Church of Our Lady of Assumption
El Jadida [Mazagan], North Africa, Marocco
After the conclusion of the fortified perimeter, the efforts of the crown focused, during the following years, on the continuation of the exterior works and the construction of the buildings of the town. Conceived as a whole, the plan of the ensemble defines a nucleus of public buildings, symbols of power, which stand out for their scale and location, and an urban grid, with city blocks mainly composed of residential buildings, with a public area and vegetable garden. Near the entrance of the town, defining the parade ground, stood the main public buildings: the above-mentioned buildings of the cistern, the Governor’s Palace and the Church of Our Lady of Assumption.
The Parish Church of Our Lady of Assumption, dedicated to the former patron saint of the town, was built in the second half of the 16th century. It is a rectangular building built on a sea/land orientation which structures the ensemble. Facing east, its side elevation constitutes one of the fronts of the parade ground. The frontage of the church still features its 17th century outline which has certain similarities with Saint Andrew of Mantua by Alberti. During the 19th century, the upper section of the quadrangular tower of the church was demolished and some shops were built in front of the main façade, later demolished in 1916. After 1916, the existing tower was added to, giving origin to the present day tower, out of character with the Portuguese building. Inside the church, as Vergílio Correia says, “the chancel arch is characteristic of the late 15th century, the frame bordered with a moulding with angles on its lower part, is interrupted by the sharp edge of the frame. The side arcades are all encompassed from above by a single rectangular sash, in a disposition also usual in the 16th and 17th centuries”. After 1821, the interior was privately occupied and adapted to different needs. Under the French protectorate the building was restored to its function as a Catholic church. Over the last few years it has remained closed for archaeological work.
João Barros Matos