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Examples of Islamic Architecture

Page history last edited by Precious Nicanor 11 years, 5 months ago

     The Islamic Golden Age, also known as the Islamic Renaissance, is dated from 800 C.E. to 1300 C.E.  During this period, scientific and philosophic breakthroughs in the Islamic world contributed to the development of arts, mainly architecture.  The architecture of this period provides the finest examples of mathematics being applied to art.  Such examples of the Islamic Golden Age include:


The Alhambra Palace


     The Alhambra was a palace, a citadel, a fortress and home of the Nasrid Sultans, high government officials, servants of the court and elite soldiers of the Nasrid Dynasty (1238-1492). The Alhambra Palace sits high on a hilltop overlooking the city of Granada, Spain.


The Alhambra was begun in 1248, enlarged in 1279, and again in 1306. The Alhambra Palace complex was first constructed in the mid-1300s (1338-1390) during the Nasrid Dynasty. It was later renovated and modified in the 16th century by King Charles V, so the Alhambra Palace has an interesting mixture of Moorish and European architecture.


Unique Architectural Features

     The Alhambra Palace was constructed in the Moorish (Islamic) style, one of the exotic revival architectural styles that were adopted by architects of Europe and the Americas in the wake of the Romanticist fascination with all things oriental.


     The famous beauties of the palace are: The Gate of Justice, The Court of Alberca; The Court of Lions, with its fountain, its alabaster basin shedding diamond drops; The Hall of Ambassadors; The Tower of Canaries; The Court of Myrtles; The Hall of Justice; and the many gardens, fountains, panoramas,etc.



The Hall of the Ambassadors-

     The Salón de los Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors) is the largest in the Alhambra and occupies the entire Torre de Comares.  This large room was an official reception hall, used for important state business. The square hall, about 11 meters square and 18 meters high once had a marble floor (now clay tiles). The cedar ceiling is an example of beautiful Moslem carpentry while the hall is completely covered by decorative inscriptions--niches, arches, walls and dressing rooms are all covered by poems. A double arch connects this hall with the Hall of the Boat (Sala de la Barca). The hall is surrounded by a skirting board made of glazed tiles forming geometric figures, above which there are stylized vegetal forms.

                              Cedar Ceiling



The Court of Lions

     The Court of the Lions is the main court of the Nasrid Palace of the Lions. It is located in the heart of the Alhambra, the Moorish citadel formed by a complex of palaces, gardens and forts in Granada, Spain. The court of lions is a court located within the 12th-14th Century Moorish palace/citadel, the Alhambra. The court was constructed during 1362 and 1391 CE.  The court measures approximately 116 ft by 66 ft, and consists of a single fountain with four radiating channels running out to a shaded walkway surrounding the court. The Court of the Lions is an oblong court, 116 ft (35 m) in length by 66 ft (20 m) in width, surrounded by a low gallery supported on 124 white marble columns. A pavilion projects into the court at each extremity, with filigree walls and light domed roof, elaborately ornamented. The square is paved with colored tiles, and the colonnade with white marble; while the walls are covered 5 ft (1.5 m) up from the ground with blue and yellow tiles, with a border above and below enameled blue and gold. The columns supporting the roof and gallery are irregularly placed, with a view to artistic effect; and the general form of the piers, arches and pillars is most graceful. They are adorned by varieties of foliage, etc.; about each arch there is a large square of arabesques; and over the pillars is another square of exquisite filigree work. In the center of the court is the celebrated Fountain of Lions, a magnificent alabaster basin supported by the figures of twelve lions in white marble. The court divided in four parts, each one of them symbolizing one of the four parts of the world. Each part is irrigated by a water channel that symbolizes the four rivers of Paradise. This court is, therefore, an architectural materialization of Paradise, where the gardens, the water, and the columns form a conceptual and physical unity. The slender column forest have been said to represent the palm trees of an oasis in the desert, deeply related with Paradise in the Nasrid imagination. In the poem of Ibn Zamrak on the basin of the fountain, a further meaning is stated clearly: The fountain is the Sultan, which smothers with his graces all his subjects and lands, as the water wets the gardens.






The buildings on the Alhambra Palace hill can be identified into four different groups:


Alcazaba (Fortress)

    The Alcazaba (also known as the red fort, due to the color of the rock that makes up the walls) was the fortress, which acted as military headquarters for the Nasrid dynasty. The Alcazaba is the oldest part of the Alhambra.  It was built on the highest point of the hill to defend the royal family and house their army. The Moors, who added a very long outer wall in which they built the Nasrid Palaces, remodeled the fort. The word Moors derives from the Latin mauri, a name for the Berber tribes living in Roman Mauretania.  It can be used to refer to all Muslims, Berber or Arab, who conquered the Iberian Peninsula.




Palacios Nazaríes (Nasrid Palaces)

    The Nasrid Palaces of the Alhambra were Royal Palaces that consisted of a number of brilliantly designed and decorated function rooms and courtyards that were used by the Muslim rules for different purposes. 


    The Royal Complex consists of three main parts: Mexuar, Serallo, and the Harem. The Mexuar is modest in decor and houses the functional areas for conducting business and administration. Strap work is used to decorate the surfaces in Mexuar. The ceilings, floors, and trim are made of dark wood and are in sharp contrast to white, plaster walls. Serallo, built during the reign of Yusef I in the 14th century, contains the Patio de los Arrayanes. Brightly colored interiors featured dado panels, yesería, azulejo, cedar, and artesonado. Artesonado are highly decorative ceilings and other woodwork. Lastly, the Harem is also elaborately decorated and contains the living quarters for the wives and mistresses of the Arabic monarchs. This area contains a bathroom with running, hot and cold water, baths, and pressurized water for showering. The bathrooms were open to the elements in order to allow in light and air. The Harem also features representations of human forms, which is forbidden under Islamic law. The Christian artisans were most likely commissioned to design artwork that would be placed in the palace and the tolerant Muslim rulers allowed the work to stay.



Generalife Gardens

    The Palacio de Generalife literally means “the garden of the architect.” The area consists of beautiful gardens, fountains and patios where the Moorish leaders had their summer palace built. Located just outside the northern fortifications of the Alhambra.


Watercourses and fountains make an oasis of the Alhambra palace built at Granada in the fourteenth century.  Here incredibly light and elegant elements of Islamic decoration find their highest realization.



Medina (town)

    The Medina was created to house craftsmen and serve the needs of the court. It occupies the largest part of the walled area within the upper Alhambra and still conserves the ruins of several houses, baths and small workshops on its typical alleys and squares.



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