Nexus Network Journal

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 353–377 | Cite as

The Orientation of Pre-Romanesque Churches in the Iberian Peninsula

  • Antonio César González-García
  • Juan Antonio Belmonte
Research

Abstract

The orientation of Christian churches is a distinctive feature of its architecture, repeating patterns from early Christian times that show a general tendency to orientate their apses in the solar range, with a predilection for orientations near the astronomical equinox. We measured the orientation of a total of 167 churches built prior to A.D. 1086. A comprehensive statistical analysis of the sample indicates a decisive orientation pattern, with a clear tendency to orientate according to the standard tradition, albeit with certain particularities. Three sub-samples are examined to find the tendencies at each different historical time. This exercise indicates that the main group of orientations seem to relate to the Canonical equinox on 25 March, while popular ‘expected’ orientations, such as that of the rising sun on the day of the patron saint of the church, are completely absent. Other groups of orientations are specific to each period, such as that towards sunrise on Saint James’s day, important only after the discovery of the saint’s tomb in the ninth century.

Keywords

Pre-Romanesque architecture Church orientation Christian religion Iberian Peninsula Archaeostronomy Julian calendar Gregorian calendar Mozarabic architecture 

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Copyright information

© Kim Williams Books, Turin 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antonio César González-García
    • 1
  • Juan Antonio Belmonte
    • 2
  1. 1.Instituto de Ciencias del Patrimonio Incipit CSICSantiago de CompostelaSpain
  2. 2.Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias La Laguna, Departamento de AstrofísicaUniversidad de La LagunaTenerifeSpain

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