Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #18 – Islamic Arches

After a long, long unintentional break from blogging due to technical problems, I am back with my Imagining Islamic Aesthetics posts (and other posts as well!). For this edition of the Imagining Islamic Aesthetics I would like to bring forward the topic of Islamic Arches.

The Islamic Architecture is known for its usage of domes, (influenced from the Byzantine Empire architecture), minarets, usage of gardens etc but it is also remarked by their usage of arches, as they were one of the first who utilizes the architectural feature in their buildings. alfiz

The Muslims adopted the architectural features of arches into their buildings and improvised upon them and created new variations, where it is then used by the Renaissance builders after them (think the Venetian palaces).

The arches may predate the Muslim Empire, in which it is found in the Roman and Byzantine civilizations, but it is in the Ummayad era that arches were given the distinct characteristic of horseshoes. This can be seen in the Mosque of Cordoba in Spain. It is by then spread throughout the Arabic Kingdoms in the regions where it metamorphosed into different variations.

A view inside the Mosque of Cordoba (now Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción) showing one of the finest example of the Islamic, Horseshoe arch.

Intricate carvings on arches founded in the Alcazaba de Málaga, an Islamic era fort in Spain. Most often these arches can be seen with a degree of decoration, for example this one with sumptuous carving done on the plastering of the arches.

A portal in Santiago de Peñalba, a church in Valle de Silencio, Province of Leon, Spain. While these arches is prevalent in the Islamic architecture, it is also utilized by other cultures and religions.

A mihrab in a mosque in Aljaferia Palace in Spain. The Horseshoe Arch, as well as for connecting two pillars together and offer extra support for roofing, it also acts as decorative elements to Mihrabs, and over portals, doors and windows.

An illustration showing the ‘New Jerusalem’, taken from an 1047AD Book of Revelation. The illustration clearly shows Horseshoe arches, an apparent influence of Islamic art and architecture to Christian art (and generally, many other civilizations)