Melque Santa Maria is located in the municipality of San Martín de Montalbán in the province of Toledo.
The entire complex, recently renovated, stands the church, exemplary Mozarabic Visigoth, which constitutes the most important religious monument of the High Middle Ages in Spain.
Today you can visit the church that occupies the center of the complex and the interpretation center is installed in adjoining units also restored.
Santa Maria was born Melque monastic in seventh and eighth centuries in what was the capital of the Visigoths, Toledo. Its original construction date is very old, the seventh century, which coincides with the end of the Visigoth kingdom. Probably its construction to a halt when he began the arrival of the Arabs and was completed and was renovated later.
Originally there was in that place fifth Roman with five dams on two rivers that surround the rocky hill. Then he built the monastery with buildings organized around the church.
The Muslim conquest of the Iberian peninsula did not immediately end this monastic center since there are testimonies to the survival of a Mozarabic community which then disappeared. Its buildings were used as village and its church was fortified with the construction of a tower on the roof of the church tower which still retains. Rainwater gullies and reservoirs by dams are located on either side of the complex.
With the conquest of Toledo by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1085 the church regained its liturgical function without losing its military role. Anthropomorphic tombs to the east and the remains of corbels that are conserved are witnesses of this historical period.
The small settlement survived well into the nineteenth century monastic buildings advantage for farm uses. The confiscation of Mendizabal ended with worship being for all its buildings to stables and barns.
Recently, in 1960, the provincial council of Toledo, has acquired the complex and its restoration has proceeded to rehabilitate not only the church but also the adjacent buildings which has been installed interpretation center of Santa Maria and the world Visigoth. In one of its rooms can still be seen a long trough built monastic own materials.It hopes to continue working in the recovery of the dams, the fence and the Islamic town.
The church was built in the first half of the eighth century and is the best preserved monument of the high medieval Spain. His construction technique is direct inheritance of the late Roman architecture.
However, the few decorative elements that remain (the intricate stucco arches of the transept) are linked with the Eastern Christian influences from Syria or Jordan. The great arcosolio (arc = arc; throne = sarcophagus) which can be seen even in the bottom of the south transept, suggests that Melque might be at first a mausoleum for the burial of a high character of the Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo. Later, the church was rebuilt at least twice.
The Templars of the Reconquista became defensive church tower, transforming it into a turris a Roman. This tower over the dome has been recently removed. It had a porch with three openings, now disappeared.
The plan is cruciform with a central apse and the two lateral apses were added later.Are kept intact its various ships, some lateral chapels and a room equipped with horseshoe arches very pronounced. It also retains a niche probably the founder of the temple.
The sanctuary is large, as befits a monastic community and both sides of it can be seen flattened arches. On the vault is preserved Moorish tower, which was accessed by external staircase.
The factory is huge blocks assembled dry, reminiscent of the aqueduct of Segovia. The molding is calculated in Roman cubits and is similar to that of San Pedro de Arisgotas, also in Toledo.
This church has clearly Visigothic style inputs and innovative solutions provided by the Mozarabic, and also memories of the Roman style:
Visigothic Contributions: The horseshoe arch that holds the vault of the apse, which exceeds by one third of the radius. The set remains devoid of carved Visigothic tradition. The catacombs.
Contributions Mozarabic: Arcos central horseshoe ½ exceeded in radio. Arches of the windows on two thirds. The strange semicircular interior pillars can not be considered detached.
Innovations: The circular recess of four corners in the groove vertical facades on both sides, giving the appearance of pseudo column. They look to the columns at the corners of the towers Norman Romanesque style lanterns. It is an unprecedented solution.
Roman Style: The huge blocks of granite, the molding in Roman cubits, its plant that can be compared to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna (Italy).
Visigoth is a building from the chronological point of view, but protomozárabes solutions.