Ida: The Islamic influence on Spain || Islamic Art in Spain
by Melis Gercek of FIU
Melis Eda Gercek is a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Florida International University. Her interest in mental health and the well-being of humans inspires her to become a clinical psychologist. After moving to Miami from Germany, Melis has been introduced to an entire new culture, both Hispanic and American. Her primary hobbies include swimming as she is a lifeguard, here at FIU, and riding her motorcycle. Melis loves traveling, she will be a part of España Study Abroad 2022 and is looking forward to seeing historical and cultural beauty.
For almost 800 years Spain was mainly under Muslim rule due to the invasion of Muslims forces in 711 which led to the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. The most dominant muslim land in Spain was Andalusia which has today the most remains of Islamic art and architectures. The southern part of Spain known as Andalusia is known as the most historical region of Spain for being under the Moorish rule for eight centuries and carrying its Islamic architecture (also known as Moorish architecture) such as the Alcázar castle in Seville, the Great Mosque of Cordoba known as Mezquita Catedral, Madinat al – Zahra, Mosque of Cristo de la Luz and Granada’s Alhambra palace.
The Moorish Empire
The Moors began to invade the Iberian Peninsula including North Africa and Spain an called it Al-Andalus which we can now recognize in Andalusia. Andalusia consists of the cities Cordoba, Sevilla and Granada which contains of many Islamic architecture that evolved from this empire. They brought a climate of religious tolerance, art, culture and landscaping. Granada was the capital of the Moorish Nazrid dynasty from 1232 – 1492. The city itself went through scientific discovery which led to advances in astronomy and medicine as well as the Arabic numeric system, which we use present day, all arrived to Europe through Spain. Islamic art and architecture consisted of the main elements of Geometry, Botany (nature such as gardens) and Calligraphy which was evident in poetry. What was so impressive about the art of Moorish civilization was their ability to blend into everything since there were all monotheistic religions present: Christianity and Judaism and Islam. With all these people present ideas flourished.
Mudejar Art and Architecture
This art style resulted from the blend of all monotheistic religions and their culture by living together and emerging into its own architectural style. It was shaped and influenced mostly by the Muslim style due to the Moorish Empire. This style was born in Toledo and adapted throughout “Spain” as we know it now. They are characterized by square towers, and red ceramic bricks as well as Gothic like and Romanesque trends. Where East meets West.
Alcazar Castle in Seville
This royal palace is one of the oldest ones in Europe and goes back to the 11th century and is located in Seville which was built under Moorish rulers. This palace represents Mudejar art as its most. It was built for Christian King Peter of Castile. It is very known for its tiles and walls as well as very decorative ceilings combining arabesque features as well as calligraphy and geometric patterns that were Islamic characteristics. It was claimed by the Kings of Spain in the 13th century and thus transitioned to a Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque design. These styles blended in and thus were characterized as Mudejar art.
Granada’s impressive architecture by its popular Islamic palace built in the 14th and 15th century. The Alhambra went through four different periods, the architecture was influenced by the rulers in each period and each detail was created by the respective ruler. The founder of Alhambra Muhammad I had a big influence on the Darro river flow to the palace. Features such as the Palace of Lions, Riyad garden and the main entrance and certain towers were all built by rulers such as Muhammad V and Yusuf I. What is very known about this architecture is its interior design, the purpose of the building was to open up and impress the visitors when entering and seeing all details and arts when entered. Not to forget the calligraphic cravings of poems. It might look like a simple facade from the outside but once entered the remarkable architecture and its Islamic style makes it a unique palace. Alhambra consists of many rooms however the most important to be mentioned are the Sala de la Barca which was the bedroom for the Sultans characterized by wooden ceilings and shape of a boat. The hall of the ambassadors right next to the myrtle court with a craving of a poem and a verse from the Quran, as well as its symbol of the seven heavens of Paradise which are all mentioned in the Quran. The Court of. Lions as it has 12 marble lions placed in there and water flows from rooms surrounded. The beautiful gardens of Alhambra and their Mirador with an outstanding view.
Located in Cordoba, it is an architecture shared between Islam and Christianity. It was a construction from the early beginning of Islamic rule and expanded into a greater mosque under the rule of Abd ar-Rahman I, II and III. A minaret was added later which was a major detail of the mosque and placed in the center of the courtyard. Later on in the 10th century, Al-Hakam II improved the mosque even more by adding a mihrab with heptagonal shape and marble and writings of the Quran surrounded. He expanded the prayer hall. The mosque kept expanding with each ruler including Hisham II and thus became the third biggest Mosque that exists in the World. The Christians claimed the mosque in 1236 and the structure became a church. It is now known as a cathedral but kept its interior design of a Mosque.
“You have built here what you might have built anywhere; to do so, you have destroyed what was unique in the world” – King Carlos I
“Muslim Spain (711 – 1492)” – BBC,
“Al-Andalus” – Wikipedia
“The Royal Alcazar of Seville” – dosde
“Mudejar at its peak” – spain info
“Islamic Architecture in Spain” – city tour spain
“Places of Worhsip: La Mezquita Catedral de Cordoba” – The Review of Religions