Poetic License -

Lyrical Forms and Syncretic Fusion in al-Andalus


Daniel Harvey Pedrick, B.A.


Spanish 580

Dr. Gregory Andrachuk, Ph.d., Prof.

December 1999


In 1948 the Hebraist Samuel M. Stern published the details of his recent discovery of some twenty verses in Romance language in a synagogue in Cairo. Dating from the tenth and eleventh centuries and appended to moaxahas(1) written in Hebrew, Stern's discovery was of enormous importance to the study of Spanish literature, effectively pushing back the verifiable horizon of its origins by more than a century.(2) In 1952, Emilio García Gómez discovered two dozen more Romance verses, this time appended to moaxahas in Arabic. These findings revealed lyrical forms that predate all previously known European lyrical poetry, including that of the Provençal and Galician.

In this paper I will discuss various factors contributing to the syncretic fusion(3) of poetic forms in Andalusia, especially those forms exemplified by the multi-lingual moaxahas/jarchas/ zéjeles that flourished there during the height of the Moorish Period (900-1200 C.E.). I will begin by reviewing the ancient history of Spain and Andalusia in particular as a melting-pot of peoples, languages, and cultures, paying particular attention to the Jews. Later I will describe the nature of the poetic forms and traditions that preceeded the moaxahas/jarchas/zéjeles --Arabic and Hebraic--the structure of the moaxahas/jarchas/zéjeles themselves, and the role Jewish poets and wandering musicians played and might have played in the appearance and development of these forms. Finally, I will discuss some possible descendants of these forms in present day Andalusian folk music.

While I do not expect to settle any of the plethora of lingering questions that surround the moaxahas/jarchas/zéjeles and their possible effects on later European forms of poetry, I hope I might, at the very least, shed some light on the social, psychological, linguistic, and musical processes that engendered them.

1. Early Iberian Demographics

The archaeological and historical record of the Iberian Peninsula indicates that it has been a place of continuous migration, movement, and displacement of human populations for a very long time.

An early group which left an enduring record of a presence there consisted of those ancient artists who decorated the famous cave of Altimira in what is now Northern Spain. The images therein, mostly taurine forms beautifully represented on a low stone ceiling, were painted at least 13,000 years ago and are still in an excellent state of preservation.(4) It seems plausible that these artists may well have deliberately chosen this place as a gallery in order to pass their artistic legacy on to future generations. If so, their efforts met with spectacular success, as many modern-day visitors to the site can confirm.

A later group eponymously gave the region its name--the Iberians. It is believed that the Iberians began to arrive in Spain some 5000 years ago(5) from Northern Africa and occupied mainly the southern area up to and including the Ebro valley. Crow writes

The name Ebro itself is from Iber, which is Iberian for "river." In the valley of the Ebro and near the Valencian coast the Iberians achieved a flourishing culture. They lived in walled cities, and some of the megalitihic stones used in their ramparts still remain in place, for example, at Tarragona. The Iberians were a small, wiry, dark-complexioned race, great riders of horses, and excessively clannish and tribalistic in their social organization. They created beautiful small bronze figures; they had a passion to represent bulls, other animals, and flowers. They produced a vigorous art, in its final period strongly influenced by the Greeks (Crow, 24-25).

The Phoenicians, a Semitic race of merchants who spoke a language related to Hebrew, traded regularly with a thriving culture in the region of the lower Guadalquivir River and established their trading posts in Iberia long before the beginning of the Common Era, founding Cádiz and Málaga as early as 1100 B.C.E. (Crow, 25). This megalithic Andalusian culture which so attracted the Phoenicians (referred to as "Tarshish" in a number of Biblical references)(6), also seems to have traded with the Israel of King Solomon's time. This, along with the Biblical characterizations of "Tarshish" as a land of great wealth, would seem to suggest the presence of at least a few Jewish traders there as well.(7)

The northern regions of Iberia, North of the Ebro valley, were occupied around 900 B.C.E. by the Celts, an Indo-European race that had spread across much of Europe (Crow, 25, and Josephs, 4). These two races laid the foundations of a cultural bias in the south against the European north--and vice versa--a sociological and psychological dichotomy in Spain that continues to the present day.(8) But in the central regions of the peninsula, these two groups intermingled and gave rise to the "Celtiberians," in a complex process of ethnic and cultural admixture.

The Greeks arrived in Spain around 600 B.C.E. and, like the Phoenicians who preceeded them, were traders. They established their posts mainly along the Spanish Levant. Their culture fused with that of the Celtiberians, the finest surviving artistic example of which might be the "Dama de Elche," the magnificent stone bust found on a farm near Valencia in 1897.(9) The headdress and jewelry represented on the sculpture are Iberian adorning a female figure of somewhat oriental mien (Crow, 27). Few other stone artifacts of the Greek presence in Spain are known to exist but

In Grecian literature the early history of Spain is mentioned frequently. Plato in the Timaeus refers to the lost civilization of Atlantis, and Strabo mentions it in his famous geography. A modern writer Edwrd Björkman has made out a good case for placing Atlantis at or near the present-day Cádiz in Spain.(10)

Perhaps the first in a series of violent invasions of Spain occurred in the third century B.C.E. under the leadership of Hamilcar Barca (after whom Barcelona is named), a Carthaginian who had just suffered the loss of the First Punic War to his arch-enemy, Rome (Crow, 27). From his newly-conquered Spanish territory Barca planned the invasion of Italy but died before he could launch it. His son Hannibal picked up where his father left off, invading Italy and remaining there for fourteen years in what ultimately proved to be a fruitless effort, although he inflicted huge casualties on his Roman foes. Meanwhile the Roman campaign against the Carthaginians in the Spanish Theatre of the Second Punic War met with an early success, and in 206 B.C.E. the last of Hannibal's forces were driven out. Soon after that the Roman province of Hispania was born.(11) It was not until the fall of Numancia in 133 B.C.E., however, that most of Spain (with the exception of the same northwestern regions that sheltered the Christians from the pursuing Moors almost a millenium later) submitted to Roman power.(12)

Spain thrived under Roman domination and soon became the richest province of the Empire, producing grain, mineral wealth, horses, olive oil, fish products, as well as scholars, writers, and dancers. Highways, bridges, amphitheatres, acqueducts, many of which are still in use today, connected the growing cities one to another. Roman Law and religion (Christianity, after 329 C.E.) took firm root during the Roman Period. Most important of all (especially as concerns this particular study) Vulgar Latin became the lingua franca of the country.

It should be clear at this point that the Iberian peninsula was, by the beginning of the first millenium C.E., a polyglot region with a long history of activity and occupation by a variety of disparate races and cultures.

2. Early Presence of The Jews in Spain

As mentioned above, Jewish traders may well have lived in Spain during Phoenician times. After the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Roman emperor Titus in 70 C.E., many Jews migrated in large numbers to places throughout the empire, including Spain.(13) But the so-called Roman Diaspora of the Jews had in fact been going on for a couple of centuries. Long before Titus's time Strabo was inspired to write about them

This people has already made its way into every city and it is not easy to find any place in the habitable world which has not received this nation and in which it has not made its power felt (Millás Vallicrosa, 14).

Despite the ferocity of wars between the Jews and the Romans in Palestine during the first and second-centuries C.E., the Jews flourished in the Roman Empire. The reasons for this are not clear. Perhaps the Romans felt it was in their own best interests to refrain from supressing a people who were quite clearly a powerful economic and social force even if their patriotism may have been suspect because of the monotheistic nature of their religion--anathema to Paganism. But whatever the reason, and in spite of recurring episodes of warfare in occupied Palestine, the Romans regarded the Jews as a singular, autonomous people and allowed them to practice their religion, even continuing to recognize Jewish cultural ties to their homeland.(14)

Archaeological remains show that during this period Jews in Spain lived in organized communities, became to a certain degree acculturated to their surroundings, and prospered along with the Empire (Gerber, 2-5; Castro, 20-21). Evidence of Jewish acculturation in Spain includes a large number of bi-lingual tombstones in Hebrew and Latin (Gerber,. 2-5; Millás Vallicrosa, 12). Furthermore, the Jews in Spain, according to Castro, quickly and easily acquired the local speech and this explains why there are so few words of Hebrew derivation in Spanish languages today (Castro, 21). To this day, many Sephardic Jews speak Ladino as their native tongue, a language that preserves many features of fifteenth-century Castilian Spanish.(15)

During the second and third centuries under Roman rule, the Jews of Spain increased and prospered playing an important role in the trade between Spain and other Mediterranean ports. The spread of orthodox Christianity throughout the Empire, however, brought dark clouds onto the Jewish horizon as the zealous administrators of the new faith--by definition antithetical to Judaism--sought to eliminate the ability of the Jews to compete for religious converts among the people.

Before this process could gain much momentum Spain was invaded in 409 C.E. by Germanic groups that had already shattered Roman power in the heartland of the empire (Crow, 34-35). Within a few years the Visigoths, the same tribe of fierce horsemen from beyond the Danube that had defeated the emperor Valens and sacked Rome itself in 410 (Langer, 157-158), replaced the Romans as the new rulers of Spain. As these invaders practiced Arianism, a sect of Christianity considered heretical by orthodox Catholics, the burgeoning campaign against the Jews was side-tracked for almost two centuries during which time the Jewish communities continued their existence much as they had under the Romans.

When the Visigothic rulers of Spain embraced Catholicism in 586-589 C.E., laws diminishing Jewish status in Spanish society began to be proclaimed by the king and his councils at the urging of the clergy. This policy continued for the duration of the Visigothic regimes bringing disaster and havoc to the Jewish communities, a situation that grew progressively worse until the Christians were overthrown by Moslem invaders under Tariq and Musa in 711.

During this long sojourn Spanish Jews experienced an ebb and flow of fortunes. The quality of their situation depended on the relationships they were able to establish and maintain with a variety of governments as well as the other communities with whom they shared Spanish soil. The Jewish communities in Spain survived under various governments for the next thirteen centuries until 1492 when the Jewish presence in Spain was all but utterly extirpated by a policy of expulsion promulgated by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella.

3. The Largest Semitic Infusion

The Muslim conquest and occupation of Spain began in 711 C.E. and lasted until it the last stonghold of Islam--Granada--was defeated by Christian forces in 1492. Almost immediately after the first Muslim invasion there followed a period of violent warfare among the various factions of the conquerors that prevented them from pushing further into Europe and from establishing a lasting peace in their newly-won Spanish territories. In fact, this situation existed throughout the entire history of Muslim Spain, known after the conquest as al-Andalus, with the exception of a few brief periods of stability under certain outstanding rulers. In this regard the Muslims differed little from the Visigoths before them.

At first the child of the Arab Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus, the province of al-Andalus became a virtually independent entity by 756.(16) Afterwards, in spite of its politically unstable character and alienation from its progenitor and parent state in Damascus/Baghdad, al-Andalus continued to receive much of its cultural, intellectual, and religious inspiration from the hub of Islam in the East (Chejne, 29-30). In 929 Abd al-Rahman III, a capable political and military leader descended from the Umayyads (who had originally overseen the conquest of Spain almost two centuries earlier) officially assumed the title of Caliph, and al-Andalus effectively became a unitary and independent state. Córdoba remained its capital for nearly three centuries, from 756 to 1008, C.E. (Wasserstein, 17 & 111).

For the Jews, the Muslim invasion was deliverance from a process that was approaching the possibility of their extinction. They welcomed the invaders and willingly garrisoned the towns that fell before them.(17) Under Moslem rule, the Jews found their deplorable situation much relieved and slowly progressed towards regaining their former status as an important and accepted group among the Spanish citizenry. Although still on the margins of Spanish society, they were able to maintain their improved situation to the degree that the country remained under the sway of Islam. As the Christian re-conquest gained strength and won back more territory, however, the Jews found that the repressive nightmare of hatred and vilification that they had experienced under the earlier Christian Visigothic kings returned and their position in Spanish society began to deteriorate accordingly. But, for a short time, they flourished, and in no other place more than the city of Córdoba.

Córdoba was one of three main centers of Arab civilization in Spain, the other two being Seville and Granada. Córdoba is singled out for discussion here because, for a time during the three centuries mentioned above, this city on the upper Guadalquivir was arguably the most important city in Spain or even all of Europe, and surpassed the others in terms of longevity and brilliance. It was in Córdoba that the philosophers Maimonides (a Jew) and Averröes (a Muslim) left their mark on European culture and understanding. It was mainly through the latter that knowledge of Aristotle was transmitted to medieval Europe (Crow, 66).

A resplendent capital and center of scientific learning--including mathematics, astronomy, agriculture, and medicine--Córdoba was said to have rivalled Byzantine Constantinople for its architecture, and included many opulent mosques, public baths, libraries, a university (when there was no other in all of Europe), and the enormous Umayyad palace-city of Medina al-Zahara (Chejne, 135).

Córdoba also became a center of Jewish learning and culture and its Talmudic school became famous throughout the civilized world.(18) Numerous Jews held high posts in the community and in government, frequently serving as physicians to the caliphs and emissaries to other governments (Crow, 62).

Literature in Cordovan society was cultivated with as much care as the crops of the field that sustained its inhabitants. Córdoba had many publishing houses--some in which women were employed to make copies of the Koran for shipment to all parts of the Muslim world (Michener, 166). Love poems were also a famous literary product of Moorish Spain, and of this city in particular.

After the fall of Córdoba from its pre-eminent position in al-Andalus, Muslim power in Spain resided in a number of petty states called taifas where kings representing the heterogenous ethnic fabric of Islam(19) ruled over their subjects, alternately warring and making alliances with their neighbours, Muslim and Christian.

4. Poetry in al-Andalus

The Arabs brought with them to Spain a classical tradition of poetry which was well-developed long before the birth of Islam. Poetry occupied a prominent place in Arabic literature and played an important role in Arabian society. In pre-Islamic times the poet, who was believed to be possessed by a spirit (jinn) was a figure of central importance to his tribe, singing its history, glory, and animating its members to defend it against any and all foes.

Early Arabic poetry may have originally been a rhymed form without meter, or rhymed prose, from which a later form with meter evolved. Various forms eventually coalesced to produce the qasida or ode. The qasida form had already reached maturity by the time of Muhammed and was governed by strict laws regarding structure, rhyme, and the manner recited.(20)

With the rise of Islam the tribal poet found his position challenged by the scribe and the orator who reflected new levels of complexity in the rapidly evolving Muslim society. Still, the poet endured even though Mohammed himself railed against the wordly and profane content of his words.(21) Chejne observes

early Arabic poetry served as a valuable means of codifying the language and was considered second only to the Qur'an as a medium for the most eloquent expression (Chejne, 222).


Arabic poetry has a great wealth of vocabulary, similes, and metaphors. Although its content is often vaguely understood or not understood at all, poetry has an impact on the audience as great as that of music. In essence, Arabic poetry appeals more to the ear and heart than to the mind.


On the other hand, Arabic poetry was in some measure disassociated from life itself, and as such, it remained formal: rigid and austere in form, artificial and stereotyped in content... More often than not it caters to the vanity of a patron and the emotion of the hearer (Chejne, 221).

If this formal and rigid nature of Arabic poetry was its starting point in al-Andalus, it was to change somewhat in contact with the Andalusian character, which had already, in a psychological sense, passively conquered many invaders by the time of the Moors.(22) Arabic poets in Andalusia soon found themselves waxing passionate about the sensual side of life, i.e., wine, women, and especially the beautiful nature of their surroundings as exemplified by this qasid verse attributed to Syrian-born Abd-al-Rahman I.

A palm tree I beheld in Ar-Rusafa,

Far in the West, far from the palm tree land:

I said: You, like myself, are far away, in a strange land;

How long have I been far away from my people!

You grew up in a land where you are a stranger,

And like myself, are living in the farthest corner of the earth:

May the morning clouds refresh you at this distance,

And may abundant rains comfort you forever!(23)

While the new emphasis in thematic content may have begun to reflect the Eden-like environment of Andalusia soon after Arab poetry landed there, its language remained classical and pure Arabic. Eastern poets were still the models and inspiration of the transplanted versifiers in al-Andalus. The most prevalent themes of the genre remained--as in the East--Love (of a reciprocating beloved), Praise (of a patron), Satire (of an enemy or rival), Elegies, War, Descriptive verse (which encompassed all the other themes), and--interestingly--Wine. The last was perhaps a concession to Andalusia's matchless viticulture which no doubt irked conservative Muslims and might not have been so well appreciated in the East. Still, classical Andalusian-based poets such as Ibn Zaydun, al-Mu'tamid, and Ibn Khafajah--tipplers all--ranked with the best of the Arabic literary world (Chejne, 223-232).

However, evidence shows that new popular poetic forms reflecting the unique Andalusian temperament began to emerge in the tenth century.(24) These differed radically from the above-mentioned "rigid and austere" Arabic classical forms and many classical poets and scholars did not consider them poetry at all (Chejne, 235 and Ribera, 120). The advocates of these new forms, in contrast, considered them spontaneous and lively alternatives to their staid classical Arabic predecessors. The forms were called moaxahas and zéjeles and appeared at a time when the classical tradition was possibly beginning to wane (Chejne, 244). Moaxahas and zéjeles resemble each other in form and content and it is not clear whether they emerged simultaneously or one was an offshoot of the other.(25)

The zéjel is written in spoken Arabic (or Romance or Hebrew) and deals with light and sometimes frivolous themes. It has a rhyming scheme that normally runs AA bbbA cccA, and may consist of any number of stanzas. Evidence of the zéjel structure has been discovered in a number of later forms, as we shall see.

The moaxaha, a form that still lives today in parts of North Africa and the Middle East, is considered more artistic than the zéjel. It has five or six stanzas, is written in literary Arabic (as opposed to the vernacular spoken variety often used in zéjel composition) and reflects the traditional themes of classical Arab poetry (see page 17). Its jarcha or final verse is written in either popular spoken Arabic or, as mentioned above, in Romance. The verses are quantitative, with 2 to 11 syllables, sometimes with elision. The stanzas may be two, three, or four lines, equal or unequal. The rhyming scheme in its simplest form is AA bbbAA cccAA.(26)

Zwartjes explains the differences further:

Both zajal and muwaah have symmetrical strophes which can be divided into two sections: one tripartite section with monorhymed lines with independent rhyme (variable in each strophe) and one section with common rhyme (invariable rhyme scheme in all strophes). The second section of each strophe of the muwaah with common rhyme normally has a repetition of the full rhyme scheme of the lines with the common rhyme. In the zajal the poet only repeats a part of the rhyme scheme of the section with common rhyme. Only the opening strophe of the zajal, which is called matla , has the full common rhyme scheme. Another difference is that the muwaah always has a kharja and the zajal not necessarily. Since the kharja always repeats the rhyme scheme of the matla , the kharjas from the zajal differ from those of the muwaah. ...The boundaries between the two related forms are not always easy to draw, and it must be noticed that the technical terms for the different sections of the muwaah used by the theoreticians are far from unequivocal. (Zwartjes, 34-35).

Before entering upon a further discussion of these synthetic poetic forms we will now return to the Jews and consider some background information necessary to an understanding of how this group may have been in a position to advance these new modes of poetic expression.

The Jews had languished so much under the Visigothic persecutions that they had effectively lost much of the knowledge of their own history, language, and even religion. This notwithstanding, the Jews never completely lost touch with their own religious poetry which developed along similar ways to the Christian. In the first centuries C.E. hymns called piyut were composed in the style of the Psalms and became incorporated into the Jewish liturgy. Although written in the East, these hymns were brought to Spain where they survived as part of Sephardic ritual.

In the new environment of literary and scientific learning and religious toleration in al-Andalus, a relatively generous patronage was extended to the community of Spanish Jews by the independent Umayyad caliphs.(27) Jews--especially in Córdoba--became acculturated to the new masters of the land, learning Arabic language and lore while preserving their own religious practices. Jews distinguished themselves in various fields, writing and publishing works on philosophy, astronomy, and medicine. The Jewish scholar Abu Yusuf Hasday ibn Saprut (915-970, C.E.) of Jaén served the caliph Abd-al-Rahman III as finance minister and ambassador, while orchestrating the elevation of the Jewish communities from the prostration that still characterized their situation even two hundred years after the oppression of the Visigothic regimes had been erased.(28) Menahem ben Saruk, whose literary works confirm him as the founder of Hebraic literary prose, composed lexicographical studies that advanced the Hebrew language and were written on the Arabic model (Millás Vallicrosa, 27). Yahuda ibn Daud wrote the first scientific grammar of Hebrew, in Arabic. Judá Leví was a poet as well as a philosopher and a physician. Many more Jewish poets flourished (writing in Hebrew as well as in Arabic) all using Arabic learning as the basis of their intellectual or artistic orientation (Chejne, 117).

The relevant point is that the Jewish intellectuals of al-Andalus became linguists par excellence and the languages they dominated, in addition to Arabic and Hebrew, included Latin and Romance.(29) Thus, the Jews were in a position to engender a new type of poetry in Andalusia, one which combined their own traditional forms with those of the Arabic tradition which they had come to understand very well. All that was needed was the agglutinizing agent of popular Andalusian lyrical style.

5. A New Lyrical Style

The appearance of new lyrical poetic forms in the tenth century marked a developing dichotomy between the imported classical literary culture of the Arabs and the native culture of al-Andalus. It seems likely that the Jews, owing to their longer history in al-Andalus, understood this popular culture more deeply than the later-arriving Arabs. The new popular forms represented by the moaxaha and the zéjel represented a significant departure from the style of the classical qasida and may well owe much of their popularity to the influence of Hebrew poets. The jarcha, when composed of words other than Arabic, may be the link between Arabic and European lyric forms. Zwartjes states

The Hispano-Hebrew poets used this new genre for both religious and secular poetry. Some of the secular poems have kharjas in colloquial Arabic or in Romance or in a mixture of the two languages.(30) (Zwartjes, 32).

Chejne cites the Sudanese scholar al-Karim who supports a non-Arabic (i.e., Andalusian/Jewish) origin of the moahaxa, pointing out that the multi-lingual forms are most prevalent in the Hebrew versions (Chejne, 244). More evidence of the possible Hebrew connection is the poet Dunas ibn Labrat, recognized as having introduced a neo-Hebraic poetic style that combined that of the piyut and the qasida, replacing the long monorhymes of the Arabic meter into shorter rhyming stanzas that more closely resembled that of the Psalms.(31)

The actual inventor of the moaxaha was, according to Menendez-Pidal and others, a blind Andalusian singer named Mocádem ben Moafa, of Cabra, who introduced the form using the Romance language at the end of the ninth century.(32) Regarding the influence of Mocádem of Cabra, Josephs suggest that it would be possible "to trace all modern lyric poetry from Mocádem and from Cordoban Jewish bi-lingual poets such as Judá Leví" (Josephs, 830).

As Chejne has observed (see footnote No.38) these moaxahas as presented by Mocádem and subsequent stylists were sung and accompanied by music.

The jarcha itself is a recurring refrain often (but not always) in Romance that was repeated, possibly by the audience in a sort of sing-along listen and response pattern. This is especially interesting when we consider the time of the appearance of Mocádem,

a jongleur who took up and popularized a folk-song. And the moment at which he did so is significant. Andalusia just then was in a state of revolution. A strong national movement had broken out against the Arab court at Cordova and in this movement Spanish Moslems fought on the same side as Christians... The verses of the blind poet seem thus to be connected with a national reaction against the language of the invaders (Brenan, 27-28).

If so, it is possible to imagine some disenchanted residents of al-Andalus at this time demonstrating their dis-satisfaction by gathering together and giving musical voice to their political frustrations--in exactly the same manner that political protesters have continued to do up to the present day. Further evidence of the possible political flavour of the verses of Mocádem may be inferred by the fact that he came from Cabra, a city ruled by Omar bin Hafsun, a Berber sultan "who personified the anti-Arab protest"(33) underway at the time.

Although brief periods of political stability were achieved afterwards by such leaders as Abd al-Rahman III, the moaxaha and the zéjel definitely caught on and became part of the popular culture of al-Andalus. It is worthwhile to note here that the Spanish Arab poets were the first educated people to adopt folk-poetry to the purposes of polite entertainment (Brenan, 31).

Long after the fall of Córdoba in 1009 from its position of political prominence, the moaxaha and zéjel forms flourished in the period of the taifa states where poets found employment at the numerous courts of the petty kings who belonged to various ethnic groups--especially in Seville, Badajoz, Almería, and in once-great Córdoba. In the mid-eleventh century kingdom of Granada under the Zirids, poet and scholar Ibn Naghrila wrote moaxahas that have survived.(34)

Further geographical diffusion of the moaxahas and zéjeles was accomplished by the poets who composed them as they traveled widely throughout the Islamic as well as the Christian world. The Granadan poet Mose ben Ezra, for example, was exiled to Castile, much to his dismay.(35) Judá Leví travelled to Jerusalem and composed a surviving moaxaha enroute, in Alexandria. Al-Mu'tamid, the King of Seville, ended up in chains in Africa where he composed some of his greatest works (Zwartjes, 69).

The talented poets of the court of Alfonso X (the founder of Castilian prose), Jewish and Muslim, composed many moaxahas and zéjeles there (more than two centuries after Mocádem) where they obviously influenced the King in his own considerable poetic compositions. This influence is seen in the form of his Cantigas which begin

with a theme-stanza of two, three, or four lines known in Spanish as estribillo, which is then developed in a succession of stanzas, each one of which ends with a repetition or rhyme-echo of the original theme-stanza (Brenan, 63).

as can be more clearly observed in this illustration from González Palencia:

A) Olmidades con pobreza quer ver a Virgen Coroada

A) Mas d orgullo con requeza e ela muy despegada

b) E desta razon vos direi un miragle muy fremoso

b) que mostrou Santa Madre do Rey grorioso

b) a un crerigo que era de a servir deseioso

A) e por un grau maravilla le foe per ela mostrada (Chejne, 245).

This rhyming scheme seems to correspond to the zéjel form of Andalusian strophic poetry (see page 18).

Ribera's extensive study offers considerable evidence that the meter of the Cantigas corresponds to the lyric system of the Andalusian Moors. Furthermore, the ancient manuscripts of these compositions included musical notation which provided a first opportunity to understand the rythym and melody of Spanish music.

But, while the learned poets of the court of Alfonso X are immortalized on paper, we must not overlook the role of the colleagues of Mocádem of Cabra, those

poetas y músicos trashumantes, bohemios que iban de ciudad en ciudad... que formaban un género muy divulgado en Andalucía(36)

And, in an essay on the music of Islam, Farmer states

Much of this may have been due to emigrant Mozárabes, although the real disseminators were the minstrel class, whose showy habiliments, painted faces, and long hair, which were the mark of the Oriental minstrel, had already been borrowed.(37)

It is likely that these wandering singers may have exerted an even greater influence on the importation and implantation of the Andalusian poetic style before us than the well-known learned poets, Jewish and otherwise. These trendsetters were recipients of the sincerest form of flattery by the cultured poets who imitated them. But the learned works, unlike that of the minstrels, were more often preserved for posterity in hard copy form.

6. The Music

Significantly, as noted above, these poetic forms were lyrical in the most literal sense, i.e., they were meant to be accompanied by music. This further removed them from the classical tradition and at the same time allowed the musician/poets an opportunity to exert a native Andalusian style of their own.(38) As such, the forms may not be fully comprehended without at least a thoughtful consideration of their musical component.

Unfortunately it is not possible to know as much about the nature of this music, vocal and instrumental, as we do about the poetry, the latter having been recorded in the form of manuscripts. But, working with what information we have of musical scales and modes in use by various groups at the time, by examing such musical notation as we do have, and by following a process of logical deduction, we might venture to trace the development of the musical-poetic forms discussed so far to identify the forms that they have evolved into even until the present day.

Before the time of the earliest legible manuscripts of musical notation in Spain (which are of the Cantigas) there is little evidence to suggest what popular Andalusian music might have sounded like.(39) As mentioned above, the Phoenicians (and possibly their fellow Semites, the Jews) the Greeks, and other groups established and maintained a presence in Andalusia long before the first millenium, and these cultures possessed rich musical traditions. As for the details--i.e., rythym, melody, harmony, etc.--again, little is known.

Rome delighted in the musical talents of the "puellae gaditanae," the dancing girls of Gadir, according to the writings of Martial, Juvenal, Petronius, Pliny the Younger, etc. (Josephs, 69). Their performances probably reflected a unique, native Andalusian musical style that charmed the Romans. From this we can certainly presume that a popular musical tradition existed in Andalusia in ancient times, and a rich one at that.

The other source of musical style came from religious traditions. Christianity in its various forms brought musical influences--distilled from oriental ones--in its liturgies. Christianized Romans sang their liturgical chants (borrowed from the Hebrew) in the latter days of the Spanish Roman period (and simultaneously the Spanish Jews sang theirs). The Christian liturgies themselves reflected various influences, mostly oriental. Based originally on Hebraic forms of synagogal chant, they employed Byzantine and Roman modes of musical expression, sometimes in combination.

The Byzantine liturgy arrived in Spain soon after the coronation of Justinian in 527 C.E.(40) The Byzantine influence was especially strong in the Mozárabic Rite which lasted until the thirteenth century, in such places as Córdoba.(41) Byzantine chant consisted of systems of intonation and melodic forms, probably the remnants of ancient songs. The Byzantine system made use of chromatic and harmonic scales rather than the diatonic scale. Byzantine style is characterized by frequent melisma, i.e., a musical technique in which one syllable may be sung to long phrases of notes (still a common feature of Spanish folksong style).

The Roman liturgy was characterized by its Gregorian melodies which favored the diatonic scale. These may be classified into three types: a) syllabic - each syllable corresponding to a single musical note; b) neumatic - two to five notes for each syllable; c) melismatic - one syllable sung to long phrases of notes. Gregorian music, writes Dom David Knowles

is wide in its range of emotional expression, majestic, spiritual, and austere beyond all other forms of the art, exquisitely spontaneous and pure in its melody, and extremely subtle and sophisticated in its technical perfection. [Its melodies] rise quickly to a high point and then gently to descend not in a straight line, but with small to and fro motions like a falling leaf (Robertson, 159).

Arabic music, which began to arrive in al-Andalus with the Moorish conquest, was built on a tradition borrowed wholesale from Byzantine and Persian sources. The raw material of music--melody, rythym, and musical instruments--were adopted by an emerging class of musicians who adopted them to the meters of Arabic poetry (Ribera, 8, 33-34, 35, 72; Livermore, 26; Wellesz, 448-451).

It is apparent that great musical influences in Andalusia came from a variety of directions, often reflecting the region's Oriental--and especially Semitic/Hamitic--past, and that these infusions came in more than one wave: Phoenician, Jewish, Arabic. But Andalusian music as such, with its own identifiable characteristics, only begins to emerge out of the mists of time from the beginning of the Arab period (Romero, 2). These are exemplified by the moahaxas and zéjeles, forms whose verse structure has already been discussed.

Romero, quoting Juan Vernet, suggests that the villancico, a form still found in Spain and considered one of the the basic Spanish folk-song forms, evolved from the zéjel (Romero, 22).

As patterns of meter and rhyme originally used by the Spanish Muslims plainly have made their way into the poetry of other cultures,(42)

it seems reasonable to expect that musical styles were transmitted in like manner. Ribera, writing of the period following the appearance of the moahaxa/jarchas and zéjeles in al-Andalus, makes the case for this (my italics):

...a lyric school grew up which was genuinely Spanish by virtue of the invention of its own types of songs, and which spread over many Moslem countries during the Middle Ages. In North Africa, and in Asia as far as the boundaries of India it has lasted until the present day. It is worthy of notice that wherever these songs of Spanish type went the music sung with them went also (Ribera, 141 ).

According to Romero these forms constitute the most remote antecedents of the flamenco genre as evidenced by the similarity of their organization of scales and modes, which he claims correspond to the forms of the flamenco genre (Romero, 17). His citation of González Palencia quoting Ribera on the style of the Andalusian minstrels of the Moorish period

no son monódicas sino para cantarlas en la calle a voz en grito, ante un público que se asocia formando coro y cantando el estribillo tras cada una de las coplas que lanza el cantor, acompañadas por instrumentos músicos... y hasta con intervalos de baile (Romero, 18).

recalls the character of contemporary street singers in modern Spain.

An especially enduring example of the syncretization of musical forms may also be seen in the popular contemporary fandango folk-song form which combines musical elements consistent with common European practice with Arabic modalities--specifically the Phrygian(43) scale. Musicologist Peter Manuel explains:

The juxtaposition of the two systems is perhaps clearest

in the most common fandango pattern. Here the Phrygian-type tonality appears in the instrumental interludes (falsetas ) preceding and following the sung (coplas ), which are themselves accompanied by standard I-IV-V harmonies. The popularity of the form may derive in part from its effective blending of common practice and Phrygian harmonic progressions.(44)

This is the musical equivalent of the linguistic moahaxa/jarcha relationship: effectively a marriage of two forms that spring from different cultures, which Manuel suggest may be the key to its popularity(45).

Another example of this happy marriage metaphor may be seen in the Cancionero de Palacio, a collection of popular Spanish songs of the Middle Ages (fifteenth and sixteenth centirues) that is preserved in the Library of the Royal Palace in Madrid. Ribera states that there are many songs in zéjel form in this collection (Ribera, 161). He analyzes one song in particular, entitled "Las Morillas de Jaén," that appears in the Cancionero in more than one version. This is a Moorish song, Ribera tells us, because of its metrical structure (zéjel--AA bbb aa), and because of its theme:

The scene is laid in Baghdad, the very capital of the Abbasid Empire, where an episode occurred between the Caliph Harun-al-Rashid and three girls of the palace, a facetious clever incident, but in such bad taste that we shall not recount it. About it the sovereign is said to have composed [verses]...

Word of the incident, along with the Caliph's racy ditty, spread, and other popular poets were soon singing their own versions. Eventually the song reached Spain and ended up in the mentioned Cancionero (Ribera, 164-165). It is still sung today by contemporary artists.(46)

But, besides its metrical structure, "Las Tres Morillas" also shows a musical structure that is telling: namely, the melody line corresponds to the same pattern.

The melodic theme is as follows:

Mi la sol mi do re mi

Re do si la, la si do re mi (re mi)

The stanza begins with the first of these phrases, repeating it three times:

Mi la sol mi do re mi (fa mi)

Mi la sol mi do re mi (fa mi)

Mi la sol mi do re mi

and finishes with the second phrase:

Re do si la, la si do re mi (re mi)

This musical quatrain may be diagrammed aaab, co-inciding with the verses (Ribera, 168).

In this, Ribera claims, is to be found the secret of the poetic form. Ribera goes on to mention more key points regarding musical structure, those of phrasing, voicing, and cadence:

But it is not to be understood that the melody, as originally used in the Orient, would have had the same placing of the phrases as in our Cancionero. The former would have been monodic, and the latter is in choral Spanish form, with the final cadence on the same note as that which begins the song. By this means the soloist and the chorus indicate to each other the connecting note. [ ] The key is clearly A minor, which musicologists agree was most characteristic of Oriental music. All the cadences are on the dominant of the minor, even the final cadence; but this cadence on the dominant, though contrary to canons of later European compositions, is precisely the characteristic of modern popular Andalusian music, recognized by musicologists as derived from Arab art. [ ] the above-mentioned type of final cadence maintained itself in Spain in most of the closes of soleares, playeras, polos, paños morunos, fandangos, malagueñas, rondeñas, of granadinas of Andalusia as well as in the molinera of Castille and other similar songs of Asturias, Galicia, and Catalonia. All the European musicians of our day who have wished to imitate African or Oriental songs have gone back to this same form. That is to say, they have considered it a distinctive element of this music (Ribera, 168-169).

This cadential phenomenon, as Ribera describes it, is related to the Phrygian tonality that Manuel mentions in the previous citation on page 34.

The Phrygian mode is associated with Byzantine style and would have come to Spain from more than one direction. The Arabs imbibed much of their music at the Byzantine font and brought it to al-Andalus, as we have already seen (page 31). The Phrygian mode also came to Spain with the Byzantine Liturgy, as previously noted (p. 30, note 40).

The chordal-harmonic system based on the Phrygian scale rather than the major and minor scales of European common practice (diatonic) is very recognizable and is present in many Gregorian chants as well.(47) But in Andalusian popular music--especially in certain of the flamenco cantes--it has been modified by the Byzantine/Arab influence. This modification is heard in the Phrygian progression in the key of E major, in which

the "tonic" chord would not be Em (as would be directly compatible with the scale) but rather E major. Hence, as might be expected, in melodies, G# occasionally substitutes for G, affording the E--F--G#--A formation so typical of Arab musics (Manuel, 47).

These phenomena illustrate the technical aspects of "syncretic fusion" in the process of musical acculturation and the continuing evolution of musical forms.

7. Conclusion

The Iberian Peninsula was, by the beginning of the first millenium C.E., a polyglot region with a long history of activity and occupation by a variety of disparate races and cultures. Semitic influence in southern Spain is especially strong having been established as early as 1100 B.C.E. and consisting of Phoenician and (probably) Jewish traders. After the Roman Diaspora beginning in 70 C.E., the Jewish population of Spain increased significantly.

Semitic influence was further increased when Moorish forces conquered much of Spain during the period 711- 716 C.E. When Europe was still enveloped in the "Dark Ages" al-Andalus was a brilliant and dynamic culture which synthesized Arab, Christian, Berber, and Jewish cultural traditions. Moorish forces continued to rule over much of Spain until the fall of Granada in 1492 marked the end of Muslim power there.

The Arabs introduced a classical tradition of poetry to Spain but new popular poetic forms reflecting the unique Andalusian temperament began to emerge in the tenth century. The new poetic forms were accompanied by music and reflected a native Andalusian style. Spanish Arab poets became the first educated people to adopt this folk-poetry to the purposes of polite entertainment.

This folk-poetry and the folk-music that was irrevocably part of it was created by the synthesized contributions of all the above groups. This is reflected in the multi-lingual nature of the poetry, surviving examples of which include Arabic, Hebrew, and Romance, and in the structural nature of both verse and music.

Structural features of these proto-typical forms (which may well be the progenitors of all modern lyric poetry) survive in later forms even to the present day, thanks largely to the minstrel class, whose "showy habiliments, painted faces, and long hair"(48) demonstrate an ancient tradition still very much alive in modern cultures.

When different cultures are thrown into close contact, merging of cultural forms inevitably occurs. This process of "syncretic fusion," most especially in the case of religious forms, is often marked by chaotic social turmoil of the most severe kind.(49) But, in the syncretic fusion of musical and poetic forms, cultural biases are more readily transformed into cultural appreciation through the experience of new synthetic tastes--made delightful to all in the enjoyment of music and song. Thus, potentially destructive prejudices give way to a new store of shared values which are adopted by the emerging synthetic culture. This explains the enduring popularity of the new syncretic forms.


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1. For simplicity's sake I have used this archaic Spanish transcription of the Arabic word throughout. The form commonly used in English is muwaaha. Likewise, the Spanish jarcha will be used for the English kharja, and zéjel for zajal.

2. See Stern, S.M., «Les verses finaux en espagnol dans les muwaahas hispano-hebraïques»,

al-Andalus, No. 13, 299-346, 1948. The date of composition 18 in Stern's group, written by Yusuf the Scribe and dedicated to ibn Negrella, is believed to be 1042, more than a century and a half earlier than currently accepted date of 1207 C.E. for the Poema del Mio Cid.

3. "Syncretic fusion" is meant to refer to the process of the uniting and blending of forms (in this case poetic and musical) emanating from different cultures in contact, into new hybrid forms.

4. John A. Crow, Spain: The Root and the Flower (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 24.

5. See Michener, James A., Iberia (New York: Random House, 1968), 56. Michener offers a much earlier for date for Iberian occupancy of Spain but does not offer any supporting evidence, nor does Crow for that matter. Josephs ( Josephs, Allen, White Wall of Spain - The Mysteries of Andalusian Culture (Pensacola: University of West Florida Press, 1990) states flatly on page three that, "The civilization of Andalucía is the oldest in the western World." (his italics).

6. Kings 10:2 1 2, 2 Chronicles 9:21, Jeremiah 10:9, and Ezekiel 27:12-25, to cite a few. The actual site of the city of Tartessos remains a mystery having eluded a number of attempts to locate it but it is thought to be in the region of the lower Guadalquivir valley.

7. Josephs, 10. Also, Jane S. Gerber, The Jews of Spain - A History of the Sephardic Experience (Toronto: The Free Press, 1992), 2.

8. Josephs, 4. This admixture, or fusion between and among different groups, is a key concept of this paper which shall be tendered later as critical to the creation of the poetic form exemplified by the jarchas.

9. Michener, James A., Iberia, (New York: Random House, 1968), 345, 548.

10. Crow, 26. Strabo, an ancient Greek geographer and historian (b.63 B.C.E.) who never actually visited Spain, wrote more than just a mention about the peninsula. See A Traveler's Map of Spain and Portugal, The National Geographic Society, 1984. This map includes an interesting chart drawn from Strabo's detailed descriptions.

11. Langer, William L, An Encyclopedia of World History, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1960), 100.

12. Langer, 102, and Crow, 28-29. The five-year Siege of Numancia is to this day a symbol of the stubborn independence of the Spanish people, a trait some scholars attribute to the Iberians.

13. Millás Vallicrosa, J.M., Literatura hebraicoespañola, (Barcelona: Editorial Labor, S.A., 1967), 11.

14. Ibid., 11; Also Gerber 2-3, and Adolfo de Castro, The History of the Jews of Spain. Trans. E. Kirwan. (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1972), 20-21.

15. Certainly there may be other reasons why words of Hebrew derivation are scarce in modern Castilian. A likely one is that such words may well have been expunged in the same manner as their speakers and for the same reasons: racial and religious bigotry. For statistics and other information about the current state of Sephardic Jewry and Judeo-Spanish see Donaire, Consejería de Educación y Ciencia, Embajada de España, E. Wulff Alonso, Dir., (Madrid: Marín Alvárez Hnos., S.A., No. 6, April 1996).

16. Wasserstein, David, The Rise and Fall of the Party-Kings - Politics and Society in Islamic Spain 1002-1086, (Princeton: Princeton University Press., 1985), 16-17.

17. Chejne, Anwar, Muslim Spain (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1974), 7 & 116. A popular myth with the disgruntled and defeated Visigoths was, naturally, that the Jews had prevailed upon the Moorish leader Musa to undertake the invasion, having secured assurances from him that Jews would have their religious rights restored to them under Moslem rule. According to Gothic legend, the Jews were instrumental in opening the very gates of Toledo and other Christian towns to the advancing Moslems. It is, of course, entirely reasonable to surmise that the Jews would have done so, given the opportunity. It is less reasonable to surmise that the Moors needed any particular encouragement towards conquest, given the impressive record of their expansion in the years leading up to the Spanish invasion.

18. The story of how a Talmudic school became established in Córdoba is one of pure accident. The Talmudic schools of the Jews had been languishing in Iraq whence a delegation set forth to try to raise money from more prosperous Jewish communities in the West. The delegation of four rabbis was captured at sea by a Muslim ship and one of them, Moses ibn Hanok, turned up a slave in Córdoba. He was soon ransomed by his co-religionists there and elevated to his former position of rabbi. With the co-operation of the Caliph, Abd-al-Rahman III, who saw in the affair an opportunity to sever another tie with the Eastern Caliphate, this living receptacle of Jewish religious knowledge was installed at the head of Spain's first Talmudic institution, one which soon eclipsed the moribund ones in the East and did much to revive Jewry's knowledge of itself. See Neubauer ( Ed.), Medieval Jewish Chronicles, Oxford: 1887, vol. I, p. 17.

19. This fabric included mainly Arab and Berber components. In addition, the Arabs were split between Qaysite (northern) and Yemenite (southern) groups and both groups were further factionalized along tribal lines. Added to this were large numbers of Slavic mercenaries and, of course, the native Andalusians. For a detailed discussion of this aspect of Islamic Spain see Wasserstein.

20. Chejne, 219-220. The qasida consists of verses divided into hemistichs, has a complicated meter, and uses monorhyme (the same rhyme throughout, e.g., every line ending in the same sound). Readers of Spanish may gain a sense of this form in García Lorca's derivative El diván de Tamarit (Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1981).

21. Chejne, 219-220. Muhammed may have railed but the Koran contains no such proscription against poetry or song. (See Wellesz, Egon, (Ed.), Ancient and Oriental Music, (London: Oxford University Press, 1957), 427).

22. For more on the Andalusian psyche and its tendency to affect invaders in unexpected ways see Ortega y Gasset's article Teoría de Andalucía in José Ortega y Gasset, Obras Completas (Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1961), 6:111-20.

23. Chejne, 224, (quoted from Nykl, Hispano-Arabic Poetry, p. 18).

24. It is certainly likely that these forms were developing long before the first known evidence of them. As for the Andalusian temperament, it is one that has a long held reputation for enjoying life to the fullest, expressing itself un-inhibitedly, and, most important of all, accepting--even celebrating--its tragic destiny ( i.e., mortality) through many colorful rituals still evident today ranging from las fiestas bravas to Good Friday religious processions.

25. Chejne, 234, (referring to Nykl, Hispano-Arabic Poetry, p. 339).

26. Valdés-Cruz, Rosa, De las jarchas a la poesía negra, New York: Senda Nueva de Ediciones, 1979, 21, and Brenan, 470.

27. For a detailed discussion of the Spanish Jews under a relatively tolerant Islam see Wasserstein, 190-223.

28. It was during the time of Saprut that the Cordovan Talmudic school was established (see footnote No.18).

29. Romance, the proto-Spanish language in the process of evolving from Vulgar Latin, was very likely the language of the majority uneducated classes (which would have included most women), the common speech of the streets, marketplaces, and bazaars of al-Andalus.

30. Zwartjes, Otto, Love Songs from al-Andalus (Leiden: Konninklijke Brill, 1997) , 32.

31. Brenan, Gerald, Literature of the Spanish People, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953), 33-34.

32. Zwartjes, 123.

33. Ribera, Julián, Music in Ancient Arabia and Spain (La Música de las Cantigas), Translated and Abridged by Eleanor Hague and Marion Leffingwell, (New York: Da Capo Press, 1970), 122.

34. Zwartjes, 68. See also footnote No. 2.

35. Ibid., 69. Ben Ezra also expressed his shame and regret for ever dabbling in the non-classical forms.

36. Romero Jiménez, José, La otra historia del flamenco, (Seville: Imprenta Escandón, 1996), Tomo I, 14, (citing Ribera)

37. H.G. Farmer in Wellesz, Egon, (Ed.) Ancient and Oriental Music, (London: Oxford University Press, 1957).

38. Chejne, 374: "it was in al-Andalus that popular poetry as embodied in the zajal and muwashshahat was set to music and sung in all places and for every occasion."

39. As regards manuscripts of musical notation, Spain can claim some the oldest in existence, dating from Visigothic times. Unfortunately these have yet to be deciphered (See Livermore, Ann, A Short History of Spanish Music, (London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd. 1972), 17.

40. Robertson, Alec, and Steven, Denis (Eds.), The Pelican History of Music, (Middlesex: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1960), 201.

41. To completely clarify the matter of liturgical forms used by the Spanish Church would be well beyond the scope of this study. Both Byzantine and Roman liturgical influences collided in Spain just as (respectively) Arian and Catholic dogmas did, all part of a massive process of "syncretic fusion." This provided yet another rich infusion of outside influences for Spanish music. The Mozárabic Rite is still celebrated in a chapel of the cathedral in Toledo.

42. Ribera states that the Andalusia poets "...invented an exceedingly clever strophic form which was different from the classic Arab forms. Many of the poems written in this style, with their artistic rythms, naturalness, brilliancy, and charm, spread throughout the peninsula, North Africa, and the Orient. They were also imitated by the Provençal troubadours, the German Minnesingers, and other European poets (Ribera, 3). Zwartjes, admitting its plausibility, discusses the theory that, "The muwaaha and the zajal were the models for European zajal-like strophic forms." (Zwartjes, 94 and 122-123).

43. For an explanation of Phrygian scales see Apel, Willi. The Harvard Dictionary of Music, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 19--), 669, Phrygian.

44. Manuel, Peter, Evolution and Structure in Flamenco Harmony, (Current Musicology, No. 42, 1986), 46-57.

45. Why should this by so? Perhaps because, in the process of effectively merging the forms of two cultures, cultural biases are subordinated to cultural appreciation through the experience of synthetic tastes new and delightful to both, and potentially dangerous prejudices begin to give way to a new store of shared values.

46. Among those who have recorded versions of it are María José Losada, Paco de Lucía, and Ana Belén. Federico García Lorca recorded a version of this ballad by the same title ("Las Morillas de Jaén")with the famed flamenca danceuse "La Argentinita," who sang while he accompanied her on piano. See, García Lorca, Federico, Obras Completas (Madrid: Aguilar, 1955), 1690-1692.

47. Apel, 669, Phrygian.

48. H.G. Farmer in Wellesz, Egon, (Ed.) Ancient and Oriental Music, (London: Oxford University Press, 1957).

49. Aside from the history of religious violence and warfare that marked Spain, an enduring example of this "chaos" is seen in the Mezquita of Córdoba where a Catholic Cathedral was thrust violently into the heart of a Muslim mosque. The structure reflects the process of "syncretic fusion" perfectly in its architecture. In spite of its perennial popularity with visitors, thoughtful observation of the Mezquita can be a painful and stressful experience for the sensitive mind and caused none other than Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (who had initially approved the project) to remark on the installation, "You have destroyed something that is unique in order to construct something that could have been constructed anywhere." The king was possibly trying to express some sympathy with the populace who had violently opposed the project (Crow, 51).

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