One of the most original, eclectic and stylish architectural genres of late 19th century Spanish Modernism is the decorative and distinctively Spanish "Neomudéjar" style. The use of bricks as the main constructive element gives this architectural method its versatility and the power to be beautiful. Let us take a look...

Article by Karla Ingleton Darocas, ( (c)

The neo-Mudéjar arrived on the Spanish architectural scene in the late 19th century as a kind of Moorish revival and soon spread throughout Spain. Spanish architects mixed a wide range of Arabic and Western-inspired designs to create truly original and magnificent works.

One example is the "Hermanitas de los Ancianos Desamparados", meaning "Little Sisters of the Abandoned Elderly, a religious institute of papal right whose members take public vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and collectively maintain an evangelical way of life. The members devote themselves to the care of the elderly."

This huge building is a refuge for the elderly, or we would say a "nursing home", in the town of Sueca, the capital of Ribera Baixa in the province of Valencia. It was built in 1911 by a Sueca-born architect called Buenaventura Ferrando Castells and completed in 1919.

Castells completed his education in Madrid, where all architecture students were oriented towards the Viennese Secession, which propagated modernism as a new variant of neoclassicism. Castells, however, was a proud Valencian and was inspired by the Valencian Modernist movement, which pioneered the construction of new bullrings throughout the province. 

His design for the nursing home is both formally structured with a square base flanked by twin towers, and creative with the incorporation of different architectural styles, all in brick.

Let us take a look at some of these features...

At first glance, you can see the general harmony and balance of the windows and towers. It has perfect symmetry, a component of the neoclassical trend. Move closer to the patterns and designs, which are derived entirely from the intricate tile patterns of the Mudéjar style, and admire the sophistication.

Above are Gothic blue-framed windows in horseshoe arches in the Mudéjar style. They are crowned by basket-weave masonry. Below the windows stands proudly Christ in a baroque robe and halo, wearing his hair long. He wears a royal crown and stands in a niche surrounded by 3d herringbone masonry.

The lower windows are magnificent narrow gothic windows with wooden frames surrounded by recessed masonry, and again the 3d herringbone pattern at the top.

Each tower has round oval windows topped by a Latin cross created by a planned geometry worked into the masonry. If you look up from the base of the tower, you can see the geometric shapes that form a positive upward arrow shape from the masonry. Amazing!

From the Baroque period come these wonderful Solomonic or corkscrew columns on the main façade. And from the Middle Ages we find that this building is guarded by crazy winged Gothic beasts or gargoyles that help to divert rainwater away from the masonry.

On the sides there are other geometric shapes such as classical squares and rectangles to admire. The entire complex is surrounded by a wrought-iron fence with both arabesques and baroque patterns.

Inside the main doors is an entrance hall. Here, too, we see the wonderful work of the craftsmen, whose magic surrounds this beautiful, balanced and wide door made of pine wood with several arches, transformed into a tree of life.

The entrance is a Gothic vaulted room with exposed ribs holding a light in the keystone. The arched ribs in the vault are attached to the wall with formerets or wall ribs resting on decorative triangular brick corbels or brackets.

From a distance we see bell towers in the Baroque gable style with decorative ornaments on the top. The entrance portal is Gothic, as are all the lower flanking windows.


The economy of Sueca in the 19th century was essentially agrarian. It took a stronger position when it started growing rice.

In the 20th century, the peasants of Sueca changed from being servants of their noble landowners, many of whom lived in Valencia or in other towns, to individual, private landowners of some importance.

On 22 April 1922, two wealthy families combined their fortunes through the marriage of Antonio Baldoví Beltrán and Teresa Cardona Burguera.

The construction of the Hermanitas de los Ancianos Desamparados was financed with their inheritance money.

According to Beltrán's instructions, the building was to become a pantheon for him and his wife, who were each to receive a sarcophagus tomb in the nave of the inner church to admire. In the second half of the 20th century, however, these tombs were moved to one of the courtyards on the north side.


This building is beautiful. Many old Arabic decorative elements have gone into the design of this building, along with Gothic and even a little Baroque. It is absolutely eclectic.

Resource Books written by
Karla Ingleton Darocas 
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