Origins, Reformulation and Transmission: The cross-fertilization of Islamic Architectural features across Cordoba and Venice from the 10th to the 14th Century.
Chapter 1: Introduction P.5
Chapter 2: Origins- Damascus P.6 Great Mosque of Damascus
Chapter 3: Transmission â€“ Kairouan P.11 Sidi Uqba Mosque
Chapter 3: Reformulation- Cordoba P.16 Cordoba Mezquita
Chapter 4: Cross-Fertilization- Venice P.24 San Marco Cathedral
Chapter 6: Conclusion P.31
I would sincerely like to express my gratitude to all involved in the process of refining this work. In particular I would like to thank Dr. Nikolaos Karydis for his guidance, support and deep knowledge regarding the subject in question. A real eye opener of the grand scale regarding the intricacies of the topic, were explained in his lecture on the â€˜Architectural Encounters between Byzantium and Islam from the 10th to the 13th Centuryâ€™ delivered on Islam and Byzantium at the Ashmoleon Museum, University of Oxford. Finally I would like to thank my family and friends for their input and support, throughout the writing of this analytical piece on the fusion in Islamic architecture and its relevance to Southern European edifices from the 10th to 14th centuries.
At the turn of the second millennium we have come to reside in a world where written, oral and visual communication can be achieved almost instantaneously across continents. Cultural homogenization seems inevitable. Yet even within this accelerated sphere of cultural fusion, the concept of east meets west remains fundamental to our ideological, political and cultural framework.’₁ This essay, however, concentrates on an era when communication was slower; the transmission of visual imagery was less extensive and the transcendence of continental barriers was thriving due to the unity of the Mediterranean world. From the eighth century to the end of the eleventh, Arabic was the international language of science and culture, and subsequently remained for at least two hundred years as one of the most important vehicles for progressive thought.₂ A major factor in this ‘age of enlightenment’ was undoubtedly the emergence of Islam, the prophetic call to pure monotheism sprouting from the Arabian Peninsula in 610. The faith spread like wildfire from Egypt along the north coast of Africa through the zeal of the Muslim Caliphate and by 720, Islam had been embraced all over the Iberian peninsula and was soon pressing through European soil, almost reaching France. In the latter its triumph was ephemeral, whereas in the former it was sustained and flourished for centuries.₃
₁ Deborah Howard, 2000. P.XI ₂ George Sarton, 1936. P.406 ₃ Christopher Tadgell, 2008. P.7
The rise of the Islamic civilization entailed the development of an inventive architectural language and ingenuity in construction, evident in the emerging Muslim lands. In this essay I aim to take the long journey from examining the origins of Islamic monuments, featuring the relationship between Islam and Byzantium between the 8th and 9th century. Furthermore, how did ‘Islamic’ architectural features flow across the western pale and mature in Moorish Spain along with creating a hybrid style in Venice? A comparative analysis focusing on Andalucia and Venice will aim to portray a holistic approach on the subject, studying whether influence and inspiration was taken from Damascene and North African precedents and if apparent, how the socio-economic and military relations with the Arab world reflected a stream of architectural fusion between Islam and Southern Europe. This essay revisits some of the key monuments of Islamic architectural heritage, in Damascus, Kairouan and Cordoba and identifies its offshoots that filtered through to European works in terms of building techniques, architectural planning and motifs. The monuments studied in this essay help to investigate an exchange of architectural ideas between the Islamic world and the Southern Mediterranean countries from the 10th to 14th centuries. Creating a database from this period will help to illustrate if stylistic features were emulated, producing extremely unique architectural forms in Spain, Italy and beyond. Furthermore, I aim to research further into the Neo-Moorish and Venetian Gothic revival and discover whether these architectural rebirths share direct influences with Islamic architectural vocabulary.
There have been several scholarly publications studying the architecture of Moorish Andalucía and separate works on the Venetian republic, which were referred to as the main texts for the formulation of this work. Deborah Howards Venice & the East allowed us a deeper understanding into the heyday of Levantine trade and its diplomatic relations with its Arab trade partners. Broadening my knowledge on the merchant experience via Eastern trade routes was key in helping me extract information on why the visual characteristics of architecture of Venice and the Islamic world seemed to correspond. Howard investigates the precarious process of assimilation that accompanies the migration of forms between one religious ideology to another.₄ The work does however, make some rather startling errors, claiming the domes of San Marco were inspired by the mosque of Ibn Tulun relating to structure and form, when the attribution should be given to a mosque nearby. Although alluding to these important points, the essay will focus more on the synthesis and study of architectural qualities in Venice and aim to trace back these features with more traditional Islamic works. Another significant piece of literature I studied was Marianne Baracunds Moorish Architecture. Immersed in her eloquent analysis of Cordoba mosque aided the appreciation of the intricate decorative details of the Moorish masterpiece in addition to reliving the stages of its regeneration. However, the book does not investigate whether craftsmanship and inspiration could be linked back to the roots of the Umayyad dynasty occupying Andalucía. The aim is to analyse the stylistic approach, spatial qualities and identifiable features and how the transmission of the architectural approach differed to Venice.
₄ Deborah Howard, 2000. P.XI
There is limited research regarding the crux of Islamic architectural features and relates them to the development of Southern European design between the 10th to the 14th century yet this work intends to explore this field further. Some limitations acknowledged included the difficulty in distinguishing from self-conscious and indirect influences. In addition some of the cross-cultural influences in Islamic architecture have several origins including sharing common roots with Byzantine works. Confronting this problematic nature of ‘influence’, it gradually became evident I would have to limit my scope and concentrate mainly on clear ‘shared’ architectural assimilation without neglecting the routes in which these ideas bled into Mediterranean lands. It will be clear to the reader that neatly wrapping the topic of an east-west cultural transfer faces several obstacles and the essay does not claim to do this. There is a conscious inclusion of Byzantium’s immeasurable contribution to the visual characteristics of the Islamic works, to maintain an equitable argument if claiming specific trans-cultural transcendence. What it should provide, however, is a narrative and architectural analysis of the contribution of early Islamic monuments and the journey of its signature features into the Western world.
Fig.1 Artist rendition of the original Masjid Al Nabawi.
Punctuating the world from Spain to Northern Africa – a world unified in faith and commerce was able to produce some of the most spectacular architecture to date. The foundation of this sacred yet stylistic approach manifested its principles in Islamic monuments throughout the globe that can be traced back to the humble beginnings of the Masjid Al Nabawi. The Prophet Muhammad founded the first centre of faith, constituting the typical place of Muslim congregational prayer, in 622 after fleeing Mecca and residing in Medina. The main components of the original precinct consisted of an open-air building, partially surrounded by verandas covered in palm fronds, to provide shelter for the worshippers. Subsequent Islamic rulers enlarged the mosque and in 707, Umayyad Caliph Abd Al-Malik surrounded the courtyard with galleries and minarets on all four sides, alongside the mihrab, which was accentuated with a small dome on the qibla wall. The orientation and protection of such spaces were always to be the first objectives of Muslim builders. With no native monumental tradition of building as a precedent, they readily adapted what they found to augment their liturgical needs.₅ Interestingly, Coptic and Greek craftsmen adorned the mosque walls with mosaics, suggesting from the very initiation of Islamic architecture there was a cross-cultural exchange in ideas with the Byzantine world. ₅ Christopher Tadgell, 2008. P.30 ₆ Christopher Tadgell, 2008. P.30
Within a hundred years of the promulgation of Islam, Muslim builders began refining archetypal construction techniques such as adapting Christian trabeation or reusing materials obtained from them. Generally the factors determining form and style were dependent on the climate and locally sourced materials, however, in the Fertile Crescent – the cradle of civilization arching from Syria and Palestine – the first Muslims drew on the most antique monumental traditions. Example and ready fashioned elements for reuse were taken from Mediterranean shores, where masonry carving and construction were perfected by the Greeks and diversified by the Romans. Islamic architecture began articulating its structure through various methods such as stone carving, moulding brickwork and implementing nonfigural mosaic tiling. In addition to materiality, some spatial principles possibly adapted from Byzantine origins included the Basilica. Initially the early Christians adopted it as the archetypal church and were later imposed in the hypostyle hall to distinguish the axis of prayer.
Fig.2 Plan of the Great Mosque of Damascus.
Ultimately the shelter provided for worshippers developed into a multi-columned or arcaded hall whose bays were invariably multiplied to a greater extent in length than in depth to provide for maximum exposure to the imam and mihrab. The transformation from the prototypical mosque such as the Masjid al Nabawi to a monument conceived to rival architectural glories of Byzantine was built in 685 in Damascus, under the reign of the Umayyad dynasty. It was here that the builders of the new faith began to find their way towards idiosyncratic monumentality and its embellishment. Along with its primary function as a place of worship, The Great Mosque of Damascus served as a political and social forum in addition to retaining the community’s treasury. The Umayyads were able to redistribute the riches acquired from the vast booty of expanding Islamic military conquests, to aid the construction of the magnificent building. The site had been one of religious significance before, originally a Greco-Roman temple and later transformed into a Byzantine cathedral. The cultural and religious complexity regarding the history of the site provided an impressive range of ingredients for the new eclecticism. Oleg Grabar emphasized the concerning need for the new Muslim polity to identify the reconstruction as ’other’ and ‘new’ while simultaneously ensuring its acceptance in the ‘existing world’. ₇ Christopher Tadgell, 2008. P.45 ₈ Christopher Tadgell, 2008. P.53 ₉ Finbarr Barry Flood, 2000. P.214
A quest for a symbolic identity was vital, while at the same time demonstrating a separate identity in relation to the Christian subjects in the caliphate. Al-Walids architectural patronage represented a response to these needs, implicitly accepting that it addressed a duality of identity issues This duality can be seen in the main structures of the Great Mosque of Damascus, where the building preserves the first currents of fusion between Islamic and Byzantine architecture. The plan of the mosque is ordered by the regular geometry of the temple and basilica, however the temenos was reconfigured where the caliph’s architects solved the issue of covering large spaces by reusing columns from redundant buildings to form hypostyle halls. The transept interrupting the prayer hall, atrium and aisle hall are integral to Byzantine and early Christian architecture and all elements are evident in the mosque. The separation of spaces in the building could be seen to correlate to the feeling achieved when walking down an early Christian monastery and basilica. Even though the typical basilica, Christian or Roman, with the side aisles and naves, could possibly have inspired the triple colonnade of the prayer hall, the Damascene monument displays the three parts in equal width. In addition, cutting through these colonnades at the head of the nave, the main mihrab is one of the earliest known, following the examples set under Al-Walid in Medina.
Fig.3 Interior Prayer Hall of the Great Mosque of Damascus.
The basic arrangement of the Umayyad Mosque is very similar to Masjid Al Nabawi, with a covered courtyard to shelter the faithful from the sun, a fountain of ablution in the centre and a sense of meeting place where everyone is invited. Precedent was taken from the origins of the mosque and the incorporated spatial arrangement stayed with the Muslims for a thousand years and beyond. However, major innovative features were also prevalent in the Damascene sanctuary as the dome and nave present, were attributed to Al-Walids architects who portrayed individualistic language throughout the building. The vertical articulation of the exterior and interior spaces of the Great Mosque of Damascus mosque in terms of arcades, elevated bays and niches ensured a certain formal coherence, in addition to the horizontal parameters which were generally dictated by local conditions or pre-existing structures.₁₀ The direction of the qibla and the overall dimensions of the mosque unlike the Prophets Mosque in Medina, which were wider than they were long, were determined by the use of the outer walls of the pre-Islamic temenos. ₁₀ Finbarr Barry Flood, 2000. P.208 ₁₁ Christopher Tadgell, 2008. P.59
Architectural features at the mosque in Damascus appear to show common Byzantine flavours forming a cultural hybrid, and alongside the Prophets mosque, the Arabian sanctuaries undoubtedly introduced novel elements. The likelihood of the inspiration for the decoration taken from Byzantine monuments is high, for example parallels can be seen with the use of a continuous vine frieze. Similarly, clear evidence of influence can be witnessed within the fountain of the treasury. The unusual structure, where the mosque treasures were stored, was set upon Romanesque columns. These columns supported an octagonal bank vault, demonstrating the juxtaposition of fusing old architectural features with the new, which displayed exquisite marble panels around the main walls in addition to several marble grills, in alternating geometric patterns, succeeding the windows.₁₁ Like the majority of decorative works from early Islamic buildings, the mosaic covered exposed surfaces, above the marble, were credited to artists from Constantinople.
P a g e | 10
Fig.4 Fountain of the Treasury.
Fig.5 the Great Mosque of Damascus Façade.
The mosaics, embellished with sumptuous greens and luscious gold’s are colours used in the Quran to describe paradise. There have been many debates about what the golden walls are depicting, some claiming they are the perfect evocations of Damascus itself, beautified and watered. Others believed Al-Walid was demonstrating the dominance and possession of Islam after its conquest and rule. The caliph used Byzantine craftsmen to construct the largely floral motifs, which once again shows the blur in fusion between cross-cultural participation in the build.
Derived from the Roman fastigium – the propylaeum of palace and temple, the central frontispiece is prevalent at both Islamic and Byzantine architectural works. A final noteworthy feature in the mosque that affirms cross-cultural exchange in architectural language between the two ideologies, are the generally semi-circular arches. These are articulated in the Roman and Byzantine manner unlike later important Islamic works, where the signature horseshoe and pointed arches came to grace. Initially, the pointed arch was inspired by the Sassanid’s but was developed and popularized by the Muslims, especially in Islamic occupied North Africa, which then passed westward to inspire the rise of the Gothic age. The importance of the architectural features and spatial qualities of the Great Mosque of Damascus cannot be underestimated, with the work becoming a source of inspiration with the spread, dominance and conquest of the Umayyad dynasty.
More specifically, similarity can be deduced between the representation of a Byzantine palace in Theodoric’s church of S.Apollinare Nuovo, at Ravenna, and the court façade at the Damascene monument.₁₂
₁₂ Christopher Tadgell, 2007. P.690
P a g e | 11
P a g e | 12
Fig.6 Interior Prayer Hall of the Great Mosque of Kairouan showing reused capitals and columns.
In addition to the Great Mosque of Damascus, several novel aesthetic features began emerging subsequent to the expanding Umayyad conquest of lands foreign to Arabia. The crossarchitectural syntax of early Byzantine, Roman and Islamic edifices were successful in communicating a new eclectic language, with the possible re-enactment of the plan of the Prophets mosque at Medina once again used as a basis. This unique synthesis of ideals clearly had a significant impact beyond Damascus. The continual growth of Islam naturally inflated demand for Muslim buildings and with the centre of gravity shifting from Damascus to North Africa, the development of architectural language extended beyond the Umayyad norm. Built by Uqba ibn Nafi in 670, one of the North African architectural achievements of the Umayyad caliphate is the Great Mosque of Kairouan.₁₃ The close relation between architectural influence in Damascus and Kairouan may have been strengthened when Musa ibn Nusayr, who was directly responsible to the Caliph at Damascus, was appointed the governor of Ifriqiya in 720. ₁₃ Marianne Barracund, 2007. P.25 ₁₄ Akel Kahera, 2002.
Situated as the base in the struggle against the indigenous Berber tribes, it was at the mosque as Kairouan, for the very first time in the Islamic world, where the form of the T-plan was clearly expressed, while maintaining the feature of an open interior courtyard space. The evolution of mosques served to confirm the hypothesis of ‘amara’, which meant to build or maintain, as the distinguished practice of recycling all or part of a pre-existing structure, similar to Damascus, remained evident at the Sidi Uqba Mosque. Similar to Damascus, the process of reconstruction and adaptive reuse clearly manifests at the mosque. The edifice, where integrated in the hypostyle plan, are structural elements processed through the development of Byzantine and Roman construction techniques. From a theoretical position, the implementation of these recycled elements at Kairouan and the adaptation of an existent structure at Damascus illustrate the borrowing of architectural vocabulary simply for its structural efficacy.₁₄ Despite this, the contribution of this newfound expression has contributed significantly to the general formation of Islamic art.
P a g e | 13
Fig.7 Plan of Great Mosque of Kairouan.
The Great Mosque of Kairouan depicts a rectangular form, 135 by 80 meters, with narrow rectangular buttresses on the outside made of stone. Imported material was used from Iraq, when Abu Ibrahim Ahmed completed the great mosque, manipulating the Samarran style in the process. He also emphasized crenellations on the north elevation depicting the incurrencearticulating characteristic of Islamic architecture. One peculiarity is exhibited in the building noted by Christian Ewert, for which no concrete explanation exists. While making a systematic study of the reuse of the capitals and columns, Ewert noticed the capitals were set in such a way it was reminiscent of the plan of the Dome of the Rock. This similarity to previous Islamic architectural works is not isolated, and neither surprising. It could hardly have been a coincidence, however it is still difficult to visually account for this as one walks through the mosque. Therefore, the most plausible conclusion would be it corresponded to some other possible pious process.₁₅ Concentrating on spatial features at Kairouan, emphasis is placed upon the central area over the colonnades, providing a rhythmical accompaniment along the length of the covered spaces and the court. The mosque boasts transverse naves, following the pattern of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus with this spatial configuration also later being imposed in Cordoba. ₁₅ Ettinghausen/Grabar, 2001. P.35 ₁₆ Marianne Barracund, 2007. P.143
Fig.8 Marble panels and faience tiles on mihrab wall.
Being an extension of a 9th century building could possibly explain the archaic design of the Great Mosque of Kairouan, where limitlessness of space is thoroughly emphasized through the use of a forest columns. This can be witnessed through the three axes of symmetry in the mosque. Providing support for the third supporting block columns there are two lateral axes, in addition to one through the central part of the axial nave, serving the equivalent of a triple gate into the covered area in addition to the whole façade. Bays on both sides of the central nave can be deduced to be relatable to either of the compositions centred on these axes, and hence serve as a ‘relay’ between the interlocking elements of the façade. Several North African mosques bear witness not only to the religious enthusiasm of their patrons, but also to the expertise of their builders, with this certainly being the case at Kairouan.₁₆ This can be observed when further discussing the architectural features of the mosque. The brilliance of the canopy at the domed area in front of the mihrab, is the first time a conscious effort is made to exceed the symbolism of wealth from the rest of the building. Brought over from Iraq in the form of marble panels, the mihrab of the Great Mosque displays faience tiles on it as a facing. Of particular importance in the richly decorated mihrab are four massive arches supporting an intricately delineated square.
P a g e | 14
Fig.9 Pointed horseshoe arches of the haram sanctuary.
Fig.10 Interior of umbrella dome with scallop-shell squinches.
This is linked to a transitional zone of an octagonal arcade on small columns and four scallop-shell squinches supporting a ribbed dome across the corners and matching the cusped arches to the side. Interestingly, the dome in front of the mihrab, shows the form and method used distinguishes itself from Byzantine precedents. The umbrella dome, resting on squinches, is more typical of Northern African precedents. The origins of the squinch used in Kairouan Mosque and later Islamic architectural works could be traced back to the Palace of Sarwistan in the 5th century along with the Alahan Monastery. Furthermore the systematic use of the squinches was prevalent in the 9th and 10th century in North Africa and later swept through to Andalucía, however, this architectural element was not otherwise seen too often in Southern Europe.
One main architectural feature, which can be seen as synonymous with the Uqba mosque, are the horseshoe arches. Unlike the Umayyad mosque of Damascus, where semi-circular arches are implemented, a screen of pointed horseshoe arches masks the prayer hall from the court with the reused columns supporting its roof.
₁₇ Andrew Peterson, 1999.
Once again Islamic architects adopted the arch, with it previously known from pre-Islamic Syria where the form was used in the fourth century CE in the Baptistery of St. Jacob.₁₇ Similarly, the Umayyads embraced and enhanced the Visigoth form by accentuating the curvature of the arch and manipulating the use of alternate colours to highlight the effect of its shape, which can especially be seen in Cordoba Mosque.
P a g e | 15
Fig.11 Kufic script and intricate patterns.
Intertwined with the geometric and floral designs, epigraphy is also found, and the Kufic writing which adorns the mihrab and other parts of the mosque, possibly encapsulate a link back to the stern lettering which came from Kufa on the banks of the Euphrates. Paul Sebag describes the eclectic treatment used in the mosque: ’Arabic writing, which evolved from simple Kufic, lends itself here to the fantasy of the calligrapher and reveals an incomparable quality of decoration. The elements are juxtaposed and mingled to compose a décor’.₁₈ Sebag’s explanation does not only relate to Kairouan, as these elements can be found in several other monuments, for example the Great Umayyad mosques at Damascus and Cordoba. The benefits of manipulating this aesthetic language is having the unique nature of visual beauty, surface treatment and flowing form which suggests a positive correlation between the beliefs in addition to spatial cognition.
₁₈ Paul Sebag, 1965. ₁₉Marianne Barracund, 2007. P.144
Fig.12 Geometric patterns and floral design set in mosaic tiles.
Kairouan was rebuilt between 1135 and 1142. The extravagant geometric, vegetal and epigraphic stucco décor of the mosque was seemingly derived almost directly for the precedents at Taifa. However, the ground plan, coupled with the progressively complex arch forms and the Muqarnas domes all reflected inspirations that were autonomous compared to Andalusian works.₁₉ The mosque of Kairouan enhances the feeling of architectural cultural hybridity as certain Byzantine components in the formation of mosque architecture gained further approval. The Great Mosque of Kairouan demonstrates a ‘shared fusion of architectural syntax’ providing a precedent for mosques throughout the western reaches of Islam, as the Islamic empire expanded across the Mediterranean to Andalusian shores.
P a g e | 16
P a g e | 17
Fig.13 Map of the spread and conquered lands during the Umayyad dynasty.
In North Africa the growing Islamic empire gathered momentum and the ethnic indigenous people, known as the Berbers, converted to Islam in huge numbers, further strengthening the Islamic conquest and migratory wave across the Iberian Peninsula. Led by Tariq ibn Ziyad, though under the suzerainty of the Arab caliph of Damascus, Abd al-Malik and his North African viceroy, Musa ibn Nusayr, the Muslims engulfed the majority of the former Visigoth peninsula by 732 and named their land AlAndalus. In the following decades the marketplaces reflected a turbulent melting pot of cultures, ideas and allegiances as Berber and Arab settlers were sharing their new home with the Christian and Jewish natives. This period of ‘convivencia’ and the subsequent interplay of cultural ideas was also seen to be reflective in the major architectural works of the Umayyads. The Umayyads of Cordoba had prospered after Abd- al-Rahman established himself as an independent power with the support of the refugees who accompanied him from Syria.₂₀ The fugitive prince fleeing the bloody coo of his royal family back in the Islamic capital of Damascus, helped his dynasty to prosper by aiding in transforming Andalucía, once a mere outpost in the larger Islamic empire, develop into an important centre of trade. ₂₀ Christopher Tadgell, 2008. P.198 ₂₁ Marianne Barracund, 2007. P.40
Viking ships from the North Sea in addition to merchants from the new Islamic capital of Baghdad would bring an influx of goods and people to the capital of Cordoba. Could this connection to various cultural ideologies as well as links with the roots of Islamic lands and the original Islamic heritage be a means for possible architectural assimilation? The Great Mosque of Cordoba epitomized the architectural fusion and sophistication of a cultured edifice in Islam’s western buttress. Certainly not ignorant of Samarran or Syrian developments, the great mosque also combines the rich vocabulary of architectural expression between Byzantium and Islam. Like Damascus, the site was originally occupied with a Christian church dedicated to three deeply revered Christian martyrs, however, Abd-al Rahman was permitted to reconstruct the edifice into a lavish mosque. Completed within the years 785787, the relatively short construction period was largely accredited to numerous Roman and Visigoth remains still available for re-use in situ, in addition to the mandatory funds being acquired from the booty gained in the successful campaign at Narbonne.₂₁
P a g e | 18
Fig.14 The development and extensions of the Cordoba Mezquita plan.
A string of capable caliphs culminated in Abd al-Rahman III (912-61) building upon the base initiated by Abd al-Rahman II (833-852) with the haram developing into one of the most sophisticated and cultured examples of architectural regeneration. Initially the building was square in plan and was relatively modest in size, measuring 74 meters in length. Consisting of a sacred space for prayer and an open courtyard, with the former measuring 37 meters from front to back and supported by four massive buttresses. One can see why comparisons are made with Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina as the very simple style of build could be seen to have relations, with elements such as the portico in the Prophets mosque, the hypostyle format and the forest of columns supporting the roof also prevalent in Cordoba. The curious contrast between the stern facades, intricate patios and protected interior formed an architectural language in synthesis with the Moorish lifestyle. The idea of private life being conducted behind closed doors, in the secure and protected interior, which was considered sacred, was evident in the Cordoba mosque as well as the general architectural planning of Islamic Andalucía and in keeping with the Quranic teaching of modesty.₂₂ In contrast to keeping sacred spaces protected by an imposing exterior, the Umayyads were not afraid to boast the importance of innovative architectural elements in plain sight. ₂₂ Brigitte Hintzen-Bohlen, 2013. P.461 ₂₃ Christopher Tadgell, 2008. P.208 ₂₄Desmond Stewart, 1974.
For example, Abd al-Rahman III’s extensions to the original mosque involved the demolition of the primitive minaret, replaced with a splendid tower, which was to provide future generations of imperial builders with an ineludible model , potentially serving as a precedent for the towerminarets of Seville, Rabat and Marrakesh.₂₃ To the caliphs the great mosque was a symbol of the wellsprings of their temporal as well as their religious power, however some design aspects of the Cordoba mosque were remarkably different from previous Islamic monuments.₂₄ The interior of the haram was built in stark contrast to the Great Mosque of Damascus, as in Damascus the columns were separated with greater distance, whereas in Cordoba the feeling experienced differs, enhanced via the implementation of a non-finite space and the clear division of spaces. The basilica plan of the edifice has no clear connection to the churches occupying the city, but could be seen as a restatement of the symbolic Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. Furthermore, the central nave was broader than the others, thus allowing the mihrab to provide the mosque with its axial orientation, right down the north gate in the courtyard. Undoubted Cordoban character is indisputable with the fragmentation of the spatial volume and owes little, if anything, to Byzantine models.
P a g e | 19
Fig.15 Interior space of Cordoba Mosque showing reused capitals and double tiered arches.
The spatial sensation evident in the Umayyad basilicas of the eastern peninsula is remarkably precise due to its self-contained immensity. The amplification and severe aisle lengths in Cordoba Mezquita strip the hall of columns of the spatial impression characteristic prevalent in early basilicas of late Antiquity or early Christendom.₂₅ The interior marks a clear departure from earlier precedents in Syria, with clear innovative thinking shown at Cordoba, through the utilization of the double tier arcades. Some however, claim that the superimposing of double tiered arcades, is a feature shared and possibly inspired by Roman aqueducts. These forests of pillars were supporting a raised roof that would have otherwise been oppressively low. Generally, spoils from Gothic and Roman structures were used when the architects discovered an ingenious way of making the interior higher. Despite having insufficient materials in regards to height, they tackled the problem by laying imposts on top of column capitals and extending the horseshoe arches from them to neighbouring supports. Above this massive pillars were supplemented that helped lengthen the columns below and supported a second level of arches.₂₆ ₂₅ Marianne Barracund, 2007. P.86 ₂₆ Brigitte Hintzen-Bohlen, 2013. P.446 ₂₇ Marianne Barracund, 2007. P.46
Delving further into the architectural features at the Great Mosque of Cordoba, a synthesis of highly inventive and shared language can be witnessed through the use of several different structural elements. The individuality portrayed by the architectural sculpture of the Emirate of Cordoba regarding the level of craftsmanship and style is distinct in the capitals, with their unique technical quality combined with their zealous fidelity owed to the classical models, which faded into obscurity during the Visigoth era. The subsequent debt attributed to these capitals owed to classical antiquity, has led to many attempts to uncover potential SyrioUmayyad traditions underpinning them. However, even though the architectural syntax of the 8th century Near East confirmed a return to classical older forms, which appeared to have slowly evaporated in the centuries immediately preceding, there is nothing close to comparison to those found in Andalusia in the realm of capital art or architecture. ₂₇
P a g e | 20
Fig.16 Embellished Mihrab wall with mosaics and Quranic ayah.
The manipulation of the arch was of paramount importance as it initially begun to lose its sole structural form at previous Islamic monumental edifices, such as Ukhaydir in Iraq. This developed further in Cordoba where the arch undertook the transformation to become purely decorative in the incurved cusped and interlaced style. This unique feature came to be acknowledged as Moorish, albeit the recombination and fragmentation of arcuated elements were to be amongst the foremost characteristic features of the Andalusian style.₂₈ The history at Cordoba is visible; simultaneously the picturesque white and red arches that glide overhead entice the eyes upward and are particularly ornamental for the 9th century. The horseshoes shaped arches are used as bracing elements made of stone and brick voussoir, which are encapsulated with the alternation of colours. The alternation of yellow stone voussoir interchanging with red brick, is frequent both in Umayyad Syria and pre-Islamic Spain, thus the suggestion as often made of it being imported from Damascus could potentially be discredited. A symmetrical arrangement is generated in both levels of arches, due to the varying colours helping to produce a sense of rhythm and weightlessness in addition to resembling the tops of date palms.₂₉ ₂₈ Christopher Tadgell, 2008. P.208 ₂₉ Brigitte Hintzen-Bohlen, 2013. P.447 ₃₀ Desmond Stewart, 1974
Existing precedents in Syria may help explain the derived intricate confections of stylized floral motifs, however former Iberian Visigoth custodians also featured the systematic implementation of the horseshoe arch. Determining the source of influence for the Umayyad use of this architectural feature in Cordoba would be problematic to concisely state, therefore stating the element is shared between cross-cultural architectural syntax would be the most appropriate inference. The most celebrated and relevant part of the haram sanctuary could be argued to be the extension by Al-Hakam. The interlocking arches fashioned the new mihrab and arcade, with the columns supporting the horseshoe arch of the mihrab once again displaying signs of Byzantine stimulus, especially in the carving of the capitals.₃₀ Even though shared elements were manipulated in the Umayyad Great Mosque, similar to Damascus, individuality and uniqueness in accentuating certain symbolic architectural elements were not neglected by the Muslim rulers. For example, when one is to avert his gaze upward from the mihrab, to the overhead vault, the crisscrossing arches form a dome, which could be a possible ode to the cosmos or heavens, encrusted with mosaic.
P a g e | 21
Fig.17 Scallop-shaped cupola, interlocking ribs,
The tendency of accentuating and beautifying the mihrab wall emphasizes the importance of the qibla, as the direction of prayer is seen as the fundamental element in the majority of Islamic architectural works. Surah 24 Verse 35 of the Quran may help give an indication of the significance of the embellishment at the mihrab:
The dome bay in front of the mihrab nests on interlocking ribs which has not been recorded anywhere else and is seen to be an extremely unique structural innovation. The inventiveness of the builders is evident with this alternation of the ribs, manifest in sections that are flat and some that are concave.
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Surah An- Nur Quran 24:35₃₁
One of the most admired elements of AlHakams extension is the Capilla de Villaviciosa, an architectural feature with ample light pouring in through the four sky light cupolas. Void of any precedent, the architects who designed the 9th century haram developed a unique methodical technique to build the domed ceiling over a large room. The use of ribs allowed for the creation of a cultivated system of squares and triangles, which subsequently allowed for the division of the area needed for covering, leaving a marble scallop shell to close of the mid-section. At certain intervals between the vertical rib sections, are intricately designed cloverleaf and horseshoe arch windows, which help to characterize the exclusivity of the Great mosque and its architectural features.
This niche in which the sound of the Quranic ayahs recited by the imam resonates to fellow believers is embellished in mosaics, in addition to providing the point of inventiveness for the Cordoban builders. The octagonal alcove mihrab is crowned by a scallop shell-shaped cupola, extracted from a single block of marble and eloquently adorned with latticework and stucco. Some believe the shell is symbolic of the human heart, in which Allah lays the pearl, being his word and guidance.
₃₁ The Holy Quran. Sahih International Translation. Surah 24 Verse 35 ₃₂ Brigitte Hintzen-Bohlen, 2013. P.453
P a g e | 22
Fig.18 Interior of dome with vegetal ornamentation,
The alternation between inventive Umayyad architectural syntax and shared architectural language through cultural assimilation, once again manifests in the niches of the blind arcade. These niches on the upper story of the central zone in addition to the areas intervening with vegetal ornamentation, the projecting ledge resting on nine consoles beautified with an involute leaf pattern, and the four-step battlements on the wall are all examples of inaugural motifs, henceforth cementing their position in the definitive Hispano-Umayyad inventory of forms . Nonetheless the fact should not be discounted that there was a withstanding tradition of vegetal ornamentation in Spain, dating from Ibero-Roman and Visigoth days and this feature could not simply be described as being derived from Islam’s eastern reaches, although at Cordoba it is generally superior in regards to quality of craftsmanship. With the stylized carving of floral motifs, arches intertwined with vaulting to form series of geometric patterns, a new richer Andalusian style had been achieved.
₃₄ Brigitte Hintzen-Bohlen, 2013. P.452
The brilliant syntheses of Byzantine and Islamic art reach its pinnacle in the glowing gold mosaic facing the mihrab façade. There were diplomatic relations between Andalusian confederates and Byzantine courts in 961AD with the mosaics at Cordoba also echoing these relations. Following the architect of the Great Mosque of Damascus, Al-Hakam II requested that the Byzantine emperor assign him a mosaicist who could train the local artist in the technique of assorting the eclectic mosaic design.₃₄ The teaching of the native craftsmen was a laborious process with the mosaics taken around five years to complete and the employed techniques were of a distinctly lower quality when compared to the modern mosaics of Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia.
P a g e | 23
Fig.19 Intricate golden mosaics of the mihrab wall.
The Byzantine artisans or at least one artisan came with their expert knowledge, furthermore being armed with small glass squares called tesserae, they brought a material that was foreign to Andalucía at the time. 1600kg of gold mosaic cubes were given as a gift by the Byzantine emperor with the connection between the two nations found in several works and authors such as Henri Stern and Dorothea Duda made it unequivocally clear that the Byzantine imports were certainly present at the Great Mosque of Damascus. Henri Stern carefully studied the mosaic techniques and stated ‘’ you can understand better by looking at other elements. Byzantine mosaics are placed at an angle, which give a glittering quality with the reflections of light’’. Here, Stern is analyses and states the difference between the methods of installation of the mosaics. In Cordoba the cubed mosaics were laid flush and were void of figures, whereas the master mosaicist in Constantinople set theirs at an angle in certain areas in order to manipulate the lighting effects to the maximum.
₃₅Christopher Tadgell, 2013. P.208 ₃₆ Marianne Barracund, 2007. P.86
Even though the techniques and materials were of undisputed Byzantine origin, we are able to derive in the inventory of forms, specific features of a Hispano-Islamic style ornamentation that began to establish its own architectural syntax. The organization of the vast haram into small, clearly demarcated parts, the mutual interpenetration of the function and ornament, the visual fragmentation of the selfcontained volume are all unmistakable peculiarities of Cordoba Mezquita, adopted by the subsequent architecture in the Magreb and Andalucía. This heritage was to be explored and developed across Southern Europe thriving in the Islamic lands, however, the inspiration that the tradition carried, began to surpass cultural boundaries and spilt over the Mediterranean penetrating Italian shores, but this time in a very different manner.
P a g e | 24
P a g e | 25
Fig.20 Painting of ‘The reception of the ambassadors in Damascus’ by an anonymous painter, 1511.
In contrast to Spain, the presence of Islamic characteristics in Venetian architecture cannot be nonchalantly attributed to an era of Muslim domination. Venice’s relationship with the eastern Mediterranean Islamic leaders was certainly not a submissive or hostile one, but that of a trading partner with privileges of residence.₃₇ European Medieval culture envisioned paradise in the east, due to a great deal of precious commodities and an abundance of scientific knowledge. Imported spices and beautiful textures, provided the opportunity for Venetian merchants to travel the silk route into the heart of the Islamic world, witnessing the exotic skylines of Cairo and Damascus along the way. The most plausible explanation for the eastern visual idea fusing with Venetian works was the retention of the visual characteristics of Arabia, just like the language, through the young Venetian merchant’s travels. They would have inevitably been influenced by the magnificent architecture and rich decoration, which would be brought back and implemented in the design of their own buildings.
₃₇ Deborah Howard, 2000. P.2
Charles Dickens stated in 1844 ‘My dear fellow, nothing in the world you’ve ever heard of Venice is equal to the magnificent and stupendous reality, the wildest visions of the Arabian nights are nothing, the Piazza of St. Mark and the first impressions of the inside of the church. The gorgeous and wonderful reality of Venice is beyond the fantasy of the wildest dreamer, opium couldn’t build such a place and enchantment couldn’t shadow it forth in a vision’. This acknowledgement of an eastern connection in infamous works did not figure in solitude, with John Ruskin exploring the fusion of the eastern emporia on Venetian architecture through intricate sketch studies. Furthermore, the anonymous painting of ‘The Reception of the Ambassadors in Damascus’ 1511, now situated in the Louvre, provided example of the conscious emulation of eastern culture. This ‘pilgrim itinerary’ of the merchants, alluding to Islamic connections with the commercial horizons dramatically widening, created a blurring of boundaries, which made it difficult for Venetians to recognize their own culture from the Arab world.
P a g e | 26
Fig.21 Piazza San Marco.
By the 13th century, Venice became a powerhouse in maritime trade, and with this connection to vast cities of primary trading partners, such as Byzantine Constantinople and Islamic Cairo it was inevitable that these showplaces of the world played a significant part in shaping the Venetian aesthetic.₃₈ The Venetian architectural style can be seen as a fusion between both Byzantine and Islamic forms overlaying a Latin Christian foundation, with the Islamic lands offering developing models of itinerant and urban societies. The visual affinities did not always necessarily mean a direct borrowing from a specific identity, however the diagnosis of these similar architectural forms are generally linked via similarities in cultural conditions. Parallels in artistic infused stimulus in the Venetian townscape, were drawn from North Africa and Byzantium and this cultural assimilation helped to express the materiality and spiritual aspirations of the Venetian society.₃₉ ₃₈ David Raezer, More Italy ₃₉ Deborah Howard, 2000. P.5 ₄₀ Deborah Howard, 2000. P.11
Featured in both sacred monuments and secular edifices, the continuous accretion of oriental innuendo contributed to Venice becoming an established cross-cultural emporium. These references can be witnessed in Piazza San Marco, where the transformation of ritual spaces dependent on occasion are peculiarly reminiscent of the huge courtyard of the Great Umayyad Mosque of Damascus. Upon entering the communal precinct, citizens would gather to repose in the shadow of the portico and families would congregate to read, with the experience being unconstrained and comforting. Even though the ‘specific source’ of architectural organization cannot be definitively attributed to the Great Mosque, other similarities between it and San Marco such as the main piazza and Umayyad courtyard approximating to similar dimensions, allude to the sharing of features. ₄₀
P a g e | 27
Fig.22 Canaletto, Riva degli Schiavoni, 1736, Oil on canvas, London, Sir John Saone’s Museum. Venetian merchant’s ritual departure.
This affinity further manifests, with the exterior abundance of mosaics of San Marco, elevating the building from its Byzantine legacy into Islamic convention. Mimicking the Great Mosque of Damascus, the Venetian susceptibility for glittering hues of colour was marked in the façade mosaics of the forecourt, allowing for the sacred aura of fragmented light to penetrate the precincts. The array of eastern connotation is unsurprising, with the exotic stories told by the Venetian sailors and their eastern memoirs of great Islamic cities, possibly providing the essence for the monumental domes and crenellations silhouetted against the skyline. Some of these domes masquerade as the eastern architectural features distinguishable in arguably Venice’s most infamous building, the cathedral of San Marco.
₄₁ Deborah Howard, 2000. P.65
Originally buried in the heart of Alexandria, the corpse of St. Mark was robbed by two Venetian merchants in 829, and the subsequent cathedral commemorating St. Mark, was erected to house the body. With the functional duality as Venice’s chapel and shrine that preserved the Evangelist relics, San Marco performed as a representational mirror for Venetian civic and religious character.₄₁ To naturalize St. Mark’s relics, and the Venetians naturally tried adopting the appropriate setting, in addition to potentially taking inspiration from Jerusalem, due to the Solomonic imagery underlining the virtues of justice and wisdom. By crafting intricate mosaics, illustrating scenes from Venetian merchant lives with their caravans reminiscent of biblical events, this medium allowed for a celebration of material culture and wealth alluding to eastern acquaintances. Evidence for the transmission of the figure arrangements of the atrium mosaics have been uncovered in the Cotton Genesis Manuscripts, with the majority of Scholars acknowledging the works originally hailed from Egypt in the 5th or 6th century.
P a g e | 28
Fig.23 Butler serving Pharaoh, 13th century mosaic in north atrium. Butler serving Pharaoh redrawn by Dr Marian Wenzel, from The Cotton Genesis, 1986.
The mosaics of San Marco draw remarkable parallels in relation to the architectural expression, with the mosaics of the Great Mosque of Damascus circa 715AD. The visual consonance is exemplified by the appraisal between the scene of ‘Moses before Pharaoh’ and the pendentive ornamented with a palace pavilion in the Damascene mosaics. However, this cross-cultural assimilation is dismissed by few, stating that both the Venetian and Umayyad interpretation of mosaic art had Byzantine origins. The Cotton Genesis offered the Venetians examples of how they could translate the non-figural Islamic mosaics of Cairo and Damascus, often flourishing with vegetation and palaces, into a vehicle for their own ideas. This visual expression of Egypt and Syria provided an eloquent model for the symbolic possession of these lands in the San Marco mosaics. In the 13th century, Venetian and Mamluk trade began to intensify, making it plausible for the merchants to have accepted the potency of borrowing and thus had the ability to relay it to their own artisans. This, on the contrary, does not necessarily mean the art of mosaic was revived by direct communications of Mamluk and Venetian leaders. An alternate method of transmission may have been the use of illustrations found in Arabic books which were of a similar date to the Mamluk manuscripts.
₄₂ Deborah Howard, 2000. P.85 ₄₃ Deborah Howard, 2000. P.85
Fig.24 Sleeping merchants and camels, from Maqamat, 1237
Many of the characteristics of the anecdotal detail in the mosaics can also be found in illustrated manuscripts widely circulated in the Muslim world, such as the Maqamat series.₄₂ Oleg Grabar stated that these incongruous works, were filled with visually self-sufficient images, with the absence of text allowing them to easily be interpreted by different cultures. Even though Grabar’s investigation failed to reveal concrete evidence associating them to a particular Islamic region, the circulation of the volumes extended from Central Asia to Egypt, meaning the import of these ideas could have reached Venice before the manifestation of the 13th century atrium mosaics. The progression of assimilation discloses the necessity to renovate the extraneous visual culture, as the original Islamic vocabulary was translated into more Byzantine pictorial language adopted by the Venetian mosaics. The figures featured in the mosaics of San Marco include ships on rippled water, trees silhouetted against a bright sky and scenes at feasting tables, evoking emotions of trade and travel.₄₃ The San Marco mosaics differ from the regularity of Islamic illustrations, correlating deeper within the Byzantine practice and incorporating the evolving works of Italian artisans, which can be witnessed in Tent and Camel (Maqamat). The cross fertilization of Islamic attributes via vivid imagery, helped with the recognition of Egyptian narrative detailing, through the evocation of this extraneous environment related by Venice’s Levantine merchants.
P a g e | 29
Fig.25 Venice, San Marco, north-section showing heighted domes. Le fabbriche di Venezia, vol. 1, 1985
The sharing of elements and subsequent fusion at San Marco was not solely attributed to the Egyptian themed mosaics, but rather a range of architectural orientalisation was prevalent at the cathedral. One of the more exposed architectural features were the five bulging outer cupola, erected on wooden frameworks above low-slung Byzantine brick domes. The reformation of St. Mark’s novel burial place began embracing the bulbous contours of Egyptian Islamic mausolea, especially subsequent to the time of Ibn Tulun, due to wanting to establish the Alexandrian context by allusion to recent Egyptian funerary structures.₄₄ The influence of the second shells and lanterns of the domes were more likely to have been transmitted from the 14th century Madrasa of Sarghatmish in Cairo, and not the mosque of Ibn Tulun as assumed by Deborah Howard and Creswell in her book Venice and the East. The assortment of intimately positioned cupolas used in San Marco certainly aesthetically recalls the skyline of Cairo, however the difference lies in the structural techniques. The Venetian builders had to develop a lighter structural solution over San Marco’s Byzantine construction as the domes of Cairo were assembled using a vigorous masonry jigsaw technique. An alternative source of information for the domes that may have been considered by the builders, lay in the technical details relayed by Ibn Jubayr in 1184, regarding the intrinsic form of the dome structure of the Great Mosque of Damascus: ₄₄ Deborah Howard, 2000. P.85 ₄₅ Deborah Howard, 2000. P.85
Fig.26 Cairo, City of the dead.
Arriving towards the zone amidst the two concentric wooden shells, he observed: ‘This (inner) cupola is round like a sphere, and its exterior is of wood strengthened by stout wooden ribs bound by iron bands, each rib curving over the cupola and all meeting at a central wooden disc at the summit’₄₅ With Damascus maintaining a strong Venetian presence at the time, the discussion regarding this topic may well have occurred between both parties, however a definitive conclusion on the shared architectural ascension cannot be made. Even though the timber cupola no longer survives, an anonymous painting of Damascus in the Louvre reveals that the elevated dome was still present in the 15th century, making it perfectly feasible for the transmission of the design to have surpassed the Mediterranean.
P a g e | 30
Fig.27 Porta Sant’Alipio, with stone grille windows, 13th century in San Marco
Similar to the mosques of Damascus, Kairouan and Cordoba, San Marco also makes use of some architectural features and detailing through the reuse of other edifices. For instance, the porphyry columns embellishing the main entrance were said to have been despoiled from Constantinople, however an argument also stands that the porphyry could have only be quarried from Egypt. Further investigation into the Egyptian visual repertoire enhances additional layers of potency to the expression of cultural acquisition.₄₆ An illustration of this is manifest in the vertical relief panels, featuring symmetrical pairs of creatures on the spandrel of the west façade, which is a characteristic, shared with the design theme of Fatimid tradition. The interpretation of these panels were most probably viewed in an Islamic context as signs of supremacy over Biblical lands, due to Venetian travellers being especially acquainted with Syrian and Egyptian trade routes.
₄₆ Deborah Howard, 2000. P.103 ₄₇ Deborah Howard, 2000. P.109
Fig.28 Great Mosque of Damascus stone window grilles on main facade
The interweaving and overlapping forms evident in the designs epitomize the complexity and richness of Venice’s trade links, with the works satisfying various cultural traditions to resynthesize the architectural features into homogenous works. The two portals at each end of the facade stand out as conspicuous Orientalizing components in San Marco, due to their Islamic style stone grilles and pointed arches. The Porta Saint’ Alipio portrays the implementation of stone window grilles, which is similar in architectural syntax to the grilles in the main entrance of the Great Umayyad Mosque at Damascus. After the fourth crusade, Venice instigated a show of a greater autonomous identity, having previously delved into the eastern memories of travellers. This orientalisation of San Marco, however, was still absorbed into the Venetian visual legacy, with its progeny visible in the soaring domes of Santi Giovanni e Paolo and Palladio’s churches.₄₇
P a g e | 31
CONCLUSION After researching the shared architectural features from the origins of Islamic works to its offshoots, we can deduce that architectural historians frequently relate to the ‘influence’ or ‘modelling’ of one edifice to another. However, these somewhat generic statements generally obscure an inexact understanding of the devices by which the transmission of design notions and decorative forms were stimulated. This topic was researched by Renata Holod in an article in which she differentiated transmission by example from transmission through verbal or visual notation.₄₈ Having acknowledged the sharing of architectural features from Islamic occupied Damascus to the realms of the Southern Mediterranean, the modes of conveying this architectural data, was said to be successful due to the Islamic civilization being able to transmit their ideas through paper. The first surviving book transcribed on paper is an incomplete copy of Abu Ubayd’s piece on rare rapports in the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad in 866. Regarding architectural benefit, the amplified disposal of paper stimulated the personal notation for plans and sketches, meaning the visual imagery could then be transmitted across long distances. There can be no debate about the fact that visual systems were ultimately accessible, but questions are still unanswered regarding their initial implementation. The expansion of the Islamic caliphate across the Magreb and into Andalus certainly retained sacred spatial concepts, however, the actual plans, architectural drawings and unequivocal textual references to them show that plans have merely been traced back to the 13th century to date. With a deficiency of definite plans, the majority of the debate about the first use of visual notation depends on the extrapolation of later accepted texts, predominantly verbal notation. A specimen cited is the ‘Al-kuttub wa’l ummul min ilm as hisab’ by Wafa al Buzajani (940-98), an important theoretical mathematician from Baghdad.
₄₈ Renata Holod, 1998. P.1-12 ₄₉ Jonathon M. Bloom, 1993. P.21
Holod insists that this work could imply the existence of a genre of texts for craftsmen, for whom a modicum of literacy could be assumed.₄₉ The opposition view, conversely, explained a 10th century builder developed his repertory by sampling the methods of his master, opposed to referring to textual sources. Reviewing the work discussed, much of the syntax shared in Umayyad architecture can be described by the reasonably constrained scope in which it was discovered, for instance the mutual legacy in Syria of late-antique and Byzantine customs show resemblance with early Islamic works. The condensed collection of North African edifices remaining from the 9th to early 10th century, offers supplementary evidence supporting the use of example as opposed to notational systems. We have learnt that the Islamic monuments tended to reuse spolia form earlier buildings, with many preliminary designs quickly adapting to the increase of reused materials from ‘foreign’ architectural language. Which first may appear as a cross-cultural fusion, incorporating Byzantine elements for example, could be seen in a different light when delving into further into the Islamic tradition. Islamic belief emphasizes that every prophet came with the message of tawheed, which means the oneness of God. When referring to the ‘ahlul kitab’, meaning the people of the book, Islamic teachings state that the Jews and Christians also held the belief in the oneness of God until men altered the scriptures and deviations within the religion came to pass. With the original core teachings being equivalent to the Islamic faith, it is maybe no surprise then that some ‘pure’ elements of Christian architecture were allowed to be implemented in some of the most sacred Islamic buildings.
P a g e | 32
The presentation of shared architectural forms and techniques through the growth of Islam through Syria, North Africa and Al-Andalus, demonstrate that within expanses, architectural ideas were transmitted by example, however the implementation of this method was sometimes inadequate. The constructors of the Uqba mosque tower, for instance, unquestionably derived form from the Roman lighthouse near Salakta, but the gratuitous thickness of the lower walls of the Kairouan tower exhibits the lack of experience in building this type of structure.₅₀ Though the builders had the precedent of the Roman tower, the distinctive cessation in the craft tradition led to a technically inferior solution. The importance of textual sources should not be underestimated in the ‘influence’ or borrowing of architectural syntax throughout the medieval Islamic peninsula and the Southern Mediterranean from the 8th to 13th century, especially with the Great Mosque of Damascus attracted literate individuals to describe and circulate its glories. This is evident with Ibn Jubayrs first hand observations, which were presented in a twelve page translation, and some argue that without these specific texts it would be almost impossible to prove certain buildings were modelled on another only through the medium of text.₅₁
₅₀ Alexandre Levine, 1966. P.46-50 ₅₁ Jonathon M. Bloom, 1993. P.26 ₅₂ Deborah Howard, 2000. P.218
To conclude findings we can confirm that forms were infrequently identically copied from one edifice to another across the Islamic world, due to the metamorphoses resulting in the inadequate transmission of knowledge. In addition, architectural forms had to be acclimatised within their new set of material and cultural conventions.₅₂ The sharing or implementation of spolia from different cultural traditions represent the remembrance of ‘another place’ in Islamic works through the process of distillation. We see the adaptations and intricate embellishments of Islamic architecture naturally emerging across the colonised Muslim lands to emphasize their temporal power and affirm their religious devotion. However, the difference in the dynamics of the relationship in Venice for example, represented the trading encounters with the thriving Islamic culture, which led to the acquisition of intrinsically linked visual themes of the eastern orient.
P a g e | 33
BIBLIOGRAPHY Books: The Holy Quran Sahih International English Translation Venice & the East. The Impact of the Islamic World on Venetian Architecture. Deborah Howard. Yale University Press, 2000. Islam: From Medina to the Magreb and from the Indies to Istanbul. Christopher Tadgell. Routledge, 2008. The Alhambra Desmond Stewart. Readers Digest Association, 1974. The Art of the Saracens in Egypt Stanley-Lane Poole. Nabu Press, 2011. Late Antique and Medieval Art of the Mediterranean World. Eva. R Hoffman. Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Antiquity: Origins, Classicism and the New Rome Christopher Tadgell. Routledge, 2007. The Great Mosque of Damascus: Studies on the Makings of an Umayyad Visual Culture Finbarr Barry Flood. Brill, 2000. Deconstructing the American Mosque: Space, Gender and Aesthetics. Akel Ismail Kahera. University Of Texas Press, 2002. The Cambridge History of Africa. Volume 2 Roland Anthony Oliver. Cambridge University Press, 1978. Understanding Art. Lois Fichner-Rathus. Wadsworth Publishing, 2013. A World History of Art Hugh Honour/John Fleming. Lawrence King Publishing Ltd, 1984. The Great Mosque of Kairouan Paul Sebag. Collier-Macmillan, 1965. Islamic Art and Architecture 650-1250 Ettinghausen/Grabar/Jenkins-Madina. Yale University Press, 2001. Moorish Architecture Marianne Barrucand/Achim Bednorz. Taschen, 2007. Temples, Churches and Mosques: A guide to the appreciation of religious architecture John Gordon Davies. Pilgrim Press, 1982. Dictionary of Islamic Architecture Andrew Peterson. Routledge, 1999. The Architectural History of Venice B.T Batsford/Deborah Howard. Yale University Press, 2002.
P a g e | 34
L’Architecture de l’Ifriqiya Alexandre Lezine. C. Klincksieck, 1966. Andalusia. Art and Architecture. Brigitte Hintzen – Bohlen. Ullmann Publishing, 2013.
Articles: On The Transmission of Designs in Early Islamic Architecture Jonathon M. Bloom. Vol.10, Essays in Honour of Oleg Grabar. BRILL. 1993. Text, Plan and Building: On the Transmission of Architectural Knowledge. Renata Holod. Cambridge Mass, 1998 Early Muslim Architecture. Vol 1. Second Edition. Umayyads K. A. C. Creswell. Oxford Clarendon Press, 1969. The Unity and Diversity of the Mediterranean World. George Sarton. The University of Chicago Press, Vol.2 1936. Lectures: Architectural Encounters between Byzantium and Islam from the 10th to the 13th Century. Dr. Nikolaos Karydis, 2013. Ashmoleon Museum, The University Of Oxford. The Impact of the Islamic World on Venetian Architecture. Professor Deborah Howard, Professor of Architectural History, University of Cambridge.
P a g e | 35
IMAGE REFERENCES Figure 1: http://muslimmatters.org/2013/05/24/9-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-prophets-mosque/ Figure 2: http://archnet.org/library/files/one-file.jsp?file_id=1624 Figure 3: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Umayyad_Mosque_-_interior(js).jpg Figure 4: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Great_Umayyed_Mosque_of_Damascus,_Syria_western_portico,_mosa ic_depicting_a_continuous_landscape.jpg Figure 5: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mytripsmypics/6972165540/lightbox/ Figure 6: http://www.flickr.com/photos Figure 7: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/01/Plan_grande_mosquee_kairouan.jpg Figure 8: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MihrabGrandeMosqueKairouan.jpg Figure 9: http://www.flickr.com/photos/78976320@N00/4656210204 Figure 10: http://muslimheritage.com/topics/default.cfm?ArticleID=358 Figure 11: http://www.flickr.com/photos/78976320@N00/4655585581 Figure 12: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stewartmorris/4655590003/ Figure 13: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umayyad_Caliphate Figure 14: http://archnet.org/sites/2715/publications/1238 Figure 15: http://www.learner.org/courses/globalart/work/224/zoom.html Figure 16: http://www.fotopedia.com/reporter/stories/ZDbAm_-fP94/view Figure 17: http://www.unaventanadesdemadrid.com/objetos/otras-comunidades/catedral-mezquita-cordoba-iv/capillavillaviciosa.jpg Figure 18: http://www.fotopedia.com/reporter/stories/ZDbAm_-fP94/view Figure 19: http://www.flickr.com/photos/j-fish/10453154465/in/photostream/ Figure 20: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anonymous_Venetian_orientalist_painting,_The_Reception_of_the_Ambass adors_in_Damascus',_1511,_the_Louvre.jpg Figure 21 : http://wallpaperhd.me/?attachment_id=3269 Figure 22 : Venice & the East. The Impact of the Islamic World on Venetian Architecture. P.17 Figure 23: Venice & the East. The Impact of the Islamic World on Venetian Architecture. P.23
P a g e | 36
Figure 24: Venice & the East. The Impact of the Islamic World on Venetian Architecture. P.82 Figure 25: Venice & the East. The Impact of the Islamic World on Venetian Architecture. P.83 Figure 26: Venice & the East. The Impact of the Islamic World on Venetian Architecture. P.101 Figure 27: Venice & the East. The Impact of the Islamic World on Venetian Architecture. P.108 Figure 28: Venice & the East. The Impact of the Islamic World on Venetian Architecture. P.109 Cover Page: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cordoba_Mezquita.jpg http://cluke111.deviantart.com/art/Basilica-Di-San-Marco-Venice-227674605 Origins Page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/luisferreira/184021245/in/photostream/ Transmission Page: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/11/Roofs_with_domes%2C_Great_Mosque_of_Kairouan.jpg Reformulation Page: http://www.webmastergrade.com/25-beautiful-mosques-around-the-world/ Cross-fertilization Page: http://www.fantom-xp.com/wp_63__Basilica_di_San_Marco,_Venice.html Kent Logo: http://sec.cs.kent.ac.uk/kentlogo.jpg