Surname PAGE 9
Mohamad Abou Chaaban
May 5, 2017
Islamic Architecture and Art and their Influence on Early Modern Europe
Despite the existence of anti-Muslim rhetoric in Europe today, one cannot ignore the fact that for many centuries, the continent was under Islam. The earliest period of its Islamization was 652 A.D. when a small Arab army invaded Byzantine Sicily. The island’s local population comprised of Christians and Jews. However, Islamic influence in Europe was limited since Sicily is an island. Its entry into continental Europe took place in 711 A.D. when the Umayyad conquered Spain. Also known as the Moors, this group renamed this conquered land Al-Andalus, and it covered most of modern Spain and Portugal. By the 10th century, most of the inhabitants of Al-Andalus practiced Islam (Ruggles 78). This period also coincided with a tolerance of Jews, Christians, and other religions leading to relative peace. However, Christian forces also wanted to regain control over the region. For many years, they waged war against Islam, taking small parts of the Al-Andalus until the only part remaining was Granada. By the end of the 8th century, Muslims had been pushed out of Spain and into Southern France. However, even there, they were under considerable opposition, with the Battle of Toulouse and Battle of Tours resulting in Muslim withdrawal. Nonetheless, Islamic influence coincided with a period of great progress and cities such as Damascus, Cordoba, Baghdad, and Cairo played a key role in advancing knowledge. In particular, Cordoba’s library at one point boasted of over 500,000 volumes, a testament to intellectual activity in the Muslim world (Shenk 1). As such, for a while, the Muslim world was a center of knowledge and people traveled from all over Europe to study under Muslim scholars. As a result, most of the progress that took place in Europe during this period was influenced by Islam. Indeed, in a bid to show the influence that Islam had in Europe in the Middle Ages, this essay seeks to demonstrate its effect on early modern European art and architecture through examining arches, domes, music, decorations, ornaments, and carpets.
One of the most prominent pieces of evidence of Islamic influence on European architecture is the arch. Three types of arches seen in early modern Europe were based on Islam architecture. They included the pointed, four-centered, and the horseshoe arch. The first type of arch observed in Islamic architecture were semi-circular in nature and were based on Byzantine and Roman architecture. However, after a series of Islamic conquests in the Mediterranean region, a new version of the arch became prevalent. Unlike the previous one, this arch was created from different center points. The result of this is that it was sharper compared to the old version. In addition, by increasing the distance between the two center points, the builders could make the top point sharper. Indeed, this style spr...