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.

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.

Important Facts about Moorish Architecture:

  1. Moorish architecture was recognizable by its use of horseshoe arches, courtyards, large domes, decorative and highly colorful tile work and the 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 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

The Great Mosque of Cordoba

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 the 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”.

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