Women and the Architecture of al-Andalus: A Historiographical Analysis

María Elena Díez Jorge, Universidad de Granada, mdiez@ugr.es

The mythical image of al-Andalus has always aroused great interest amongst the travelers and scholars from different periods who have reflected on and analysed the most important monuments of andalusi architecture, almost from the very moment of their creation. In the first written sources and in subsequent studies there have often been references to patronage and to the uses given to the different areas of these buildings, but little interest has been shown in research into the specific field of uses according to gender, or even into the different areas occupied by women. There has also been very little analysis of possible collaborations between the two genders in the patronage of these constructions. The rare references to women have tended to view them from the object perspective rather than as subjects. It is therefore clear that in historiographical terms a serious reflection on the architecture of al-Andalus from a gender perspective has yet to be made.
In this article, we embark on a detailed journey through the different studies of both Islamic and Christian andalusi architecture over the ages (10th-16th c.), our aim being to rediscover the information and opinions “created” and compiled on this question, from the first comments made by early travelers and romantics to those of today’s specialists. Do the studies written hitherto make women visible as creators of architecture, in their different roles as patrons, users, or craftswomen? Have any gender-based criteria been established to distinguish between different conceptions of space and of architecture, depending on whether those participating in the construction or patronage of these monuments are men or women?