The Architecture of the Umayyad Dynasty in Spain (750-1031)
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The Architecture of the Umayyad Dynasty in Spain (750-1031)

The Umayyad descendants of Abd al-Rahman I ruled Spain for more than 270 years. The most influential member of the Umayyad dynasty in Spain was Abd al-Rahman III who reigned between 912 and 961 and his son al-Hakam II (r. 961–76). During their reign, Cordoba enjoyed unprecedented prosperous period of art and architecture and became one of the most important cultural centers in the Islamic world as well as the greatest intellec tual center in Europe

In a previous article I discussed the architecture of the Umayyad in Syria, which represented the first genuine step in formulating a unique architectural vocabulary and artistic features in Islamic architecture.In 711, the Umayyad army, along with Berbers of North Africa, was able to land on the Iberian Peninsula and establish the first Umayyad caliphate in Córdoba.The Arab conquest was carried out by Musa the commander of North Africa and his lieutenant Tariq Bin Ziad.The only area of Spain which the Arab could not conquer was the region of Asturias in the Cantabrian Mountains of the north-west. Until the 750s the province was ruled by governors sent by the Umayyad caliphs.

In 750, the Abbasids dynasty, which was established by Abbas ibnAbd al-Muttalib, a descendant of Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) youngest uncle, defeated Umayyad caliphate of Damascus, Syria. The Abbasids massacred all the Umayyad membersexceptcAbd al-Rahman I, who was able to escape to Spain and establish his dynasty in Cordoba. The Umayyad descendants of Abd al-Rahman I ruled Spain for more than 270 years. The most influential member of the Umayyad dynasty in Spain was Abd al-Rahman III who reigned between 912 and 961and his son al-Hakam II (r. 961–76). During their reign, Cordoba enjoyed unprecedented prosperous period of art and architecture and became one of the most important cultural centers in the Islamic world as well as the greatest intellectual center in Europe

The architecture of the Umayyad dynasty of Spain is characterized by the reinterpretation of the existing traditional architecture of the area as well the introduction of new architectural elements. One of the most important and representative structures of the Umayyad is the Great Mosque of Cordoba. It is considered as one of the wonders of the medieval world by both Muslims and Christians, as well as the greatest achievement of the Hispano-Islamic art and architecture. The mosque featured number of outstanding elements such as grand columns and capitals supporting arcades of horseshoe arches.

Image credit: The great mosque at Cordoba, the one-time capital of the Umayyads in Andalusia

Another distinctive example is Madinat al-Zahra (936 AD), built by Abd al-Rahman III, and was located a few miles west of Cordoba. The city exemplified the high standard of the artistic and architectural sensitivity in this period, as well as it marked the beginning of the luxurious palatial structures. The city consisted of three terraces and contained the caliph’s palace, villas, gardensandpools, mosque, market and governmental buildings as well as residential quarters.

Image credit: Madinat al-Zahra (936 AD)

This period also witnessed the construction of many different structures such as bridges. In 866 the Umayyad constructed the AlcantaraBridge, which was close to the ruins of a Roman bridge. In 1257, the bridge was demolished except for the piers and supports, and reconstructed by Alfonso X.

Image credit: Alcantara Bridge and Gate Restoration, Toledo, Spain, 9th century

The freestanding minaret is the only remnant of the now demolished mosque, which was built in 930 during the reign of the first Spanish Umayyad caliph 'Abd al-Rahman III (912-961 C.E.). The minaret is now associated with the church of San Juan. It featured a square plan and constructed of brick and stone with double horseshoe-arched windows on each face.

Image credit: Minaret of San Juan, Córdoba, Spain, 10th century

References:

  1. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/sumay/hd_sumay.htm
  2. www.archnet.org

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Comments (24)

I love reading your articles on architecture of different eras, I can almost believe I am there, beautiful piece..voted

Wow! Fascinating stuff. I had no idea there was even a connection between Spain and Syria. Guess I'd better start hitting the history books!

An interesting mix of architecture, nice write up Abdel-moniem!

One of my personal favorite cultures. Very interesting read!

How they made those arched bridges so long ago is simply amazing and to have these buildings still around today is a tribute to the skill of the architects.

Just noticed the influence of these structures. Thanks for the read, Voted and Buzzed up.

Ranked #4 in Architecture

I have not visited this city but have been to the Alhambra in Granada, dating from the same time period I believe.

Thanks ladies and gentelmen for your valued and insightful comments and for your continued support. Yes John Alhambra in Granada represents the last period of the Arab Muslim in Spain and I will presented it in a separate article. much appreciated for you all friends

Very interesting and informative article. Thank you for posting it.

Thanks Liz very much for your continued reading and supporting. much appreciated

Ranked #1 in Architecture

A fascinating fusion of styles, brilliantly analysed

Thanks Sir for your valued comment.

Excellent work, sorry for not catching up earlier.

Thanks deepa for your kind comment. appreciate

Another well written article. I've enjoyed the pics as well, thank you.

Thanks Phoenix for your valued comment. much appreciated

Another great post! The images are spectacular...Thanks for sharing your talent here Voted

Thanks Donata for you kind comment. mich appreciated

By the way, forgot to mention that I enjoyed reading and I saved for future reference... thanks

Thank you dear brother Abdel for this good information on architecture. Voted up. I request your friendship and be in your support.

Thank you Sir for your kind comment and support. appreciate

Another intriguing article, thank you!

Very interesting and with great images too.

I am fascinated by Moor influence in architecture Abdel and so appreciate you writing on it...thank you.

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