Video: How Islamic Architecture Shaped Europe | Diana Darke

Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture Shaped Europe

Against a backdrop of Islamophobia, Europeans are increasingly airbrushing from history their cultural debt to the Muslim world. But this legacy lives on in some of Europe’s most recognizable buildings, from Notre-Dame Cathedral to the Houses of Parliament.

This beautifully illustrated book reveals the Arab and Islamic roots of Europe’s architectural heritage. Diana Darke traces ideas and styles from vibrant Middle Eastern centers like Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo, via Muslim Spain, Venice and Sicily into Europe. She describes how medieval crusaders, pilgrims and merchants encountered Arab Muslim culture on their way to the Holy Land; and explores more recent artistic interaction between Ottoman and Western cultures, including Sir Christopher Wren’s inspirations in the “Saracen” style of Gothic architecture.

Recovering this long yet overlooked history of architectural “borrowing,” Stealing from the Saracens is a rich tale of cultural exchange, shedding new light on Europe’s greatest landmarks.

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3 replies

  1. I think that Saudi Arabia did not have much architectural history to offer. Most of what now constitutes Islamic architecture and culture has its roots in pre-Islamic Middle East, Iran, Greece, etc. Some of the most famous being in Constantinople, which were Christian in origin and taken over and converted by Muslims.

  2. Well, of course, the architecture would have been brought by the Muslims from the Middle East and no doubt also mixed with whatever architecture of Christian origin that was already there, as was the normal procedure, when they located to Spain. Offhand I don’t know about Spanish ancient architecture, but Christianity was already in existence there and in the rest of Europe, and they already had some significant structures. Remember, the Romans left their mark too. Even the church in the small village I lived in in Germany is more than 1000 years old. I believe that the Arabs evolved culturally as they arrived and established themselves in other lands and cultures.

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