The Orientation of Pre-Romanesque Churches in the Iberian Peninsula

Gonzalez-Garcia, A. C.; Belmonte, J. A.
Bibliographical reference

NEXUS NETWORK JOURNAL, Volume 17, Pages 353-377

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The orientation of Christian churches is a distinctive feature of its architecture, repeating patterns from early Christian times that show a general tendency to orientate their apses in the solar range, with a predilection for orientations near the astronomical equinox. We measured the orientation of a total of 167 churches built prior to A.D. 1086. A comprehensive statistical analysis of the sample indicates a decisive orientation pattern, with a clear tendency to orientate according to the standard tradition, albeit with certain particularities. Three sub-samples are examined to find the tendencies at each different historical time. This exercise indicates that the main group of orientations seem to relate to the Canonical equinox on 25 March, while popular 'expected' orientations, such as that of the rising sun on the day of the patron saint of the church, are completely absent. Other groups of orientations are specific to each period, such as that towards sunrise on Saint James's day, important only after the discovery of the saint's tomb in the ninth century.
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