Islamic Monuments and National Patrimony in Modern Spain

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D. Fairchild Ruggles
Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The present remembers the past in order to understand itself. But the selfknowledge that springs from history can require delicate negotiations when the archaeology and history of monuments from the past do not accord with present identities. As a result, architectural stewardship can be fraught with nationalist tension. In Spain,
the Islamic past usefully differentiates Iberia from the rest of Europe, and its
monuments—particularly the Great Mosque of Cordoba and the Alhambra—are a source
of pride. However, the modern nation regards Islam as a fascinating chapter in a book that otherwise begins and ends with Christianity. Byzantine history is treated gingerly as a “distant” past that must be dealt with without being embraced.

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