Arts & Entertainment

The carpenter restoring Spain’s medieval Mudejar buildings

By Gines Donaire

Jaén, Spain, April 4 (EFE).- A medieval castle in southern Spain is being lovingly restored using ancient techniques in the Mudejar style influenced by the country’s Islamic past.

The Almodóvar del Río castle’s gilded wooden ceiling has been given a new lease of life by expert Paco Luis Martos, who is well known for his knowledge of architectural decorative techniques.

Martos tells Efe he has always been fascinated by restoration and “following the same technique and style of architectural and ornamental art developed in Spain between the 13th and 17th centuries.”

The expert, who in 2022 was lauded by Spain’s industry, trade and tourism ministry, has ample experience restoring castles, monasteries and palaces.

“I try to adapt architecture to the environment using local materials, but without losing the essence and tradition,” Martos tells Efe from his workshop in Úbeda, in the Andalusian province of Jaén.

He previously restored a 16th-century gilded wooden ceiling in Seville’s Palacio de los Dueñas, although he recalls the reconstruction of the Chapter House in the Sigena Monastery in Huesca as one of the riskiest jobs he has ever been involved in.

The coffered ceilings of the 13th-century hall, which is considered an icon of European Romanesque architecture, were scorched during the Civil War (1936-39) and Martos painstakingly recreated their former beauty.

Martos’ work in the monastery earned him a Hispania Nostra award for his contributions to safeguarding national heritage.

The restorer has become one of the few experts in Spain on Mudejar style and ornamentation.

He works alongside a handful of artisans who have managed to keep the artform alive.

One of his challenges is to ensure that the ancient profession is not lost and one way he is keeping the trade alive is through workshops at the University of Granada where he is hoping to help launch a Master’s degree in Mudejar carpentry, the first of its kind in Spain.

When asked what or who inspires him, Martos names Valencian architect and carpenter Enrique Nuere, considered the leading European specialists in historic carpentry.

But as well as delving into traditional restorations, Martos has many high-profile clients in Los Angeles where he also has a studio. EFE


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