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)



Filed under Imagining Islamic Aesthetic

3 responses to “Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #18 – Islamic Arches

  1. Enjoyed this article very much. My wife and I just returned from a two week trip to Spain and Morocco with a group from our Miami (Snow) Ski Club (yes, that’s correct, a snow ski club in Miami!). I’m doing research on arches and minarets so that I can accurately describe some of my many photos and videos. I would like to give you an appropriate acknowledgement in my presentation. Should I just refer to your “Imagining Islamic Aesthetic” blogs in your “Stars and Symmetry” ?

    • This is pretty much amateur work but if you feel it is adequate for your presentation, please do refer to the posts. It is really a great honour for me, thanks!

  2. Pingback: The Basques Will Be Here Forever. Muslims & Even Jews Are Returning. – treesandriversblog

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