Moorish Architecture

Moorish architecture refers to the style of architecture that was identified with the Moors who ruled over parts of the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years.

During the Moorish rule in Iberia which stretched from the 8th century until the 15th century, Moors also gained footholds in Western Mediterranean regions such as Sicily, southern Italy, Corsica as well as the entire coastal belt of North Africa.

Consequently, extant Moorish architecture in all of these regions seems to bear resemblance with each other although with distinct regional dissimilarities.

Moorish History Regions Conquered

Moorish Conquest *Areas Highlighted Green

Influences on Moorish Architecture

Moorish Iberia was a confluence of multiple cultures and religions. The overlords in the Moorish society were Arab Muslims while the main pillar of Moorish might were the Berber soldiers from North Africa.

The majority of the society under the Moors were Christians while a significant population of Jews also co-existed. These various influences dictated the overall art and architecture of the Moors. And it can be visibly seen today in the Moorish Spanish, Morrocan, and North African architecture which is a beautiful mixture of different architectural elements.

Moors and Turks Clothing in Medieval Times

Moorish Architecture Facts

  1. Moorish architecture was recognizable by its use of horseshoe arches, courtyards, large domes, decorative and highly colorful tile work, and beautiful honeycomb vaults.
  2. Moorish architecture origins came from the Moors who were Berber-Arab descendants and adherents of Islam.
  3. Moorish architecture dates from the 8th century to the 15th century.
  4. Moorish architecture was influenced by Arab Muslim cultural heritage, Berber culture of North Africa, the Visigoth cultural heritage in Iberia as well as the architectural styles of Western Europe and the Byzantine Empire.
  5. Moorish architecture can be seen in modern-day Portugal, Spain, and the North African regions of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco.
The Great Mosque of Cordoba

Moorish architecture refers to the style of architecture that was identified with the Moors who ruled over parts of the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years.

Characteristics of Moorish Architecture

Among the most iconic Moorish architecture were the mosques constructed during the Moorish period, many of which are extant in modern-day Spain, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Moorish buildings, both secular and religious, typically followed the layout of one or multiple courts surrounded by residential complexes. The use of different types of tiles and low, rounded arches in buildings was another architectural feature closely associated with the Moors.

Moorish architecture frequently includes vast courtyards and gardens and highly adorned interiors of the buildings. In the 10th century, the Moors were among the earliest to make use of the intricate honeycomb vaults which came to be called “muqarnas”.

The Moors built some beautiful buildings during the conquests of Spain such as Alhambra Palace in Granada Spain

Over subsequent centuries, the use of these vaults spread to Italy in particular and Europe at large, North Africa as well as Iran and Arabia. A vast number of Moorish buildings are extant today, spread throughout the Iberian region, in Sicily, and along the coastal belt of North Africa.

Top five examples of Moorish architecture:

  • The Great Mosque of Cordoba – a prime example of Moorish architecture – dates back to the 8th century.
  • Alhambra Palace Granada, Spain  – constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries. It is a huge palace complex.
  • Aljaferia Palace in Zaragoza dates back to the 11th century.
  • The Castle of Paderne in Albufeira, Portugal dates back to the 12th century.
  • The Great Mosque of Algiers in Algeria dates back to the 11th century.