Moorish Revival architecture

Moorish Revival or Neo-Moorish is one of the exotic revival architectural styles that were adopted by architects of Europe and the Americas in the wake of Romanticist Orientalism. It reached the height of its popularity after the mid-19th century, part of a widening vocabulary of articulated decorative ornament drawn from historical sources beyond familiar classical and Gothic modes. Neo-Moorish architecture drew on elements from classic Moorish architecture and, as a result, from the wider Islamic architecture.[1]

Viječnica in Sarajevo
Famed Viječnica in Sarajevo, 1894, building of the National Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In Europe

Southern garden façade of Alupka Palace with a massive central exedra forming an open iwan-like vestibule
The Jama Masjid was the inspiration for Blore's design.[2]

The "Moorish" garden structures built at Sheringham Park in Norfolk, ca. 1812, were an unusual touch at the time, a parallel to chinoiserie, as a dream vision of fanciful whimsy, not meant to be taken seriously; however, as early as 1826, Edward Blore used Islamic arches, domes of various size and shapes and other details of Near Eastern Islamic architecture to great effect in his design for Alupka Palace in Crimea, a cultural setting that had already been penetrated by Ottoman architecture.

By the mid-19th century, the style was adopted by the Jews of Central Europe, who associated Moorish and Mudéjar architectural forms with the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain.[3] It has also been argued[by whom?] that Jewish communities adopted this architecture (which in Western eyes was seen as stereotypical of "Islamic" or "Oriental" culture more broadly) for more complex reasons; mainly, as an affirmation or reclamation of the Middle Eastern roots of their history and thus as a way of setting themselves apart from the surrounding Western or Christian society.[3][4] This came at time when Jews were gaining more freedoms in some European societies and the construction of ostentatious synagogues was possible for the first time, thus provoking a search for a new distinct style of architecture. Historian John M. Efron of the University of California at Berkeley regards the popularity of Moorish revival architecture among builders of synagogues as a counterpoint to Edward Said's Orientalism, which criticizes European orientalism as inherently imperialist and racist, since the builders chose the style as an expression of admiration for the culture of the Muslim world.[5] As a consequence, Moorish Revival spread around the globe as a preferred style of synagogue architecture for a long period until the early 20th century.[4][3]

Gran Teatro Falla, Cádiz, Spain

In Spain, the country was conceived as the place of origin of Moorish ornamentation, and the interest in this sort of architecture fluctuated from province to province. The mainstream was called Neo-Mudéjar. In Catalonia, Antoni Gaudí's profound interest in Mudéjar heritage governed the design of his early works, such as Casa Vicens or Astorga Palace. In Andalusia, the Neo-Mudéjar style gained belated popularity in connection with the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. It was epitomized by Plaza de España of Seville and the Gran Teatro Falla in Cádiz. In Madrid, the Neo-Mudéjar was a characteristic style of housing and public buildings at the turn of the century. In contrast, the 1920s return of interest to the style resulted in such buildings as the bullring of Las Ventas and Diario ABC office. A Spanish nobleman built the Sammezzano, one of Europe's largest and most elaborate Moorish Revival structures, in Tuscany between 1853 and 1889.

Lithography of the Moorish Castle, a theater built in Moorish Architecture. Location was Frederiksberg, Denmark

Although Carlo Bugatti employed Moorish arcading among the exotic features of his furniture, shown at the 1902 exhibition at Turin, by that time the Moorish Revival was very much on the wane almost everywhere. A notable exception was Imperial Russia, where the shell-encrusted Morozov House in Moscow (a stylisation of the Pena Palace in Sintra), the Neo-Mamluk Dulber palace in Koreiz, and the palace in Likani exemplified the continuing development of the style.

In Hungary


In the Balkans


Another exception was Bosnia, where, after its occupation by Austria-Hungary, the new authorities commissioned a range of Neo-Moorish structures. The aim was to promote Bosnian national identity while avoiding its association with either the Ottoman Empire or the growing pan-Slavic movement by creating an "Islamic architecture of European fantasy".[6] This included application of ornamentations and other Moorish design strategies neither of which had much to do with prior architectural direction of indigenous Bosnian architecture. The central post office in Sarajevo, for example, follows distinct formal characteristics of design like clarity of form, symmetry, and proportion while the interior followed the same doctrine. The National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo is an example of Pseudo Moorish architectural language using decorations and pointed arches while still integrating other formal elements into the design.

Other notable example in the region is the building of the Regional historical museum in Kardzhali, Bulgaria build in the 1920s, combining also Central Asian styles.

Regional historical museum in Kardzhali in Bulgaria

In the United States

Yeshiva University, New York City

In the United States, Washington Irving's fanciful travel sketch, Tales of the Alhambra (1832), first brought Moorish Andalusia into readers' imaginations; one of the first neo-Moorish structures was Iranistan, a mansion of P. T. Barnum in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Constructed in 1848 and destroyed by fire ten years later, this architectural extravaganza "sprouted bulbous domes and horseshoe arches".[7] In the 1860s, the style spread across America, with Olana, the painter Frederic Edwin Church's house overlooking the Hudson River, Castle Garden in Jacksonville and Longwood in Natchez, Mississippi usually cited among the more prominent examples. After the American Civil War, Moorish or Turkish smoking rooms achieved some popularity. There were Moorish details in the interiors created for the Henry Osborne Havemeyer residence on Fifth Avenue by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The most thorough example of Moorish Revival architecture was Villa Zorayda in St. Augustine, Florida, built in 1883 by Franklin W. Smith as a winter home and showplace for the Boston businessman and architectural enthusiast. Today it is a museum, open for tourists. In 1893, The Great Saltair was built on the southern shores of The Great Salt Lake, adjacent to Salt Lake City. Under dozens of Moorish domes and lambrequin, polylobed, and keyhole arches, Saltair housed popular clubs, restaurants, bowling alleys, a hippodrome, rollercoaster, observation deck for the surrounding desert, and what was marketed as the largest dance hall in the world.[8] Like Iranistan before it, Saltair was destroyed by fire in 1925 and again in 1970; the first of which, less than 30 years after opening.

The trend continued into the early 1900s, for example in the 1909 Murat Shrine Temple in Indianapolis, Indiana. The 1914 Pittock Mansion in Portland, Oregon incorporates Turkish design features, as well as French, English, and Italian ones; the smoking room in particular has notable Moorish revival elements. In 1937, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota added unusual minarets and Moorish domes, unusual because the polychrome decorations are made out of corn cobs of various colors assembled like mosaic tiles to create patterns. The 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel, whose minarets and Moorish domes are now the pride of the University of Tampa, was a particularly extravagant example of the style. Other schools with Moorish Revival buildings include David H. Zysman Hall at Yeshiva University in New York City. George Washington Smith used the style in his design for the 1920s Isham Beach Estate in Santa Barbara, California.[9]

In India




In the United States

Fox Theatre (Atlanta, Georgia)
The Alhambra Theatre (El Paso, Texas)
Theater City and State Architect Date
Alhambra Theatre El Paso, Texas Henry C. Trost 1914
Alhambra Theatre Evansville, Indiana Frank J. Schlotter 1913
Alhambra Theatre Birmingham, Alabama Graven & Maygar 1927
Alhambra Theatre Hopkinsville, Kentucky John Walker 1928
Alhambra Theatre San Francisco, California Miller and Pflueger 1925
Altria Theater Richmond, Virginia Marcellus E. Wright Sr., Charles M. Robinson 1927
Bagdad Theatre Portland, Oregon Thomas & Mercier 1927
The Carpenter Center Richmond, Virginia John Eberson 1928
Civic Theatre Akron, Ohio John Eberson 1929
Corn Palace Mitchell, South Dakota Rapp and Rapp 1921
Emporia Granada Theatre Emporia, Kansas Boller Brothers 1929
Fox Theatre Atlanta, Georgia Mayre, Alger & Vinour 1929
Fox Theatre North Platte, Nebraska Elmer F. Behrens 1929
Granada Theater The Dalles, Oregon William Cutts 1929
Irem Temple Wilkes-Barre, PA Olds, Fred & Puckey, Willard F. 1907
Keith's Flushing Theater Queens, New York Thomas Lamb 1928
Olympia Theater Miami, Florida John Eberson 1926
Liberty Theatre North Bend, Oregon Tourtellotte & Hummel 1924
Lincoln Theater Los Angeles, California John Paxton Perrine 1927
Loew's 72nd Street Theatre New York City Thomas W. Lamb 1932 (dem.)
The Majestic Theatre San Antonio, Texas John Eberson 1929
Mount Baker Theatre Bellingham, Washington Robert Reamer 1927
Murat Theatre at Old National Centre Indianapolis, Indiana Oscar D. Bohlen 1910
Music Box Theatre Chicago, Illinois Louis J. Simon 1929
New York City Center Manhattan, New York City Harry P. Knowles and Clinton & Russell 1922
Palace Theatre Canton, Ohio John Eberson 1926
Paramount Theater Abilene, Texas David S. Castle & Co. 1930
Plaza Theatre El Paso, Texas W. Scott Donne 1930
Saenger Theater Hattiesburg, Mississippi Emile Weil 1929
Shrine Auditorium Los Angeles, California Lansburgh, Austin and Edelman 1926
Sooner Theatre Norman, Oklahoma Harold Gimeno 1929
Temple Theatre Meridian, Mississippi Emile Weil 1927
Tennessee Theatre Knoxville, Tennessee Graven & Mayger 1928
Tower Theatre Los Angeles, California S. Charles Lee 1927
Village East Cinema Manhattan, New York City Harrison Wiseman; Willy Pogany (interior) 1926

Around the world

Theater Photo City and State Country Architect Date
Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre   Tbilisi Georgia Victor schröter 1851, rebuilt 1896
Bains Dunkerquois   Dunkerque France Louis Gilquin 1896
Odesa Philharmonic Theater   Odesa Ukraine Alexander Bernardazzi 1898
State/Forum Theatre   Melbourne, Victoria Australia Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson 1929
Civic Theatre   Auckland New Zealand Charles Bohringer and William T. Leighton 1929


Dohány Street Synagogue, Budapest, Hungary
New Synagogue, Berlin, Germany
Sofia Synagogue, Sofia, Bulgaria



United States

Isaac M. Wise Temple, Cincinnati, Ohio
Central Synagogue in New York City

Latin America


Churches and cathedrals

Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Gibraltar
  • The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Gibraltar (1825–1832) an early example of Moorish revival architecture is located in Gibraltar, which formed part of Moorish Al-Andalus between 711 and 1462 AD.
  • Immaculate Conception Church (New Orleans), (a.k.a. Jesuit Church) is a striking example of Moorish Revival Architecture. Across the street was the College of the Immaculate Conception, housing a chapel with two stained glass domes. The chapel was disassembled and about half of it (one of the stained glass domes, eleven of the windows) was installed in the present Jesuit High School.

Shrines and temples

Murat Shrine, Indianapolis, Indiana
Tripoli Shrine Temple, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Shriners, a fraternal organization, often chose a Moorish Revival style for their Temples. Architecturally notable Shriners Temples include:

Other buildings


See also



  1. ^ Giese, Francine; Varela Braga, Ariane; Lahoz Kopiske, Helena; Kaufmann, Katrin; Castro Royo, Laura; Keller, Sarah (2016). "Resplendence of al-Andalus: Exchange and Transfer Processes in Mudéjar and Neo-Moorish Architecture" (PDF). Asiatische Studien - Études Asiatiques. 70 (4): 1307–1353. doi:10.1515/asia-2016-0499. S2CID 99943973.
  2. ^ Brett, C.E.B. (2005). Towers of Crim Tartary : English and Scottish architects and craftsmen in the Crimea, 1762–1853. Donington, Lincolnshire: Shaun Tyas. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-900289-73-3.
  3. ^ a b c "Why Moorish? Synagogues and the Moorish Revival". Museum at Eldridge Street. 2017-04-27. Retrieved 2019-11-17.
  4. ^ a b Kalmar, Ivan Davidson (2001). "Moorish Style: Orientalism, the Jews, and Synagogue Architecture". Jewish Social Studies. 7 (3): 68–100. doi:10.2979/JSS.2001.7.3.68. hdl:1807/35319. S2CID 162229425 – via JSTOR.
  5. ^ Biale, David (June 2017). "German Jewry and the Allure of the Sephardic (book review)". The American Historical Review. 122 (3): 942. doi:10.1093/ahr/122.3.942.
  6. ^ Joseph, Suad; Najmabadi, Afsaneh (2003). Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures: Economics, education, mobility, and space. Brill Publishers. ISBN 9004128204.
  7. ^ John C. Poppeliers, S. Allen Chambers Jr. What Style Is It: A Guide to American Architecture, p. 63. ISBN 0-471-25036-8 .
  8. ^ Utah Division of State History (19 May 2016). "Saltair: A Photographic Exhibit". Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  9. ^ Gebhard, David. Santa Barbara Architecture, from Spanish Colonial to Modern. Capra Press. Santa Barbara. 1980. (later editions avail.) p. 109
  10. ^ "View, Temple of Israel, Wilmington, North Carolina", NC State University Libraries. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
  11. ^ "National Register". Archived from the original on 2012-08-03. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
  12. ^ BJHI Author (December 5, 2013) "Young Israel Of Flatbush", Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative. Retrieved August 23, 2021.


  • Naylor, David (1987). Great American Movie Theaters. Washington, D.C.: The Preservation Press. ISBN 9780891331278.
  • Thorne, Ross (1976). Picture Palace Architecture in Australia. South Melbourne, Australia: Sun Books Pty. Ltd. ISBN 072510225X.