Old decorated wooden ceilings are abundant in Spain. They are called artesona- dos, and are of remote origin.
Prudencio, the Spanish Roman, writing late in the fourth century, describes the “gilded ceiling with painted coffers” which covered the basilica of Saint Eulalia in Merida; and Saint Isidore of Seville, the Visigoth, writing in the seventh, also mentions rich artesonados of wood.
No example from these far-off days has come down to us, but there was recently uncovered in the mosque of Cordova a considerable area of decorated wooden ceiling, probably the original ninth-century one so praised by early Arab poets.
At any rate, it is with the Moorish occupation that the authentic history of this subject begins, and it is in Andalusia, where Moorish influence lasted longest, that the tradition still persists. It must not be inferred, however, that all Spanish ceilings are of typical Eastern carpentry, for the beamed and coffered varieties common to all Europe were by no means unknown to Spain.
Owing to the perishable nature of the material and the tumultuous centuries through which Spain has passed, there is no complete example extant older than six or seven centuries, except the previously mentioned work in Cordova; but as some of the oldest existing are known to be repetitions of their deteriorated predecessors, a fair idea of Spanish ceilings as constructed in Moorish, Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance days may be formed from the material presented in the portfolio of Plates published simultaneously with this volume.
No attempt has been made to adequately illustrate those stalactite constructions and profuse inlaid decorations so typically Eastern, although a few have been included on this website – to do juustice to the Moorish craftsman’s skill.
Similarly, to show the extravagance of those designers who tried to blend Moorish with flamboyant Gothic, some of the extraordinary Guadalajara examples are given on this site – but, mainly, the articles show the simpler effects produced by straightforward, easily understood methods, within the scope of modern carpentry.
Considering that the wooden ceilings of Spain are unique in Europe, save for a few Sicilian examples dating from the Saracenic occupation, it is surprising that they have gone thus far unrecorded and have neverbeen offered in collected form. It ishoped that their presentation may stimulate all who are interested in good wood-work, and reveal to them to what an appreciable extent artistic carpentry was