Moorish architecture

Moorish architecture, is an architectural style which historically developed in the western Islamic world, which included al-Andalus (Muslim-ruled Spain and Portugal between 711 and 1492), Morocco, and much of Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya (part of the Maghreb).[1][2][3][4][5] The term "Moorish" comes from the European designation of the Muslim inhabitants of these regions as "Moors".[6][7] Scholars often use "Western Islamic architecture" or "architecture of the Islamic west" as more descriptive or neutral terms for this topic.[8][9]

Hypostyle hall of the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, Spain

This architectural style blended influences from Berber culture in North Africa, pre-Islamic Iberia (Roman, Byzantine, and Visigothic), and contemporary artistic currents in the Islamic Middle East to elaborate a unique style over centuries with recognizable features such as the "Moorish" arch, riad gardens (courtyard gardens with a symmetrical four-part division), and elaborate geometric and arabesque motifs in wood, stucco, and tilework (notably zellij).[1][2][7][10] Major centers of this artistic development included the main capitals of the empires and Muslim states in the region's history, such as Cordoba, Kairouan, Fes, Marrakesh, Seville, Granada and Tlemcen.[1]

Court of the Lions, Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Even after Muslim rule ended in Spain and Portugal, the legacy of Moorish architecture was carried on in the Mudéjar style in Spain, which made use of Moorish techniques and designs and adapted them to Christian patrons.[11][5] Much later, particularly in the 19th century, the Moorish style was frequently imitated or emulated in the Neo-Moorish or Moorish Revival style which emerged in Europe and America as part of the Romanticist interest in the "Orient" and also, notably, as a recurring choice for new Jewish Synagogue architecture.[12][13]


Paderne Castle, Portugal

Characteristic elements of Moorish architecture include horseshoe or "Moorish" arches, interlacing arches, central courtyards, riad gardens, intricately carved wood and stucco as decoration, muqarnas sculpting, and decorative tile work known as zellij in Arabic or azulejo in Spanish and Portuguese.[1] The architectural tradition is exemplified by mosques, madrasas, palaces, fortifications, hammams (bathhouses), funduqs (caravanserais), and other historic building types common to the Islamic world.[1] Notable examples include the Mezquita in Córdoba (784–987, in four phases); the ruined palace-city of Medina Azahara (936–1010); the church (former mosque) San Cristo de la Luz in Toledo; the Aljafería in Zaragoza; the Alhambra (mainly 1338–1390[14]) and Generalife (1302–9 and 1313–24) in Granada; the Giralda in Seville (1184);[15] the Kutubiyya Mosque, Hassan Mosque, Andalusian Mosque, and al-Qarawiyyin Mosque in Morocco; the Great Mosque of Algiers and the Great Mosque of Tlemcen in Algeria; and the Mosque of Uqba in Kairouan, Tunisia.[1]

The term is sometimes used to include the products of the Islamic civilisation of Southern Italy.[16] The Palazzo dei Normanni in Sicily was begun in the 9th century by the Emir of Palermo. There is even archaeological evidence of an eighth-century mosque in Narbonne, France, at the limits of Muslim expansion in the region in the 8th century.[17]

By countryEdit

Muqarnas in the Alhambra, Granada, Spain – muqarnas allowed for 2 dimensional patterns to be used in 3 dimensions to embellish the transition between the square base to a dome.


Reception hall of Abd ar-Rahman III in the Medina Azahara (936–1010), near Córdoba, Andalusia

Major monumentsEdit

The Giralda (right), Seville

Caliphate of Córdoba (929–1031):

Period of Taifas (11th–13th century):

Nasrid Emirate of Granada (1212–1492):

  • The Alhambra (mainly 1338–1390) and the Generalife (1302–24 in two phases), a country palace initially linked to the Alhambra by a covered walkway across the ravine that now divides them.
  • Granada Hospital (Maristan) (1365–7)
  • Masjid of the madrasa of Yusuf I (1349) in the so-called Palacio de la Madraza
  • New Funduq of Granada (14th century)
  • Qaysariyya of Granada (15th century)


Church of Nossa Senhora da Anunciação (formerly a mosque), Mértola.

Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and LibyaEdit

There is a high concentration of Moorish architecture in the Maghrebi states of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya mainly in the cities of Marrakesh, Rabat, Fez, Meknes, Tetouan, Taroudant, Tlemcen, Algiers, Nedroma, Tunis, Tripoli, Derna, and Testour.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f Marçais, Georges (1954). L'architecture musulmane d'Occident. Paris: Arts et métiers graphiques.
  2. ^ a b Parker, Richard (1981). A practical guide to Islamic Monuments in Morocco. Charlottesville, VA: The Baraka Press.
  3. ^ Gaudio, Attilio (1982). Fès: Joyau de la civilisation islamique. Paris: Les Presse de l'UNESCO: Nouvelles Éditions Latines. ISBN 2723301591.
  4. ^ Touri, Abdelaziz; Benaboud, Mhammad; Boujibar El-Khatib, Naïma; Lakhdar, Kamal; Mezzine, Mohamed (2010). Le Maroc andalou : à la découverte d'un art de vivre (2 ed.). Ministère des Affaires Culturelles du Royaume du Maroc & Museum With No Frontiers. ISBN 978-3902782311.
  5. ^ a b Dodds, Jerrilynn D., ed. (1992). Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 0870996371.
  6. ^ "moor | Origin and meaning of moor by Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  7. ^ a b Barrucand, Marianne; Bednorz, Achim (1992). Moorish architecture in Andalusia. Taschen. ISBN 3822876348.
  8. ^ Marçais, Georges (1954). L'architecture musulmane d'Occident. Paris: Arts et métiers graphiques.
  9. ^ Bloom, Jonathan M. (2020). Architecture of the Islamic West: North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula, 700-1800. Yale University Press.
  10. ^ Bennison, Amira K. (2016). The Almoravid and Almohad Empires. Edinburgh University Press.
  11. ^ López Guzmán, Rafael. Arquitectura mudéjar. Cátedra. ISBN 84-376-1801-0.
  12. ^ 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". Asiatische Studien – Études Asiatiques. 70 (4): 1307–1353.
  13. ^ "Why Moorish? Synagogues and the Moorish Revival". Museum at Eldridge Street. 2017-04-27. Retrieved 2019-11-17.
  14. ^ Curl p.502
  15. ^ Pevsner, Niklaus. The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture
  16. ^ The Industrial Geography of Italy, Russell King, Taylor & Francis, 1985, page 81
  17. ^ Islam Outside the Arab World, David Westerlund, Ingvar Svanberg, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999, page 342


  • Curl, James Stevens (2006). A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (Paperback) (Second ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 880 pages. ISBN 0-19-860678-8.
  • Barrucand, Marianne; Bednorz, Achim (2002). Moorish Architecture in Andalusia. Taschen. p. 240 pages. ISBN 3-8228-2116-0.