Moorish architecture

Moorish architecture is the articulated Islamic architecture of North Africa and parts of Spain and Portugal (Al Andalus), where the Arabs were dominant between 711 and 1492. The best surviving examples in Iberia are La Mezquita in Córdoba and the Alhambra palace in Granada (mainly 1338–1390),[1] as well as the Giralda in Seville (1184).[2] Other notable examples in Iberia include the ruined palace city of Medina Azahara (936–1010) destroyed by fanatical Islamist Berbers, the church (former mosque) San Cristo de la Luz in Toledo, the Aljafería in Saragossa and baths at for example Ronda and Alhama de Granada.


Characteristic elements of Moorish architecture include muqarnas, horseshoe arches, voussoirs, domes, crenellated arches, lancet arches, ogee arches, courtyards, and decorative tile work known as zellij in Arabic or azulejo in Spanish and Portuguese. The architectural tradition is exemplified by mosques, fortifications, and other edifices such as the Mezquita in Córdoba (784–987, in four phases); the Alhambra (mainly 1338–1390[3]) and Generalife (1302–9 and 1313–24) in Granada and the Giralda in Seville in 1184;[4] Paderne Castle in the Algarve, Portugal; the mosque of Koutoubia, Hassan Mosque, Andalusian Mosque, and University of Al-Karaouine in Morocco; the Djamaa el Kebir mosque and the Great Mosque of Tlemcen in Algeria; and the Mosque of Uqba in Kairouan, Tunisia. Other notable buildings include the ruined palace city of Medina Azahara (936-1010), the church (former mosque) San Cristo de la Luz in Toledo, the Aljafería in Zaragoza and baths at for example Ronda and Alhama de Granada.

The term is sometimes used to include the products of the Islamic civilisation of Southern Italy.[5] The Palazzo dei Normanni in Sicily was begun in the 9th century by the Emir of Palermo.

There is archeological evidence of an eighth-century mosque in Narbonne, France.[6]

By country


Major monuments

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)


Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia

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


See also


  1. Curl p. 502.
  2. Pevsner, The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture.
  3. Curl p.502
  4. Pevsner, Niklaus. The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture
  5. The Industrial Geography of Italy, Russell King, Taylor & Francis, 1985, page 81
  6. 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.
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