Moorish architecture

Moorish architecture is the articulated Islamic architecture of North Africa and parts of Spain and Portugal (Al Andalus), where the Andalusians (Moors) were dominant between 711 and 1492. The best surviving examples are La Mezquita in Córdoba and the Alhambra palace in Granada (mainly 1338–1390), as well as the Giralda in Seville (1184). Other notable examples include the ruined palace city of Medina Azahara (936–1010), the church (former mosque) San Cristo de la Luz in Toledo, the Aljafería in Saragossa and baths at for example Ronda and Alhama de Granada.

At the beginning of the 8th century, the Arabs formed the caliphate in Spain, which in the 13th century It was reduced to a tiny Granada emirate and fell in 1492. Direct proximity to the Christian West, the ongoing clashes between the Moors and Christians, the physical characteristics of the Iberian Peninsula, the fertility of its soil, climate gains and in general conditions that allowed the Spanish Moors to live a life strikingly different from their lives tribesmen in other countries, radically changed their character from severe and bellicose to mild, cultural, chivalrous, and contributed to the high development of their arts but .

In Moorish architecture, three periods should be distinguished: the first is the Great Mosque in Cordoba (now the Catholic Cathedral); examples of the second or transition period are the tower of the Giralda and the Alcazar in Seville, and the Grenadian palaces of the Alhambra and the Generalife give a graphic representation of the third period – the period of the highest perfection of the Moorish style. Mauritanian style clearly manifested itself later in the architecture of the synagogues of Europe.

The Spanish Moors were in close contact with their fellow tribesmen on the northern coast of Africa, where they still inhabit Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. This connection was, above all else, expressed in the similarity of architecture in both. Indeed, in the surviving monuments of ancient African-Arab architecture, we see the same general forms, the same arches and columns, the same ornamentation as in the Spanish-Moorish buildings, but developed with less consistency and completeness. This forces them to relate them to a time earlier than the last period of Islamic art in Spain, mainly to the 12th century, when relations between Spanish and African Arabs were particularly close. Thus, for example, the minarets of the main mosque of Morocco have a lot in common with the Giralda, and one can believe the legend, which calls the builder of the same Hebra, by whom this latter was built .

Characteristic elements of Moorish architecture include muqarnas, horseshoe arches, voussoirs, domes, crenellated arches, lancet arches, ogee arches, courtyards, and decorative tile work known as zellij in Arabic or azulejo in Spanish and Portuguese. The architectural tradition is exemplified by mosques, fortifications, and other edifices such as the Mezquita in Córdoba (784–987, in four phases); the Alhambra (mainly 1338–1390) and Generalife (1302–9 and 1313–24) in Granada and the Giralda in Seville in 1184; Paderne Castle in the Algarve, Portugal; the mosque of Koutoubia, Hassan Mosque, Andalusian Mosque, and University of Al-Karaouine in Morocco; the Great Mosque of Algiers and the Great Mosque of Tlemcen in Algeria; and the Mosque of Uqba in Kairouan, Tunisia. Other notable buildings include the ruined palace city of Medina Azahara (936-1010), the church (former mosque) San Cristo de la Luz in Toledo, the Aljafería in Zaragoza and baths at for example Ronda and Alhama de Granada.

The term is sometimes used to include the products of the Islamic civilisation of Southern Italy. The Palazzo dei Normanni in Sicily was begun in the 9th century by the Emir of Palermo.

There is archeological evidence of an eighth-century mosque in Narbonne, France.

The first Cordoba Caliph, Abdurrahman, conceived to build in his capital a mosque that can compete with the famous sanctuaries of Palestine and Syria, laid it in 786 according to a plan similar to the plan of the main Damascus mosque , but ordered it to be more extensive and luxurious. Of all the lands subject to it, ancient columns with their capitals were brought to Cordoba; many Byzantine emperors sent many of the same columns; But since the number of ready-made columns still proved to be inadequate, then, according to the ancient models, new ones were executed. The mosque was completed after the death of Abdurrahman. After a hundred years it became cramped for a large number of parishioners. For this reason, from the end of X to the middle of the 12th century, extensions to it were constantly made .

The Cordoba mosque represents in terms of a huge quadrangular courtyard, on three sides surrounded by a number of arcades on the columns. The other, most of the structure is divided into columns by eleven naves, to which later eight more were added laterally. Each nave had its exit to the courtyard. The naves were covered with a wooden ceiling, which now replaced the vaults. In the middle of the middle of the 11 naves, wider than the others, is a mihrab – an octagonal niche with a semi-cupola in the form of a shell, cut out of solid stone. Not far from the mihrab, in one of the naves adjacent to it, there is a special department, enclosed by pilasters and covered with a dome; this space, whose original purpose is unknown, is now called Villa viciosa. In it, as well as on the walls nearby to the mihrab, there is mainly a luxurious molded ornamentation .

There are 850 columns in the mosque. Since such an extensive building required a considerable height and the columns were too short, it was necessary to resort to the extension of the quadrangular pillars above the capitals of the columns and to the special arrangement of the arches, which, in order to achieve a higher altitude, were generally given an increased horseshoe shape, That time is widespread in Moorish architecture. This arrangement is that above the arches that connect the capital with the capital, there are placed the second arch, which are thrown from the top of one over-column extension to the other. In addition, in some places, for example, near the mihrab and in the Villa viciosa, between the lower arch, which forms several semicircular festoons and the upper one, just a horseshoe-shaped arch, is composed of a half-arch that, together with the same semi-arch of the neighboring span, is full, Arch, as it were passing through the column above the column. Thanks to this interlacing of arches, the interior of the mosque became the appearance of some fantastic fossilized forest in which, instead of tree trunks, there are marble, granite and porphyry columns, and at the top of these trunks the huge branches striped from white and red stone , from which they are folded. The originality and picturesqueness of this architecture is enhanced by stucco decorations, bright colors and gilding, abundantly covering the walls, ceiling beams and friezes beneath them .

As for the appearance of the Cordoba mosque, it gives the impression of durability and seriousness. Rare windows in the walls, devoid of any cutting, are furnished on both sides with columns, are enclosed by marble slabs with an openwork pattern and have a top view of a horseshoe bordered with relief ornamentation. The same form is given to the entrance gate. To each transverse nave corresponds a projection, which serves as a buttress for the wall. These protrusions tell the mosques a resemblance to the fortress, especially since the walls are crowned with a row of teeth .

The buildings in Seville belong to a later time. In 1172, a large mosque was built in this city, the remains of which are still preserved in the northern and western parts of the local cathedral. There is already a certain change in style in them, about which, however, a minaret belonging to the mosque, which turned into a cathedral bell tower and known as the Giralda (Giralda), is a much better concept. In contrast to most minarets, usually polyhedral or cylindrical, thin and slender, the Giralda has the form of a massive rectangular parallelepiped. The builder of this tower, as legend says, was the famous Arabian architect Gebr, or Geber. The tower is made of brick and white stone and represents completely down to some height, completely bare walls, and above – a relief ornamentation, which looks like patterned panels framed by smooth stripes. The motif of the pattern is reminiscent of the intertwining polylobic arches that we saw in the Cordoba mosque, and even the columns supporting this network of arches are depicted at the bottom of the pattern. This motif of ornamentation is very characteristic in the last two periods of Moorish art. On each side of the Giralda, in the middle, two-bladed windows are arranged one above the other; they are made in a special way in each floor, with a horseshoe-shaped, lancet or polylobed top and decorated with balconies. Inside, instead of a ladder, a number of inclined planes are arranged, along which two near-reaching riders on horseback can reach the top platform of the tower .

The Alcázar
The third curious Moorish building of Seville is the fortified palace Alcazar, built in XII and received annexes in the XIII century. After Sevilla took over the power of the Spaniards, he became the palace of the Castilian kings and has since been repeatedly altered, to such an extent that it has changed its interior, that it has already lost its certainty of style. However, the general location and parts of the Alcázar retained their eastern character. The palace consists of several open courtyards around which galleries and halls are grouped, with walls decorated on top with stucco ornamentation, close in pattern to the Giralda ornamentation, and below are covered with colored tiles representing a geometric pattern .

The Alhambra
The most brilliant and, at the same time, the most characteristic monument of his art, reached the highest point of development, left us the Arabs in Grenada, the last stronghold of their dominion in Spain. It is the palace of the Alhambra’s citadel, which until now is the main attraction of this city. With the exception of the “Gateway of the Court” and others leading to the citadel, arches in the form of a horseshoe are not found anywhere in it: all arches in general are semi-circular, with a raised center, with an archivolt stalactite-trimmed, and with a soffit cut by small semicircles, as if fine corrugation. Arches or climb directly from the ledge above the capitals of the column, retreating from it with a small heel, or lean on brackets above the capitals. There are arches that can not be called arches in the strict sense of the word; both their ends rise up steeply over the abacus of the capitals, and then break inwards and converge at the top rectilinearly, in the form of a pediment. Other arches are even less similar to the real ones: they form, for example, in the pavilions of the Lion’s Court and in the hall of the princesses, the ascending or descending line, broken into parts by stalactites. Columns supporting the arches are extremely thin, slender and equipped with capitals of a charming form and not entirely successful bases, and sometimes dispense completely without bases .

The walls inside the palace hall and galleries are faced from below, to the elbow or shoulder of a man, with colored tiles or tiled mosaics of a more or less intricate geometric pattern. Above this panel extends up a molded relief ornament of a very complex and intricate pattern, now faded, but once played with gilding and bright colors. This coloring diversified it to such an extent that, despite the similarity of the stucco pattern in some rooms, each of them had its own character solely due to the different combination of gold on its walls and three main colors, white, red and blue. The motifs of ornamentation covering not only the walls, but also the spaces between the arches and the capitals of the columns, make up two-pointed leaves on thin stems, pods, flowers, pineapple fruits – all mixed up with one another, twisted and mixed with combinations of geometric lines. In addition, part of the ornament are Kufic inscriptions , stretching in the form of friezes or prisoners in medallions. The quaint luxury of the architectural decoration of the palace is completed (for example in the courtyard of lions) by an openworking of spaces between the spans of arches and stalactites, which abundantly cover the ceiling arches (for example, in the Abenserragov hall and the Hall of Envoys). The same arches, columns and wall decoration, as in the Alhambra, we find in another Moorish palace of Grenada, Generalife , whose architecture, however, is much simpler and more moderate .

By country


Castle of Santa Bárbara
Baños de la Encina Castle (Burgalimar)
The great mosque
Medina Azahara
Baños Califales
Calahorra Tower
Gormaz Castle
Alhambra and Generalife
Cuarto Real de Santo Domingo
Saint Catalina’s Castle
Jerez de la Frontera
Torre del Oro
Mosque of Cristo de la Luz
Mezquita de las Tornerías

Major monuments
Caliphate of Córdoba (929-1031):

Medina Azahara (936-1010) in Córdoba
Mosque of Cristo de la Luz in Toledo (completed 999/1000)
“Minaret of San Juan” (930) at Córdoba, once belonging to a mosque
Archaeological site of the Villarrubia palace (965-66)

Period of Taifas (11th-13th century):

the Mezquita de las Tornerías in Toledo (ca. 1060)
the Almohad minaret known as Giralda (1184–98) at Sevilla, once part of the Great Mosque of Sevilla (1172–1176)
Aljaferia palace (second half of the 11th century) of the Banu Hud dynasty (1039–1110) in Zaragoza;
minaret at the Church of San José at Granada (ca. 1050)
Almohad Minaret at Iglesia de San Juan de los Reyes at Granada

Nasrid Emirate of Granada (1212–1492):

the Alhambra (mainly 1338-1390) and the Generalife (1302-24 in two phases), a country palace initially linked to the Alhambra by a covered walkway across the ravine that now divides them.
Granada Hospital (Maristan) (1365-7)
Masjid of the madrasa of Yusuf I (1349) in the so-called Palacio de la Madraza
New Funduq of Granada (14th century)
Qaysariyya of Granada (15th century)

Algarve (Al-Garb Al-Andalus)
Paderne Castle
Silves Castle
Mosque of Nossa Senhora da Anunciação
Castle of the Moors

Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia
There is a high concentration of Moorish architecture in the Maghrebi states of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia mainly in the cities of Marrakesh, Rabat, Fez, Tlemcen, Algiers, Tunis, and Testour.

Source From Wikipedia