Islamic Architecture as Seen in Spain. Islamic architecture is best described as the architecture produced by societies

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1 Dudar 1 Aya Dudar Bates 5 Honors Humanities 13 March 2016 Islamic Architecture as Seen in Spain Islamic architecture is best described as the architecture produced by societies and civilizations which professed the faith of Islam (Rosser-Owen 17). These societies and civilizations included those in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Anatolia, Persia, and the one that will be discussed in this paper: Spain (Hoag 7). In order to discuss Islamic architecture in Spain, it s important to develop a slight background of Islamic architecture as a whole. Islamic architecture essentially started with the origin of the mosque (Papadopoulo 194). The mosque, or more colloquially known as the masjid, is a holy place where one kneels before God and prays (Papadopoulo 194). However, it also serves other purposes, like holding communal assemblies, being a place of education, a commercial hub, and even law courts (Hoag 8). To fulfill all of these functions, the masjid must be big enough to hold the entire Muslim population during jummah (Friday) prayer and must be faced towards the Qiblah, the sacred House of God in Mecca, as it is a requirement that all Muslims pray facing that direction (Hoag 9). Within Islamic architecture, there are many factors that come into play; these include building materials, techniques for construction, and overall patterns and designs (Hoag 7). Among all of these factors, there are characteristics that unify them and can be applied to or found in most Islamic architecture (Hoag 7). One basic thing found in

2 Dudar 2 most mosques is the minbar. The minbar originated at the time of the prophet Muhammed (pbuh), whose sermons and messages were so influential that large crowds would come to see him (Hoag 8). In order to accommodate for this, a pulpit raised on many steps was made for him; this came to be known as the minbar (Hoag 8). Another architectural item found in mosques is minarets, which are towers found attached to mosques in which the adhan, or call to prayer, is delivered five times a day (Hoag 8). Lastly, mosques can be described as rectilinear forum like enclosures which are typically domed (Hoag 8). Now that the main features of Islamic architecture have been established, the next topic to address is a brief history of the Islamic conquest in Spain. The Iberian peninsula was conquered in 711 CE (Rosser-Owen 13). Over the next 50 years, there was some political shakiness because of the uprisings and overthrows of caliphates; however, Abd al Rahman I from the Umayyad caliphate escaped all this and fled to Spain (Rosser-Owen 13). Shortly thereafter, he made Cordoba the capital of his dynasty and himself the region s ruler (Rosser-Owen 13). As a result, Islamic rule in Spain was characterized by its independence from caliphal power and a strong sense of its own royal legacy and imperial ambitions (Rosser-Owen 13). This gave way to a interesting and unique society, as many Christians in this region converted to Islam and the traditions of the Middle East and the west somewhat intertwined (Hoag 38). This unique flavor of a society was mirrored through the Islamic architecture of Spain (Hoag 38). Most mosques in Spain followed a floor plan resembling a T, with a long aisle along the wall facing the Qiblah and a perpendicular counterpart (Papadopoulo 255). This may sound somewhat familiar, as this T floor plan was

3 Dudar 3 inherited from the Christian basilica used in Visigothic architecture. Nevertheless, the elongation of the Qiblah aisle stressed the Islamic symbolism and the shorter central aisle acted as a dismissal of its inheritance from the basilica (Papadopoulo 255). Overall, the Islamic architects in Andalusia (the southern part of Spain) didn t put as much emphasis on the structure and functionality of the architecture, but rather approached it from a formal and aesthetic standpoint (Papadopoulo 255). One of the most well known works of Islamic architecture in Spain is La Mezquita de Córdoba, or The Mosque of Cordoba. As the Muslim population in Spain grew larger and larger, ruler Abd al Rahman I built this mosque and set a precedent for the rest of Islamic architecture in Spain (Rosser-Owen 22). Although the mosque underwent many extensions with each new leader, it was originally built in 786 CE from stone and only took one year to build (Hoag 38). It consisted of a basilican prayer hall with eleven aisles perpendicular to the Qiblah; each aisle having twelve bays (Hoag 38). Leader Abd al Rahman III extended the courtyard of the mosque to the south and built a new minaret (Hoag 40). The largest extension, however, was by al-hakam II, who built a private area of the mosque for the ruler, extended the mosque further to the south, and added more Romanesque decorations and glass mosaics (Rosser-Owen 23). The trademark characteristics of La Mezquita de Córdoba are the two stories of red and white striped arches, which made the illusion of a forest of columns (Rosser- Owen 22). This double story construction gave La Mezquita more height and, consequently, a more monumental feel. The arches were known as horseshoe arches: arches which nearly form a circle but are left open at the bottom (Rosser-Owen 22). Horseshoe arches were another thing adopted from Visigothic architecture previously

4 Dudar 4 found in Spain, but they were advantageous because of their structural and decorative appeal (Hoag 38). Although horseshoe arches originally had Byzantine origins, the red and white alternating stripes on the arches and the double tier was reminiscent of Syria, where the Umayyad origins lay (Rosser-Owen 22). In conclusion, Islamic architecture has both symbolic and aesthetic values (Papadopoulo 223). The symbolic values are what stem from the Islamic religion and foundation: the minbar, the minarets, the orientation towards the Qiblah, and the mihrab (Papadopoulo 223). The aesthetic values are not necessarily Islamic and are often times influenced by either previous civilizations or the ruler s visions for the building. Islamic architecture in Spain is a notable interplay of these Islamic and decorative principles, with Umayyad and Visigothic influences.

5 Dudar 5 Works Cited Hoag, Joan D. Islamic Architecture. Milano: Electa Architecture, Print. Papadopoulo, Alexandre. Islam and Muslim Art. New York: H.N. Abrams, Print. Rosser-Owen, Mariam. Islamic Arts from Spain. London: V & A Pub., Print.

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