Moorish Style (9th – 15th Century)

Moorish style spread in Maghreb and the Iberian peninsula during the Islamic period, between the end of the 9th century and the end of the 15th.

Great Mosque of Cordoba, interior, 8th - 10th centuries (11)
Medina Azahara, Cordoba, Spain (Great Mosque of Cordoba, interior, 8th – 10th centuries)

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/ce95f626-6720-46d0-9ba2-3c1b9b8a17a0 by Prof. Mortel

Where can it be found

Moorish architecture spread in North Africa and regions of Spain and Portugal, where the Moors dominated. It is possible to visit surviving examples in Iberia, for example in the city of Cordoba. When Prince Abd al-Rahman I established his control over the Iberian Peninsula he tried to recreate Damascus in Cordoba. He wanted new building programs and  imported plants from his home. Orange trees still stand in the courtyard of the Mosque of Cordoba.

La Grande Mosquée
Great Mosque at Cordoba, Spain

Image source : https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/a49a126c-edea-4b2b-94e7-31d2431716ff by Nirgal Ksi

Cordoba
Columns and double arches, Mosque-Cathedral, Cordoba, Spain.

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/4a50e0bc-91d1-41bb-9c6d-f12ab06529d0 by Shadowgate

Cordoba
Columns and double arches, Mosque-Cathedral, Cordoba, Spain.

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/10a22514-5d35-43ad-9a5b-f18efcdf5b05 by Shadowgate

Another interesting example is the Alhambra in Granada. The decoration of the Alhambra was mostly stucco. The extraordinary cupolas of muqarnas appear as huge multifaceted diadems. The decoration of the Alhambra became suddenly a paradox and a tour de force at the same time. Ceilings, for example, are sustained by frail columns or by walls with windows.

Much of the design and decoration of the Alhambra is symbolically oriented. For example on the walls, it is possible to read several inscriptions as “There is no victor but Allah”. These words are meant to protect the king honored in the different courtyards.

Alhambra, Granada
Gardens of the Partal Palace and the Torre de las Damas the Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/3f80db2c-62d1-4b59-bc42-cdc6ca8d8184 by Anna & Michal

Main Features of the Moorish Style

One of the most important features of Moorish style is a simple exterior with an ornate inner part. The Moorish used to live in tents so they decorated interiors with beautiful textiles. The interior was decorated with ornamental writings. Many elements of nature were important such as courtyards with gardens, fountains, reflecting pools.

Nasrid Palaces - The Alhambra - Granada - Comares Palace - Court of the Myrtles - Chamber of the Ambassadors
Nasrid Palaces – The Alhambra – Granada – Comares Palace – Court of the Myrtles – Chamber of the Ambassadors

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/5556b36b-7a83-4c1e-9f27-68810382fe60 by ell brown

Nasrid Palaces - The Alhambra - Granada - The Palace of the Lions - The Hall of the Two Sisters
Nasrid Palaces – The Alhambra – Granada

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/4720a348-3598-42a9-92cb-6b25cccf3061 by ell brown

The climate influenced the materials employed and geometry in decor was important to the Moors. The Koran forbids natural forms so they crafted stars and geometric shapes with different materials. The interior elements of these buildings are exquisite and unique. On the external part is possible to see the importance of horseshoe arches, considered a sign of the Moorish style in architecture.

Great Mosque of Cordoba, exterior detail, 8th - 10th centuries (32)
Example of a horseshoe arch in the Great Mosque of Cordoba- exterior detail, 8th – 10th centuries

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/d5d420a8-c54a-4c67-8dc1-18daad7e1d46 by Prof. Mortel

Great Mosque of Cordoba, exterior detail, 8th - 10th centuries (11)
Great Mosque of Cordoba, exterior detail, 8th – 10th centuries

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/3a72f7ea-958e-4b3d-b84d-c1994d5e5a2c by Prof. Mortel

Symbolism in Moorish Mosques

There are elements common to all the mosques. For example a calligraphic frieze or a cartouche with an inscription. In many cases, the calligraphic quotations come from the Qur’an. Light is also important for mosques since the first prayers need to be said without sunlight. Lamps with other furnishings like carpets are a key aspect of each mosque that is considered in the Muslim tradition as a house. It had a wide interior and exterior spaces to be able to host anyone who wanted to pray.

Great Mosque of Cordoba, exterior detail, 8th - 10th centuries (28)
An example of Inscription in a Mosque- Great Mosque of Cordoba, exterior detail, 8th – 10th centuries

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/d7f28add-f284-4aad-a798-83e91122484b by Prof. Mortel


Info source: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-islam/beginners-guide-islamic-world-art/beginners-guide-islamic-art/a/introduction-to-mosque-architecture