Church of St Peter & St Paul, Granada

History of the Church – Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is a Catholic church in Granada, Spain just at the foot of the hill of the Alhambra, on the bank of the Darro River (Carrera del Darro 4). The construction began in 1559 and ended in 1567 as the design of Juan de Maeda. The surrounding area in this loop of the Darro river was known during the Nasrid period as “Axares”, which means place of health and delight. Its present form developed during the XII century, creating a wide area of orchards that would last until the conquest by the Spaniards. Many palaces belonging to the Nasrid nobility were built in this area, dominated by the palace city of the Alhambra, situated to the north. Following the surrender of the city to the Catholic Monarchs, these lands were given to the nobles of the court, who built many Renaissance buildings along the street whose facades are decorated with murals. Many of these families chose this church as a burial site, in exchange for financing the decoration of some of its chapels. The use of wood in the city and kingdom of Granada was very common in the Middle Ages and Modern Age, although the scarcity of large forests did not allow constructing buildings entirely of this material. Instead timber was used in combination with stone, bricks or earth. The Mudejar style cannot be defined as a distinct architectural style, but as a series of techniques and decorations based on those used by Spanish Muslims during the seven centuries that they populated the Iberian Peninsula. This style was also used and employed in the constructions of the Christian kingdom.

The Main Deck of Armor – One of the most representative examples of traditional wooden constructions in the city of Granada is the deck armor (Armadura) of the main nave of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church, which shows a peculiar Mudejar style. Compared to the other timber vaults of the church, this is the largest one, with a rectangular base measuring 10 meters wide and 27.33 meters long. The structure is called ‘Par y Nudillo’, “pair and knuckle” because it has pairs of rafters (Pares) connected with collar beams (Nudillo). This structure also has some “Mohamares files”, that is to say, it has double rafters in the four corners, where the inclined skirts of the deck meet. The construction has seven stabilising elements called ‘Tirantes’ – horizontal trusses for adapting tensile strength while connecting the sole plates (Estribo) of the structure. These seven pair of beams are united with connecting elements (Peinazos) are placed to 2.73 meters apart from each other and their length is equal to the width of the nave. Furthermore, the corners are reinforced with “Cuadrales”, small beams placed at 45 degrees with respect to the walls of the building. Its mission is to prevent skirts from opening under the loads. The kind of decoration called “apeinazada” is directly carved on wooden beams and has a geometric form with “ties” of eight crossed stars. In the horizontal ceiling cloth called “almizate” there are four gilded “mozárabes cones” which represent a typical Muslim embellishment decoration.

Further Timber Structures – Eight side-chapels are located in the main nave. Except for seven of the side chapels, all the spaces are covered with wooden ceiling. They are called “Moorish deck armors” and they cover the main nave, the transept and two side chapels, the chancel and the baptistery chapel. The form of them isdiverse, containing eight-sided and four sided, but elliptical vaults as well. The construction of these armors was led by the “alarifes” or Moorish carpenters Juan Vílchez and Diego de Pesquera, who also carved the scallops of the transept and the chancel. All these armors have geometric decoration as a consequence of the influence of Moorish woodwork developed over three centuries by the Spanish-Muslim builders in the Moorish kingdom of Granada. But this is also combined with Christian decorative elements such as the heads of angels, as it can be found in the armor of the transept.

ASSEMBLY

In the case of St.Pedro´s Church in Granada, the complex interwoven timber decoration resembles a tapestry, consisting of numerous forms of decorated beam junctions. Generally, we can find four types of beam junctions that can be defined as: 90º union, Horquilla union, 1/2 wood union, 1/3 wood union.

A 90º: the inclined beams are supported on the walls by means of a cut in form of 90º: ESTRIBO-PAR.

Horquilla union: the beam fitting is managed by means of an intersection of both beams, whose dimension is 1/3 width of one of the beams and 2/3 of the other. One of them is located in the middle of the joint: PAR-NUDILLO

½ wood union: the beam connection iscreated by means of a intersection of both beams, which dimensions are ½ of beam thickness. This kind of joining is generally present between the same type of beams, for example in the following cases: TIRANTE-TIRANTE, NUDILLO-NUDILLO, PEINAZO-PEINAZO.

1/3 wood union: the beam union is created by means of an intersection of both beams, which dimensions are 1/3 of width of one of the beams and 2/3 of width of another one. We usually find this type of joining between the different types of beams, for example: PAR-PEINAZO, NUDILLO-PEINAZO.

VOCABULARY

“Apeinazada” – Truss formed by pieces of wood (peinazos) assembled so that they form an interlaced pattern, where the structure becomes the decoration itself. It is usually complemented with carved decoration on the surface.
“Ataujerada” – The structure is decorated by a traced covering layer hiding the surface of the construction.
“Armaduras De Cubierta” – Roof structure or vaulted ceiling often prepared from jointed timber elements.
“Par e Hilera” – Ridgepole roof
“Pares” – Pair of rafters (inclined beams).
“Hilera” – Connecting longitudinal beam among the pair of rafters serving as the ridge of the roof.
“Estribos” – Sole plate receiving the weight of the paired beams (Pares) and transmitting the load to the walls. This rests on the straps (tie beams) of the roof structure.
“Par y Nudillo” – Pair and Knuckle: roof structure, pair of rafters (Pares) connected with a collar beam (Nudillo).
“Nudillos” – Also called “bridge” (Puente) is the beam that connects the pair of rafters (Pares) at 2/3 of their height.
“Aguilones” – Horizontal stabilising element to support the Cuadrales, the bracing elements in the corners of the roof structures. The Aguilón beam runs perpendicular to the Cuadral beam, connecting the middle point of it with the corner of the roof structure.
“Peinazo” – Elements linking the pairs and knuckles to stiffen the structure, being perpendicular to them.
“Tirante” – Horizontal element wooden roof truss, whose function is to restrain the horizontal thrust on the walls, increasing the overall stability of the structure. It is placed between brackets and tensile faced.
“Cuadrales” – Short beams placed at 45 degrees with respect to the walls of the building. Their function is to prevent skirts from opening under the loads.