Moorish architecture

WHS that contain significant examples of architecture of the Islamic West (also known as 'Moorish').

Moorish architecture is a style within Islamic architecture that developed in the western Islamic world, including al-Andalus (on the Iberian peninsula) and what is now Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia (part of the Maghreb). It became a unique style over centuries with recognizable features such as the horseshoe arch, riad gardens (courtyard gardens with a symmetrical four-part division), square (cuboid) minarets, and elaborate geometric and arabesque motifs in wood, stucco, and tilework (notably zellij). Over time, this western style made increasing use of surface decoration while also retaining a tradition of focusing attention on the interior of buildings rather than their exterior. Unlike Islamic architecture further east, this style did not make prominent use of large vaults and domes.

Connected Sites

Site Rationale Link
Cordoba Great Mosque of Cordoba: "The Puerta de San Esteban (formerly the Bab al-Wuzara in Arabic) is one of the oldest well-preserved and historically significant gateways of Moorish architecture." and "It had a major influence on the subsequent architecture of Al-Andalus and of the Maghreb – what is known as "Moorish" architecture or western Islamic architecture – due to both its architectural innovations and its symbolic importance as the religious heart of the region's historic Cordoban Caliphate" (wiki)
Granada Alhambra, Palace of the Lions: "The Palace of the Lions is one of the most famous palaces in Islamic architecture and exemplifies the apogee of Nasrid architecture in Al-Andalus... The halls feature some of the most elaborate and sophisticated muqarnas vaults in the Islamic world" Albayzin: "maintains its original residential character, the result of the rich vernacular of Moorish architecture" (AB ev), El Bañuelo (11C hammam)
Kairouan 9th-century monuments: "Great Mosque, an architectural masterpiece that served as a model for several other Maghreban mosques, the Mosque of the Three Doors that represents the most ancient existent sculpted facade of Muslim art." (OUV statement) .. " notable among other things for the first Islamic use of the horseshoe arch" (wiki)
Kasbah of Algiers Simi Ramadan Mosque (11th century, "The mosque's attached minaret has sebka decoration carved across its façades"), Great Mosque (11th century, "one of the few remaining examples of Almoravid architecture, although it has undergone other additions and reconstructions since its foundation.")
Medina Azahara "Artistically, Medina Azahara played a great role in formulating a distinct Andalusian Islamic architecture (also referred to as "Moorish" architecture) ... The congregational mosque bears close resemblance to the Great Mosque of Córdoba ..., and replicated its rows of double-tiered arches. The horseshoe arch, which had also appeared in the Great Mosque of Cordoba already, became further ubiquitous in Madinat al-Zahra and consolidated its distinctive form... The extensive arabesque decoration, carved in relief across many wall surfaces, demonstrate historic influences from Sassanian and Abbasid Iraq, but also notable differences in its details. The basilical royal reception hall, as seen in the Salon Rico, is another distinctive creation here which became a distinctive feature of palace architecture in this region, as it contrasted with the domed and vaulted halls found in the eastern part of the Islamic world... The Lower Garden and Upper Garden of Madinat al-Zahra are the earliest archeologically-attested examples of a symmetrically-divided garden in the western Islamic world, and among the earliest examples in the Islamic world more generally." (wiki)
Medina of Fez Monuments of Fes el-Bali ("Old Fes", founded at beginning of 9th century) such as the Mosque of the Andalusians, and Fes el-Jdid ("New Fes", founded in 13th century) such as the minaret of the Great Mosque ("The four facades of the minaret are decorated similarly with darj wa ktaf motifs (Moroccan rhombus-like decorative forms) carved into the brick.").
Medina of Marrakesh City walls ("The walls have a fairly regular construction typical of medieval Morocco and al-Andalus"), minaret of Koutoubia mosque (12C, "Its design includes a high square shaft (which takes up about four fifths of its height[2]) and another smaller square shaft standing on top of it, capped by a dome. Many features of the minaret are also found in other religious buildings in the country, such as a wide band of ceramic tiles near the top and the alternation between different but related motifs on each façade of the minaret, including Moorish-style polylobed arch patterns."), Saadian Tombs (16C).
Medina of Sousse Great Mosque (9th century, "The prayer hall has 13 naves separated by rows of horseshoe arches"), Ribat (9th century)
Medina of Tunis al-Zaytuna Mosque (especially the dome covering the central entrance to the prayer hall), Kasbah Mosque ("the muqarnas dome of this mosque is almost unique in Ifriqiya and was unparalleled in other Hafsid architecture")
Medina of Tétouan Medina: "The plans and character of these bouses are inspîred by the Moorish architecture developed in medieval Andalusia" (AB ev)
Meknes Bab Mansur (17th century, "The overall design of the gate is based on Almohad prototypes ..., with a large horseshoe-arch opening and flanking bastions, but also presents significant new features. .."a repeating darj-wa-ktaf motif (stylized lozenge-like pattern in Moroccan architecture) which frames the main archway of the gate and fills the spaces above the columns of the flanking bastions.") and Bou Inania Madrasa (14th century, "The courtyard is richly decorated, with the floor and lower walls covered in zellij mosaic tilework")(wiki)
Rabat Bab Oudaya (12th century, "The carved decoration around the horseshoe arch entrance features a curved band of interlacing geometric forms .., set inside a rectangular frame outlined by a Qur'anic inscription frieze in Kufic Arabic script."), Old Mosque (12th century, "Like many medieval western Islamic mosques, its qibla (direction of prayer) is not aligned with the true direction of Mecca but faces mostly south, following an older tradition based on a hadith. The mosque can be entered via four horseshoe arch doorways."), Hassan Tower ("has a square floor plan like other minarets in the region", "lit by the horseshoe-shaped windows set into the sides of the tower. Its exterior is decorated with panels of sebka patterning") (wiki)
Seville Giralda: built as a four-sided minaret in 1198, "These windows vary in form from single horseshoe-arch openings to double-arched openings with polylobed (multifoil) profiles and a central marble column. They are generally framed by an ornate blind arch with marble columns on the sides and arabesque carvings in the spandrels. The two other vertical zones of the facades feature large panels of sebka motifs, each of which springs from a blind arcade of polylobed arches supported on marble columns." (wiki)
Toledo Mosque of Cristo de la Luz (built in 999): "Four columns capped with capitals support horseshoe arches... The influence of the caliphate can be seen in the brickwork on the façade of the building which resembles those seen at the Cathedral–Mosque of Córdoba." (wiki)


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