Early Umayyad art The Dome of the Rock: Islam as a synthesis A new meaning for the dome Aniconism Abbasids mosques and their structure

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1 Early Islamic Art Early Umayyad art The Dome of the Rock: Islam as a synthesis A new meaning for the dome Aniconism Abbasids mosques and their structure Umayyad Spain: From lighthouse to minaret Convivencia The Great Mosque of Cordoba

2 Historical context Islam arose among Semitic peoples of the Arabian peninsula early in the 7th century Under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (ca CE) and his successors (caliphs), Islam spread rapidly gaining territory and converts with astonishing speed: By the early 8th century Muslim army had reached India, and penetrated France to within 100 miles of Paris

3 Historical context Therefore, Islamic culture overlapped, interacted, dialogued with different cultures In the arts this created a variety of Islamic styles

4 Early Islamic Architecture Umayyad Caliphate (capital: Damascus, Syria) Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, First great achievement of Islamic architecture is the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem The Muslims had taken the city from the Byzantines in 638 The Umayyad caliph Abd al- Malik erected this ( ) as a tribute to the triumph of Islam It was built on a Jewish and Christian highly symbolic spot: -place of Adam s creation and burial, -Abraham s preparation of Isaac s sacrifice, -the Temple of Solomon destroyed by the Romans in 70 BC

5 The Dome of the Rock is located on the third most holy site in Islam In Islamic tradition, this is believed to be the rock from which Muhammad ascended to Heaven Which is its architectural MODEL? Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, , interior and exterior

6 circular-plan churches The Great Rotunda of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem was built in IV century The Dome of the Rock followed this model rather than that of early mosques Focus on the center arched windows Ambulatory Round arches and classical-like columns Interior of Santa Costanza, Rome ca Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, , interior

7 Abd al-malik probably wanted to show Islam as the continuation and final statement of the previous two faiths (and rulers) the Christian building, decorated with Byzantine-like mosaics was translated into a new, unmistakably Islamic style Its aniconic decoration was new and immediately understandable as Islamic: An-iconic: (Avoidance of figural imagery) A symbolic representation without images of human figures

8 three main elements of Islamic decoration: 1) Geometric patterns: geometric forms are interlaced, and arranged in complex combinations (related to highly developed studies in mathematics ad geometry under the Umayyads) 2) Vegetal patterns: natural images are turned into motifs and patterns Here, symmetrical vine scrolls and trees, have been interpreted as symbols for the gardens of Paradise

9 3) Calligraphy is the most highly regarded of Islamic art In calligraphic decorations, the Arabic script is developed in a variety of ornamental forms and complemented by abstract designs In the Dome of the Rock there are inscriptions from the Koran (the oldest surviving written Koran verses) alternated with passages from other texts

10 However, the main element of originality is outside: Vivid colorful patterning that wraps the external walls Originally the dome was covered with mosaics. new monumentality of the domical structure

11 Holy Sepulchre dome, IV century, Jerusalem In the Early Christian tradition the dome s external effect was of secondary importance Because it was directly following the Roman tradition of the Pantheon

12 One of the greatest intuitions of Umayyad architects is the external effect of the dome whose typical silhouette becomes a point of reference in the urban landscape

13 Aerial view of the Great Mosque, Kairouan, Tunisa, ca The Mosque The Dome of the Rock is an exception is the history of early mosques architecture The archetype of all Muslim houses of prayer was Muhammad own residence in Medina where he settled in 622 CE with a growing number followers before his conquest of Mecca in 630 The house consisted of a row of chambers opening on a vast square courtyard The side facing Mecca was the most important: the qibla This was followed as model for the Great Mosque of Kairouan (Tunisia)

14 It was built by the Abbasids (descendent of Abbas, uncle of Muhammad), Who had overthrown the Umayyad caliphs in 750 (new capital, Baghdad) 4 main architectural elements follow the Medina example: 2) the qibla wall (inside and outside) Aerial view of the Great Mosque, Kairouan, Tunisa, ca ) The vast, columned courtyard 4) Opposite to the mihrab is the minaret, the tower from which the faithful is called to worship 3) in the qibla, is set a niche, called mihrab (maybe the place where Muhammad stood), underscored by a higher arch and a dome

15 This early square-plan monumental minaret was inspired by a Roman lighthouse: effective from both a functional and a symbolic points of view (point of reference and light in the darkness of night navigation) Aerial view and detail of the Great Mosque, Kairouan, Tunisa, ca

16 Later minarets varied this model One of the most daring is that for the Great Mosque at Samarra, Iraq (the largest mosque in the world) Erected by the Abbasids between 848 and 852, it is named Malwiya, which means in Arabic snail shell, and refers to its organic form Malwiya minaret of the Great Mosque, Samarra, Iraq,

17 The adoption of natural shapes and their enlargement into monumental buildings this formal device would influence Modernist architecture Malwiya minaret of the Great Mosque, Samarra, Iraq, F.L.Wright, Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1953

18 too tall (164feet) to have been used to call Muslims to prayer (people wouldn t hear) The Malwiya was not used for its proper function but for symbolic purposes: visible from a considerable distance in the flat plan around Samarra, It was probably intended to announce the presence of Islam in the Tigris Valley Malwiya minaret of the Great Mosque, Samarra, Iraq,

19 2 elements distinguish the Abbasid architecture from those of the Umayyads: 1) extreme simplicity (no colors, no decorations, simple geometric shapes) 2) gigantism of elementary geometric volumes, that powerfully dialogues with the landscape

20 QuickTime and a decompressor are needed to see this picture. Abd-al-Rahman I, the only Umayyad notable to escape the Abbasid massacre of his clan in Syria Fled to Spain in 750 and founded the new Umayyad capital, Cordoba For three centuries it would be the center of a brilliant and sophisticated culture Highly admired and emulated by the Christian West A cultural peculiarity of Umayyad Spain is the particularly rich and complex interaction among Christians, Muslims, and Jews, known as convivencia L: Monument to the rabbi, physician, and philosopher Moses Maimonides ( ), Cordoba; R: Manuscript page by Maimonides. Judeo-Arabic language in Hebrew letters.

21 Cordoba s jewel was the Great Mosque Erected in , its plan followed the Medina model, and later expanded progressively (in the 9th and 10th centuries) as the community s population grew Great Mosque of Cordoba, , Spain QuickTime and a decompressor are needed to see this picture.

22 Great Mosque of Cordoba, , Spain Two-thirds of its area is covered by the prayer hall which is the most original architectural part of the building with its forest of 514 columns

23 4 main peculiarities: 1) The inside effect is that of a boundless space, whose columns continue infinitely Columns are used here in a new way: not to mark the boundary between different spaces: Here columns are the unit that create and measure space 2) the unique system of doubletired arches are a way to raise the the roof using short columns recycled from earlier Christian buildings, but also to amplify visually this sense of infinite multiplication of columns

24 3) The dramatic effect of dark/light contrast created by arches and columns is further intensified by the use of bicolored arches: new use of a traditional element in Umayyad architecture (from where?)

25 4) the horseshoe shape of these arches was actually adopted from Visigothic architecture But was developed here in a such effective way that would later be considered a peculiarity of Spanish- Muslim architecture

26 Dome, Great Mosque, Cordoba, Spain, The Mihrab (niche) is signed by the presence of the dome built in the 10th century decorated with mosaics It rests on an octagonal base (as the Dome of the Rock), However, here the dome shape is integrated with its base through crisscrossed ribs: structural elements (ribs) here become a decorative geometric pattern (they will be extremely influential in Christian Gothic architecture)

27 Pointed arches at the base of the dome, Great Mosque, Cordoba, Spain,

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