islamic art and architecture
islamic art and architecture - and its origins
The Prophet's Mosque or The Medina Mosque: The birth of Mosques
The Medina Mosque, quintessentially, was the archtype design of all future Mosques and Islamic cities.
The Medina Mosque
Early Arabian Art
The Visigoth Horseshoe Arch
The Blueprint of Islamic Gardens
Los Patios Andaluces
Islamic Pattern Forms
Different Syles of Calligraphy
Islamic Endless Space and its Significance
Divinity versus Idolatry
Islamic Monuments and their ongoing Message of Power
The Hegira: 622 AD see: facts about the prophet muhammad
The importance of the flight from Mecca to Medina was highly significant to the growth of Islam and essential in the development of Islamic Art and Architecture.
Peaceful from having to defend themselves from the Meccans, Muhammad, his family and ever-growing number of followers, proceeded uninterupted.
It was intended for use for the whole of its community.
The Mosque primarily was for pious worship, however, the mosque fulfilled many other needs:
- It was the educational hub-point
- Administration of political, social or religious natures were attended to in the mosque
- It was a guidance-base for the Prophet - many people came to listen to his words; soon they joined as another of his followers
- Welfare and charity were part of its community
- Medical care was provided in the mosque
- The mosque could act as a confining area
- Above all, it was a place for quiet reflection
The City of Medina Grew to Encircle the Mosque
Future Islamic cities, positioned new mosques, centre of the city.
- The mosque's site was rectangular, enclosed by 75 cm's wide mud-brick walls. There was a covered area (the qibla) which faced the Mecca. Palm trunks acted as columns, the trunks were thatched with interlaced palm fronds, held in place by mud
- Three entrances: east, west, south
- The north wall, was in the direction of the first qibla: The al-Aqsa Mosque (the furthest mosque) in Jersusalem
...The Jerusalem Qibla direction was changed after a year and a couple of months. While trying to satisfy the other monotheisitc faiths, some of the Christian and Jewish customs were adopted; neither the Jews nor the Christians accepted Muhammad as a Prophet. Muhammad reversed his opinions, declaring both faiths opposed...
- Muhammad received instruction to change the direction of prayers to the Mecca - the first qibla direction was then transformed into another exit
- The southern direction was then blocked and this became the 2nd direction of the qibla of the Islamic faith
- To begin with, the mosque's courtyard, had no shade
- There was no decoration of any description inside or outside the mosque
- The mosque's height was approximately 1.75cms
As it evolved, various architectural aspects were continuously added to. Various social roles were required for an efficient functioning of the mosque. As time passed, each role, became more clear.
Before the death of Muhammad in 632 AD, early Arabian Architecture had barely existed. Arabs had previously lived a travelling nomadic tent life.
Arabic Art had been scarce - or litttle trace of it transcended the passage of time. The Islamic Empire expanded swiftly during its first 100 years, spreading from the Atlantic Ocean westwards, going as far as Central Asia eastwards. Each country invaded had a singular heritage of Art and Architecture.
During the Islamic expansion, the Arabs discovered, the amazing Churches of Byzantine and the stunning Palaces of Sassania.
Varied styles of 'beautiful works of art' of the diverse cultures conquered, were assimilated into Art and Architecture of Islam. Islamic doctrine was incorporated, in multiple forms of art compositions, onto the architecture of Mosques and Palaces.
Haram al-Sharif: The Dome of the Rock - Jerusalem
In 688 AD, Caliph Abd al-Malik began building work, on an important pilgrimage shrine, which was situated alongside the al-Aqsa Mosque, which had been erected soon after Islamic conquest. The work was completed in 691 AD.
Caliph Abd al-Malik's intention was to counterbalance the importance of the Mecca shrine versus The Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. Political bickering had erupted over which shrine - was more important.
The Dome of The Rock was a statement of excellence - of colossal proportions...
Thirteen hundred years later, The Rock of the Dome, steadfastly remains, one of the world's most exquisite, architectural gems.
The shrine memorialized Muhammad's mystical night journey to Jerusalem, where he ascended to heaven, accompanied by the Angel Gabreiel (Qur'an 17).
It was at this point that Islamic Art and Architecture, progressively, took on a more regal and luxurious character - under the rule of the Umayyads. The lavish, decorative beauty of the Christian Byzantine churches was utilized and Graeco-Roman styles also were incorporated.
The shrine of the Dome of the Rock is equally important to Christians, to the Jewish and to Islam. Jerusalem has eschatological importance - in connection with The Last Day of Judgement. Jews believe, this was the place where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Issac - though Islamists believe, this event, took place in Mecca.
The shrine of the Dome of the Rock conveyed a juxtaposing testimony:
The Islamic faith was superior to either the Christian or the Jewish faiths.
Islamic Art Influences
Byzantine Artwork (330 - 1453 AD)
Conservative themes of religious mosaics, icons and frescoes of the Orthodox Church.
Byzantine paintings have vivid tones and are surrounded by a golden background.
Coptic Artwork influenced Islamic Art
The great Byzantine church of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul Turkey, is an excellent example of the domed churches - through the use of squinches - in the Byzantine Empire
from the 7th century AD
The Egyptian Copts: the Christian era
The Origins of Coptic Art were of Egyptian and Greek persuasion.
Mythology was adapted to Christian themes. Persian and Syrian artistic infuence also was expressed in Coptic Art.
Textiles of woven patterns, wall paintings, metalwork, icons, Menas flasks.Top
roman art and architecture
The Roman Empire 44BC-c. to 476AD
Eras: Classical Antiquity to Late Antiquity
The Grandeur of the Arches of Ancient Rome had a colossal and widespread impact on architectural-techniques in Arch-structure. Arches had originated from the Egyptians, Babylonians and Greeks. However, their arch designs lacked resistant concrete. The arch-size the Eygptians, Greeks and the Babylonians could produce - was small-scale.
Concrete and its Uses
The Romans were responsible for inventing a very durable weight-bearing concrete, this facilitated, construction of huge arches.
- Aqueducts transported water, supplying Roman towns and irrigation systems - The Aqueduct of Segovia is an excellent reference. Up to this day, it remains one of the best conserved, of Ancient Roman Monuments on the Iberian Peninsula
- Triumphal Arches documented Roman conquests
- Roman public buildings had monumental-sized Domes which were lofty and spacious
- Stone Bridges traversed rivers: The Alcantara Bridge (or Puente Trajan) spans over the Tagus river, in Extremadura
Roman Art was rich in mosaics, marble statues, frescoes and murals. Love of human beauty was expressed in a comprehension and a simplicity, stemming inextricably, from Graeco-Roman Art. This period: Classical Art
inspired artists - over centuries.
The style of Roman Art introduced to Roman Spain was Imperial Art. Excellent examples are found in the mosaics of Italica. Superb statues were found in Baelo Claudia.
Adaptation of the horseshoe arch, was assimilated by the Moors, from the Iberian Peninsula's early 7th century Visigoth Architecture. The double-tiered horseshoe arches became a 'unique identifying feature' of the Cordoba Mosque
Adaptation of Visigoth-styled Horseshoe Arches was innovative, becoming one of the most important pivot-points, where hispano moorish art and architecture evolved - separating this style from islamic art and architecture.
The Sassanian Empire 224 to 651 AD
Era: Ancient antiquity
Dominion of this Empire encompassed:
Persia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Armenia, the Caucasus: Azerbaijan and Georgia, southwestern Central Asia, some parts of Turkey, the coastal areas of the Arabian Peninsula and some parts of southwestern Pakistan.
There were artistic influences from China (very importantly, the technique of Sassanid silk-weaving - originated from China), the Eurasian steppes and from India.
The Sassanian Empire was defeated in 642 AD by Islamic invasion.
Sassanian Art was a Luxury Art Embedded in Symbolism
Silver plates, glassware, woven textiles, Graeco-Roman styled mosaic works, oversized gold coins, gold and silver decoration of sword sheaths, extensive and elaborate stucco decor, silver vessels: with images of royalty or animals either wild or mythological.
Zoroastrianism: Sassanian use of Dualistic Symbols
During the reign of Shapur 1, 241 – 272 AD the state religion became Zoroastrianism. The basic concept of Zoroastrianism was:a continuous conflict of light and dark forces or - of good and evil
Advances on dome-work, the use of iwans between pavillions, decorative stucco work: muqarnas such as you find in the Alhambra Granada Palaces Gems
enhancing the sense of space were predominant features in Sassanian Palaces: Ardashir Palace, Firuzabad Palace, Persepolis Palace, Imaret-i Khusraw at Kasr-i Shirin, when the Ctesiphon Palace was seized...
... an enormous, silk carpet denominated the Spring of Khrusaw, belonging to King Khrusaw, depicted by the use of extravagant jewels - the lush verdancy of the Sassanian Sping flowers of the Paradeisos gardens. Astonished Arabs discovered this carpet. It was an enlightening discovery...
Sassanian art and architecture profoundly influenced Islamic art and architecture.
Islamic Art and Architecture Influences that came to Moorish Spain
The carpet was so pleasing to the eyes and souls of the desert sons, future Moorish water gardens
and Alhambra Granada Generalife
were replicated from that depiction of the Paradeisos Gardens.
The Umayyads introduced to the Iberian Peninsula, Syrian courtyard house architecture - (which date back to the third century) are a reflection of how nomadic life required a central space for living purposes and that space afforded, safety, for their families and livestock.
Architecture of a Damascene Courtyard House
Centered around an interior patio was a fountain.
The all-important feature of the fountain, was that it provided a contained humidification, through constant evaporation. Interior temperatures dropped significantly
providing relief from the exterior's scorching heat or blasting desert sandstorms.
"Architecture of the Veil"
Arabs appreciated and expressed their wealth, inside their homes. Often these patios were architectural gems. Outsiders could not begin to imagine the beauty of these interior courtyards and their corresponding lead-off rooms.
Representation of Paradise was important. Roses, Jazmin and Citrus trees were planted in meticulous precision.
Interior patios center around a fountain. A fundamental part of el Patio Andaluz decor is having a kaleidoscope of scented flowers.
El Patio Andaluz became a distinctively Andalusian architectural feature - a place for quiet contemplation. One of the best examples of what quantifies as a Patio Andaluz is: the Patio de los Leones in the Alhambra Granada Spain 1.
The patio Andaluz concept was so popular, it transcended centuries - to this today. Andalucia, especially in cities like Cordoba and Granada, have Carmen Gardens: high walled, interior gardens centered around a fountain, symbolizing, peace and tranquillity.
The Three Unmistakeable Islamic Pattern Forms
Islamic Calligraphy originates from one of the Semitic Alphabetical scripts. It was the North Arabic-style scripts that prevailed in Arabic scripts.
The Quarish tribe of the Prophet Muhammad shared a love of language and that of a love of writing. The Quarish used the North Arabic style.
It was in the North Arabic style that the revered Qu'ran was written.
...North Arabic script, to a large extent, originates to the Nabatian script, which in its turn, was derived from Aramaic script. Old Aramaic, was the language of the 2nd century: it was the mother-tongue of Jesus and his Apostles.
Arabic scripts, even to this day, still use some alphabet-letter-names which stem directly from Aramaic. Calligraphy of the Arabic script, evolved to a fine art during the 7th century, after Islam emerged...
Cordoba Mosque Mihrab, : Kufic, Arabesque and Gold decor
Byzantiniam Artistic Influence
Calligraphy, was a formal art, steering clear of forbidden, idolatrous, allegorical art.
Walls and ceilings of mosques, especially, were adorned with calligraphy with phrases or verses from the Qur'an.
Calligraphy was used on paper, papyrus and parchments. Coins were minted in Kufic-style calligraphy.
It was the Persians who began weaving calligraphy into intricate silk-patterns. The Crusaders took these fabrics back to Europe as treasured trophies. Over two dozen such fabrics still exist today.
Gold al-Andalus Dinar of the Cordovan Caliphate
Archaeological Museum, Cordoba, Andalucia
These silks were highly valued by the Europeans. In 1134 AD Normandy, the shroud of St. Josse was of calligraphed-silk.
Different Syles of Calligraphy
are different styles used in calligraphy and those can subdivide into more detail.
Kufic Calligraphy from the Oratorio de Mexuar Top
Alhambra Granada Palaces Gems
- Kufic is geometrical,
square and angular. Vertical lines are highly-accented while the horizontal ones are purposely kept short. Kufic-style was mainly used in books and ceramics
Motto of the Alhambra Palaces
- Cursive calligraphy developed in the 10th century. It is flowing and beautiful - and easier to read
Click on the Graphic for:
Alhambra Granada Spain Palaces
Calligraphers were held in great esteem for their sacred art.
Most Islamic calligraphic artists worked anonymously - as a sign of piety. It was rare that they signed their work. Some master calligraphers, however, did sign their work.
See: Significances of Sacred Geometric patterns islamic art and architectecture 1
- Harmony was always the base of Geometrical design
- Unity reflecting Islam
- Astronomy influenced geometrical designs
- Pattern-repetitions parallel the immutable Islamic laws of God
The Symbolic Significance of each Geometrical Pattern-centre
- Centre: Eternity
- Triangle: Harmony and Realization
- Square: Corporeal Perception
- Hexagon: Heaven
- Star: The Expansion of Islam and its Unity
Arabesque is a nature-themed curvilinear decoration of intricate details: leaves, stems, flowers, buds etc. Vivid colours are used in arabesque décor
Arabesque Madinat az Zahara Top
click on the Graphic for Caliphal Architecture
was created through the use of abstract decoration and clever mathematics.
It is the core of all Islamic Art and Architecture. No theme is too small to create a sense of space.
Endless Space: Cordoba Mosque, Andalucia Spain.
The message of Endless Space: Divides the Visible from the Invisble
Divinity versus Idolatry
The Prophet Muhammad tore down the 360 idols of the Ka'aba along with the jinni, their offspring and other figures.
Islam is based on One God and the Promise of the Day of Judgement. Idolatry was a considered a glaring and unforgiveable sin.
Idolatry is identified as Shirk.
Three classifications of Shirk exist.
Islamic art shuns the representation of human or animal forms, or any living forms.
- Engravings were considered an exception
- Floral portrayals were a representation of God's work
- Islamic Floral ornamentation therefore became abstract: harmonious patterns of stems-of-leaves, bearing fruits of scallop-shells which intermingle with pineapples or flowers or other decorations
Embellishment of Islamic buildings, parallels the theory that God's work of living beings was not to be imitated or competed with. This dogma was not written in the Koran but the non-copying of God's work prevails in Islamic Art and Architecture
New followers to the Islamic faith made the Prophet Muhammad aware of the need for cleanliness.
Muhammad promised that fresh water would be provided for such purposes. Prayers to Allah required a degree of cleanliness: ablution pools and fountains are found outside every Mosque.
The sound of flowing water was a constant reminder of paradise. Quietly burbling fountains were the heart of many Islamic Gardens.
Islamic Art and Architecture loved "the play of light on still water." Reverse images of floating palaces were cleverly reflected.
Islamic Art and Architecture has the best example of floating palaces - the Taj Majhal.
Islamic Water Architecture
el Partal, Alhambra
The Alhambra and its strong impenetrable fortress walls, were built with defence foremost
. Islamic Architecture thus "expressed power" in an ongoing expectation of supremacy.
Islamic fortress walls were built with massive gates. Those gates had in-built details, enabling the resident military, to mitigate attempts from attacking troops. Various techniques such as pouring boiling oil on the intruders from above.
All over Spain - especially in Andalucia - there remain the ruins of fortressed Alcazabas. These remind us of the height of the glories of Moorish Spain.
Atalayas peak every hilltop.
Atalayas were the watch-towers of these fortresses. Smoke-signalling was efficient and prevented unexpected invasions.
Mosques and Palaces
The sons of the desert, previously, had lived nomadic tribal lives. Islam changed everything...
Mosques and Palaces were the most important structures in urban cities. They equally, would have a military-impenetrable-styled exterior, while the inside decor, matched the benefaction of their rulers.
Size was intended to stun and the decor splendour, to dazzle every eye-witness. Size was a symbol of power. It was the Sassanian palace-sizes which influenced how future Islamic palaces evolved.
Walled buildings segregated, those in power, from the more humble populace.
Islamic monuments were an indisputable expression of power. Within each monument, you find, exquisite representations of the magnificence of Islamic Art and Architecture.
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