all Spain. Hurtado's followers adorned the small town of Priego de Córdoba with seven or eight Baroque churches. Ecija is another small place which received a disproportionate share of Baroque attention because of its prosperity. Elsewhere, the Baroque style often appears as additions rather than complete buildings.