Reign in Spain: I Tripped, I Saw, I Appreciated

By Lira Luis, AIA, RIBA, LEED AP, Principal Architect, Atelier Lira Luis, LLC

The Reign In Spain A&D Tour kicked off in Zaragoza, Spain, famous for its folklore, gastronomy, and architecture. And I got to know the Old Town Zaragoza and its history up close and personal—I tripped over a crater while walking on the cobblestone streets as I looked up and admired the Baroque architecture of Nuestra Senora del Pilar Basilica and the Gothic-Mudéjar architecture of La Seo Cathedral. This was as close as I could get to viewing and analyzing the cobblestone paving material that was ubiquitous in Zaragoza. I remembered that particular street was laid out in a running, bond paving pattern.

The Nuestra Senora del Pilar, or simply El Pilar, has an interesting folklore that could give reality TV drama a run for its money. St. James the Apostle built this church in honor of the Virgin Mary, after seeing an Apparition of Pilar. “This place is to be my house, and this image and column shall be the title and altar of the temple that you shall build.” El Pilar underwent numerous reconstructions in history and the current Baroque style was begun in the 16th century. Baroque architectural style was a spin off from the Renaissance style characterized by explorative forms that convey the triumph of the Catholic Church and the absolutist state. This Roman Catholic cathedral also features a couple of frescos by renown artist Francisco de Goya: The Queen of Martyrs and Adoration of the Name of God.

Multifoil-Arch Gothic-Rib-Vault

Nearby, along Plaza de la Seo, stands the La Seo Cathedral, or La Seo. It is listed as a World Heritage Site Mudejar Architecture of Aragon and shares cathedral status with the El Pilar. Since it has been the site of several religious buildings, a mixture of architectural styles is evident from the Romanesque, to the Baroque, to Neo-classical, then Mudejar and Gothic, where it strikingly is characterized by the crossing of ceiling vaults.

The Reign In Spain group capped off the tour of Old Town Zaragoza by visiting the Aljaferia Palace. The Islamic Palace is listed as part of UNESCO’s World Heritage site and considered one of the most representative of Aragonese Mudejar Architecture. One of the striking elements in the building is the presence of the multi-foil arches.

Lira Luis, AIA, RIBA, LEED AP is a Principal Architect at Atelier Lira Luis, LLC in Chicago, IL. She was named the AIA ATHENA Young Professional Awardee by the American Institute of Architects and was selected by Tile of Spain in December 2010 as a Reign in Spain finalist. From Feb. 4-12, 2011, she will join a group of journalists and other members of the A&D community in a junket that will travel to the cities of Zaragoza, Teruel, and Valencia, taking in Spanish architecture, culture, culinary temptations, and Cevisama, the International Ceramic Tile and Bath Furnishings Show. (Image and sketches credits: Lira Luis)


  1. I gather Zaragoza is a beautiful place to fall (in love) for Architecture, and your experience could not have come at a better time of year (Feb. 14 just days away).

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