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MAHOMMEDAN

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Originally appearing in Volume V02, Page 427 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MAHOMMEDAN ARCHITECTURE Before proceeding with " modern architecture," to which the styles now discussed have gradually led us, we have still another important architectural style to describe, in Mahommedan architecture. The term " Mahommedan " has been selected in preference to " Saracenic," because it includes a much wider field, and enables us to bring in many developments which could not well come under the latter title. It was the Mahommedan religion which prescribed the plan and the features of the mosques, and it was the restriction of that faith which led to the principal characteristics of the style. The term " Saracenic " could hardly be applied to the architecture of Spain, Persia or Turkey. The earliest mosques at Mecca and Medina, which have long since passed away, were probably of the simplest kind; there were no directions on the subject in the Koran, and, as Fergusson remarks, had the religion been confined to its native land, it is probable that no mosques worthy of the name would have ever been erected. In the first half-century of their conquest in Egypt and Syria the Mahommedans contented themselves with desecrated churches and other buildings, and it was only when they came among the temple-building nations that they seemed to have felt the necessity of providing some visible monument of their religion. The first requirement was a structure of some kind, which should indicate to the faithful the direction of Mecca, towards which, at stated times, they were to turn and pray. The earliest mosque, built by Omar at Jerusalem, no longer exists, but in the mosque of 'Amr at Cairo (fig. 54), founded in 643 and probably restored or added to at various times, we find the characteristic features which form the base of the plans of all subsequent mosques. These features consist of (a) a wall built at right angles to a line drawn towards Mecca, in which, sunk in the wall, was a niche indicating the direction towards which the faithful should turn; (b) a covered space for shelter from the sun or inclement weather, which was known as the prayer chamber; (c) in front of the prayer chamber, a large open court, in which there was a fountain for ablution; and (d) a covered approach on either side of these courts and from the entrance. The materials employed in the earlier mosque were all taken from ancient structures, Egyptian, Roman and Byzantine, but so arranged as to constitute the elements of a new style. The columns employed were not always of sufficient size, and therefore in order to obtain a greater height, above the capitals were square dies, carrying ranges of arches, all running in the direction of Mecca; to resist the thrust, wood ties were built in under the arches, so that the structure was of the lightest appearance. The same principle was observed in the mosque of Kairawan, in Tunisia (675), and in the mosque of Cordova (786–985), copied from it. Similar wooden ties are found in the mosque of El Aksa and the Dome of the Rock at Jerusalem (built 691), so that they became one of the characteristics of the style. For constructional reasons, however, this method of building was not always adhered to, and in the mosque of Tulun (fig. 55) in Cairo (879), the first mosque in Egypt, built of original materials, we find an important departure. The arcades, instead of running at right angles to the Mecca wall, are built parallel with it, on account of the great thrust of the arches, all built in brick (fig. 56). The wood ties would have been quite insufficient to resist the thrust, and in the case of this mosque were probably used to carry lanterns. The mosque of Tulun is the earliest example in which the pointed arch appears throughout, and it forms the leading and most characteristic constructional feature of the style in its subsequent developments in every country, except in Barbary and Spain, where the circular-headed horse-shoe arch seems to be preferred. As it is also the earliest mosque in which the decoration applied is that which was by'inference laid down in the Koran, some allusion to the restrictions therein contained, and the consequent result, may not be out of place. The representation of nature in any form was absolutely forbidden, and this applied generally to foliage of all kinds, and plants, the representation of birds or animals, and above 5. Fountain for Ablution. 6. Rooms built later. 7. Minaret. 8. Latrines. all of the human figure. The only exceptions to the rule would seem to be those found in the very conventional representations of lions carved over the gateways of Cairo and Jerusalem and in the courts of the Alhambra. It was this restriction which produced the extremely beautiful conventional patterns which are carried round the arches of the mosque of Tulun, and are found in the friezes, string-courses and the capitals of the shafts, and when these patterns form the background of the text of the Koran in high relief, in the splendid Arabic characters, it would be difficult to find a more beautiful decorative scheme in the absence of natural forms. As the mosque of Tulun was built by a Coptic architect, and its decoration is evidently the result of many years of previous developments, it is probably to the Copts that its evolution was due. The second type of decoration is that which is given by geometrical forms, and either in pavements or wall decorations in marble, or in the framing of woodwork in ceilings, or in doorways, the most elaborate and beautiful combinations were produced. The third type of decoration is one which in a sense is found in the origin of most styles, but which, restricted as the Mahommedans were to conventional representations, received a development of far greater importance, and in one of its forms—that known as stalactite vaulting—constitutes the one feature in the style which is not found in any other, and which, from the western coast of Spain to the east of India, at once differentiates it from any other style. A complete account, with illustrations of the origin of the stalactite will be found in the Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (1898). The earliest example is found in the tomb of Zobeide, the favourite wife of Harun al-Rashid, at Bagdad, built at the end ofthe 8th century. This tomb, octagonal in plan, and of modest dimensions, was vaulted over by a series of niches in nine stages or levels rising one above the other, and brought forward on the inside, so that the ninth course completed the covering of the tomb. It was built in this way to save centreing, each niche when completed being self-supporting. There is a second tomb at Bagdad, of later date—the tomb of Ezekiel,—constructed in the same way, except that in each stage the niches are built not one over the other but astride between the two, and this is the way in which in subsequent developments it always appears to have been built. Its application to the pendentives of the portals of the mosque at Tabriz and Sultaniya was the next development; and when some two centuries later it is found in Europe, in the palaces of the Ziza at Palermo, dating from about the beginning of the 11th century, it has lost its brick constructive origin, and, being cut in slabs of stone, has become simply a decorative feature. Its earliest example in Egypt is in the tomb of ash-Shafi`i at Cairo, built by Saladin about 1240. Here and in all subsequent examples throughout Egypt and Syria it is always carved in stone. In the Alhambra another material was employed, the elaborate vaults being built with a series of small From Coste's Architecture Arabe en Caire. moulds in stucco. In the ceilings of the mosques at Cairo it was frequently carved in wood, and consequently lost all trace of its origin. Two other decorative features, but having a constructive origin, are (I) the alternating of courses of stone of different colour, probably derived from Byzantine work, where bands of brick were employed; and (2) the elaborate forms given to the voussoirs of the arches of the Mecca niche. Having now described the principles which ruled the plans of the mosques and formed the motifs of their architectural design, it remains to take the principal examples in the various countries where the style was developed. Although the tendency of modern research points to Persia as the country in which the first development of the art took place, and we have already referred to two tombs at Bagdad, in which the earliest examples of a stalactite vault are found, so far as remains are concerned nothing can be traced earlier than the work of Ghazan Khan (1294), whose mosque at Tabriz, half in ruins, is the earliest example. It is to Egypt therefore we turn first. There still exist—and sometimes in good preservation—mosques and other buildings in Cairo of every period showing the development of the Mahommedan style, from the 9th to the 17th century. Owing to the magnificent material at their command—for unfortunately more of it was taken from the ancient Egyptian monuments than from the quarries-a much purer style was evolved than in Persia ; and owing to the absence of rain those ephemeral structures built in brick and covered with stucco, which in other countries would long have passed away, retained the crispness of their flowing ornament, which is still as sharp and well defined as when executed. We have already referred —greet 1. Kibla. 2. Mimbar. 3. Tomb of 'Amt.. 4. Dakka. to two of the earlier mosques, those of 'Amr in Old Cairo and of Tulun. The next in date, and built also in brick, is the mosque El Hakim (c. 1003). The mosque of El Azhar (" the Splendid ") was founded about 970, but entirely rebuilt in 1270 and enlarged in 1470. It is the university, and its Liwan or prayer chamber is the largest in Cairo, there being 38o columns carrying its roof. The mosque of al-Zabir (founded 1264) is now occupied as barracks. In one of its entrance porches the arches are decorated with the well-known zigzag or chevron ornament, and a second porch with cushion voussoirs, features found elsewhere only in Sicily, so that the mosque was probably built by masons brought from thence. Then follows a series of mosques: Kalaun (1287); al-Nasir (1299–1303);and 69 ft. wide, a greater span than any Gothic cathedral, and only exceeded in dimensions by the great hall of the palace at Ctesiphon built by the Sassanian dynasty. The mosque covers a large area, and would seem to have been occupied by four religious sects, whose rooms, situated on the outer side, are lighted by windows in eight or ten storeys, giving the appearance of a factory. Its entrance portal, 6o ft. to 70 ft. high, is the finest in Egypt, and is only exceeded in dimensions by those of the Persian and Indian mosques. The vestibule is covered by a dome with stalactite pendentives, and is perhaps the most complete and perfect example in Cairo. Beyond the prayer chamber is the tomb of the founder, which is covered by a dome. This, according to Poole, was not originally a feature in Le i Lti.k"M.41 .111IMM,'=''aub` uT Ji~~il!+1~elgl,~. nst i irgmug .mar- Merdani (1338) ; all based on the same plan as those described with a large courtyard surrounded by porticoes. The mosque of al-Nasir has a portal with clustered piers and pointed and moulded orders. This is said to have been brought over as a trophy from Acre, but it is more probable that Syrian masons were imported to carry on the style introduced by the Crusaders. The mosque of Sultan Hasan (1357–1360) marks an important change in the scheme of its plan, which served afterwards as a future model (fig. 57). It consists of a central court, 117 ft. by 105 ft. open to the sky, and instead of the covered porticoes on each side there are immense recesses covered over with pointed vaults. The prayer chamber is 90 ft. deep, 90 ft. high to the apex of the vault Saracenic mosques. A dome, he says, has nothing to do with prayer and therefore nothing with a mosque. It is simply the roof of a tomb, and only exists when there is at least a tomb to be covered. The greater number of the mosques in and outside Cairo are mausoleums, which accounts for the large number of domes found there. - Of the tombs of the caliphs, outside Cairo, the most important is the tomb of ash-Shafi'i, reputed to have been built by Saladin but now quite changed by restoration. The tomb of Barkuk, in which the courtyard plan of Sultan Hasan is retained, has porticoes round it, which are of much more solid construction than those in earlier examples, and carry small domes. The two great domes on the east side and the minarets on the west are among the finest in Cairo. The tomb-mosque of Kait Bey (c. 1470), though comparatively small, is the finest in design and most elegant of its type in Egypt. Here the central court is covered by a cupola lantern (fig. 58), and the ceiling over the prayer chamber and other recesses is framed in timber and elaborately painted and gilded. The tomb is at the south-east corner, and is covered with a dome in stone, beautifully carved with conventional designs. In some of the mosques by the side of the portal is a fountain enclosed with bronze grilles, and above it a small room sometimes used as a school with open arcades on two sides. This feature in the mosque of Kait Bey, with the portal on its right, the lofty minaret beyond, and the great dome at the farther end, makes it the most picturesque in aspect of any Cairene mosque. (For plan see MosQut:, fig. 3.) It was in Egypt that the minaret received its highest development. The earliest example is that of the mosque of Tulun, which is of unusual shape, and has winding round it an inclined plane or staircase of easy ascent which can be made on horseback. The original design of this scheme was probably derived from the mosque of Samara, a town 6o m. north of Bagdad, where the minaret built c. 85o has a spiral ascent round it, recalling that of the Assyrian ziggurat as at Khorsabad. The general design of the Cairo minarets would seem to have been universally adhered to from the 12th century onwards, but the upper storeys are all varied in detail, there being virtually no two alike. As a rule the lower portion of the minaret forms part of the main wall of the mosque, and was carried tip square a few feel Scale of Feet rr- above the cresting. It then became octagonal on plan, the sides decorated with niches or geometrical ornaments in bold relief. This, the first independent storey, was crowned by a stalactite cornice carrying the balcony (fig. 59), from which the muezzin (callto-prayer) was chanted. In the early and fine examples the balustrade round it consisted of vertical posts with panels between, pierced with geometric ornaments, and all in stone. The second storey, also octagonal, was set back sufficiently to allow a passage round, and this was crowned by a similar stalactite cornice and balustrade. A third storey, sometimes circular on plan, completed the tower, which was crowned with a bulbous terminal. In one of the mosques, that of El Azhar, the first storey is square on plan, and the second storey has twin towers with lofty bulbous finials. The elaboration of the carved ornament on the various storeys of the minarets is of considerable beauty. Among the most remarkable, other than those already referred to, are the miharets of the mosque of al-Bordeni, of Kalaun, al-Nazir, Mu'ayyad (built on the semi-circular bastion wall of the Zuwela Gate),Sultan Barkuk (1348), and numerous other mosques or tombs outside Cairo. The earlier domes were quite plain, hemispherical, with buttresses round the base, similar to those of St Sophia at Constantinople. In the later domes it was found that by raising the upper portion so as to take the form in section of a pointed arch, they could be built in horizontal courses of masonry up to about two-thirds of their height, the upper portion forming a lid without any thrust. It is probably owing to this method of construction that they still exist in such large numbers. The outer surfaces are decorated in various ways with geometrical designs, star patterns, chevrons, diapers, &c. Domes built in brick were covered with stucco and divided up into godroons. We have already referred to the lofty portal of the mosque of Sultan Hasan; portals of smaller dimensions form the principal entrance to all the mosques and private houses. The recessed portion rises to twice or three times the height of the door, and its pointed or cusped head is always filled by a rich stalactite vault. The descriptions of the disposition of plan, and the principles which have governed the plans of the Cairene mosques, apply equally to those in Syria, so that it now only remains necessary to quote the chief examples. Of these the earliest is the Dome of the Rock, incorrectly called the mosque of Omar, which was built by Abdalmalik in 691, partly with materials taken from the buildings destroyed by Chosroes. At first it consisted of a central area en-closing the sacred rock, covered with a dome and with aisles round carried on columns and piers, and like the smaller Dome of the Chain open all round, but the climate of Syria is very different from thatin Egypt, and consequently at a later period (813—833) the sultan Mamun built the walls which now enclose the whole structure. Many restorations have taken place since, and the dome with its rich internal decoration is attributed to Saladin (1189). The magnificent Persian tiles which encase the walls, the marble casing of some of the piers, and the stained glass, form part of the works of Suleiman (1520-1560). The great mosque of Damascus occupied the site of an ancient church dedicated to St John the Baptist, which for a time was divided between the Christians and the Mahommedans. But in 705 the caliph al-Walid took possession of the whole church, which he rebuilt, retaining, however, the whole of the south wall, portions of which belonged to a Roman temple. This, which by chance happened to face south, became the Mecca wall, the niche being sunk in one of the doorways of the original temple. Its plan, therefore, is a variation of those we have already described. It consists of a transept with dome over the centre, three aisles of equal width, running both east and west, and a great court on the north side surrounded by arcades. The great transept is virtually the prayer chamber. The new building was erected by Byzantine masons sent from Constantinople, and decorated with marbles and mosaic by Greek artists. The mosque was almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1893, but has since been rebuilt. The mosque of EI Aksa in the sacred enclosure in Jerusalem, and south of the Dome of the Rock, was commenced by Abdalmalik (691), who used up materials taken from the church of St Mary, built by Justinian on Mount Sion, which had been destroyed by Chosroes. There have been so many restorations and rebuildings since, owing to destructive earthquakes and other causes, that it is difficult to give the precise dates of the various portions. The columns of the nave and aisles are extremely stunted in proportion, and their capitals are of a very debased type, copied by inferior artists from Byzantine models. They carry immense wood beams cased, and above them a range of pointed arches, among the earliest examples used throughout a mosque, and probably dating from the rebuilding (774—785). The Crusaders made various additions in the rear, but the great entrance porch is said to have been added by Saladin, after 1187, and was built probably by Christian masons who were allowed to remain in the country. The numerous minarets at Jerusalem and Damascus in general design follow those of Egypt, but instead of the incised work are generally encased with marble in geometric patterns. The great mosque at Mecca, from which it was thought at one time the plan of the Egyptian and other mosques was taken, is necessarily different from all others, because the Ka'ba or Holy Stone, towards which all the niches in all other mosques turn, stood in its centre. The arcades which surround the court were nearly all rebuilt in the 1'7th century, as the whole mosque was washed away by a torrent in 1626. The mosque of Kairawan in Tunisia was built in 675. It occupies an area of 427 ft. deep and 225 ft. wide, with a prayer chamber at the Mecca end of 17 aisles and 11 bays deep, more than twice, therefore, that of 'Amr in Old Cairo. The columns to the prayer chamber, all taken from ancient buildings, are 22 ft. high in the central aisle and 15 ft. in all the others. They carry horse-shoe arches, which, as in the mosque of :Amr, are all tied together by wood beams inserted at the springing of the arches. The mosque of Cordova was built by Abdarrahman (Abd-ar-Rahman) in 786-789 in imitation of the mosque of Kairawan. There were eleven aisles of twenty-one bays, the centre one slightly wider than the other. The materials,were taken from earlier buildings, and, as the columns and caps were not considered high enough, above the horse-shoe arches are built a second row of arches which carry the barrel vaults. To this mosque Hakim added twelve more bays in depth at the Mecca end (962), and in 985 Mansur added eight more aisles of thirty-three bays on the east side. Part of the open court on the north side dates from Abdarrahman's foundation (690) and part from Mansur. In the mosque of Cordova we find the earliest example of the cusped arch, in the additions made by Hakim in 961; in order to obtain a greater height above the columns, it became necessary to employ the expedient of raising arch above arch in order to obtain the height they required for the ceilings; and as these arches formed purely decorative features, which might otherwise have become monotonous, variety was given by introducing the cusped form of arch and interlacing them one within the other. It is probably this elaborate design which suggested the plaster decorations of the screens above the arches in the court of the Alhambra. Though commenced in 1245, the existing palace of the Alhambra was built in the first half of the 14th century, at a time when the style was fully developed. There are two great courts at right angles to one another, the most important of which was the Court of the Lions, so called from the fountain in the centre, with twelve conventional representations of that animal carrying the basins. This court is surrounded by an arcade with stilted arches carried on slender marble columns with extremely rich decoration above, partly in stucco painted and gilt. The hall of the Abencerrages (35 ft. square) has a polygonal dome covered with arabesque (fig. 60). Two other halls are roofed with lofty stalactite vaults of great intricacy, richly gilded and of remarkable effect (fig. 61), but the employment of stucco instead of stone, as in Egypt, has led to an abuse in the wealth of enrichment, which is only partly redeemed by the plain masonry of the towers and walls enclosing the palace. The Giralda at Seville is the only example of a tower, but it does not seem to have served the purpose of a minaret. With the exception of the built by the Seljukian dynasty, the Mahommedan style in Persia dates from the 13th century, i.e. if Ghazan Khan built the mosque at Tabriz in 1294. The plan is that of a Byzantine church with a central dome, aisles and sanctuary. The portal consists of a lofty niche vaulted with semi-domes and stalactite pendentives, similar in many respects to the well-known example of Sultan Hasan in Cairo, built sixty years later. It is built in brick and covered internally and externally with glazed bricks of various colours, wrought into most intricate patterns with interlacing ornament and with Cufic inscriptions. The dazzling and perfect beauty in point of colour is not to be surpassed, but from the architectural point of view it possesses the fatal sin of not showing its construction. The bricks and tiles are only a veneer, and though in certain features (such as the portal and the dome) the construction is at least suggested, the tendency is to trust to decoration alone to produce architectural effects. (But see TABRIZ.) The great mosque at Isfahan (1585) is a good illustration of the danger attending a too free use of surface decoration. Strip the walls of their tiles, and nothing is left except square box-like forms with pointed arched openings of different form. The interior, how-ever, owing to the variety of its features, and the varied play of light and shade given in the hemispherical vaults of its transepts andniches and the vaulted aisles, constitutes one of the most beautiful monuments of Mahommedan art. Apart from the great development of Mahommedan architecture in India (see INDIAN ARCHITECTURE), there remains now to be described only one other phase of the style, that found in Constantinople. Prior to the conquest of Constantinople in 1445, two mosques were built by the Turks at Brusa in Asia Minor. The plan of Ulu Jami, the great mosque, follows the original courtyard type. Yeshil Jami, the Green mosque (1430), built on the site of a Byzantine church, is cruciform on plan. In both of them the Persian influence is shown, in the magnificent towers with which they are covered, the marble casing and the stalactite vaults. After the conquest of Constantinople, the supreme beauty of St Sophia, and the adaptability of its plan to the requirements of the Mahommedan faith, caused it to be accepted as the model on which all the new mosques were based. The first two erected were the Bayezid (1497-1515) and the Selim mosques (1520-1526). In the former the dome and its pendentives are carried on octagonal piers. and the dome, io8 ft. in diameter, is greater than in any subsequent example. The finest mosque, and the example in which we find the complete development of the Turkish style, is that erected by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1550-1555. This mosque, designed by Sinan, an Armenian architect, is still quite perfect. The plan follows very closely its model, St Sophia, and consists of a central dome, 86 ft. in diameter and 156 ft. high, carried on pendentives, resting on great arches which are slightly pointed, with great apses on the east and west sides, and three smaller apses in each, the arches of which are all circular. The principal change in design is that found in the north and south walls, under the arches carrying the dome; in St Sophia they were subdivided into two storeys with galleries overlooking the church, but in the Suleimanic mosque the galleries are set back in the outer aisles, and the screen walls consist of a wide central and two side pointed arches, and voussoirs alternately of black and white marble. The tympana above this is pierced with eighteen windows filled with geometric tracery. Stalactite work is employed in the pendentive of the smaller apses and in the capitals of the columns carrying the pointed arches. The columns are of porphyry, the shafts, 28 ft. high, being taken from the Hippodrome and probably brought originally from Egypt. The walls are cased with marble up to the springing of the dome, but the magnificent mosaics of St Sophia are here replaced by vulgar colouring and plaster decoration of a rococo style, due probably to recent restorations. The mosque is preceded by 'a forecourt, surrounded by an arcade on all sides and containing a fountain, and in the garden in the rear is the tomb of the founder and his wife. The Shah-Zadeh mosque, known as the prince's mosque, was also built by Sultan Suleiman, from the designs of Sinan, the same -;- Armenian architect who built the Suleimanic mosque. Here, instead of confining the great apses to the east and west sides, they are introduced on the north and south sides in place of the screen, and produce a monotonous and poor effect. The same design is found in the Ahmedin mosque, built 1608, and with the same result. Externally, however, they are both fine, owing to the variety of domes, semi-domes and other curved forms of roof. The minarets of the Turkish mosques are very inferior to those of Cairo. They are of great height, generally semicircular, with narrow balconies round the upper part, and crowned with extinguisher roofs. To a certain extent, however, they contrast very well with the domes and semi-domes of St Sophia and those of the mosques built by the Turks. In the mosque of Osman, built 1748-1757, we find the first trace of Western influence in its rococo design, but here, as in the mosque of Mehemet Ali in Cairo, built in 1837, the scheme is so good that, notwithstanding the great falling off in design, and, in the latter mosque, the construction, the effect of the interior is very fine. Amongst other architectural features, the fountains in the court-yards of the mosques and those which decorate the public squares are extremely pleasing in design. The latter are square on plan with polygonal angles, elaborate niches with stalactite heads, with overhanging eaves on each side; the ornament is very varied and the colour sometimes very attractive. The roofs have sometimes most picturesque outlines. (R. P. S.)
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