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Gothic style originally belonged to the Arab world? Historical secrets of architectural culture war

In 2019, 3,624 Americans accepted a questionnaire survey. One of the questions was “Should Arabic numerals be taught in schools?” 56% of people chose “No” (72% of all respondents’ Republican supporters chose this option) and were deeply offended. Only 29% answered “Yes”. People who give negative answers don’t seem to know that the so-called “Arabic numerals” are the characters on their mobile phone keyboards.

There is a similar oolong in the construction industry. Although Kenneth Clark, Nicola pevsner and other art historians take it as their responsibility to explain the history of European civilization, their works rarely mention the Grand Mosque of Cordoba in the ancient city of Cordoba in southern Spain. Typical Arabic architectural style) and Alhambra de Granada (known as the “Forbidden City in Spain”, built by Moors in the Middle Ages)-they are obviously unusual and vital landmarks, and they are actually located in Europe. This omission is really staggering.

Diana Darke writes in her new book Stealing from Saracens that several Nordic countries claim that the so-called “Gothic” is their own landmark architectural style (such as Notre Dame and the Palace of Westminster, etc.). Design theorists such as john ruskin and Augustus Pugin also believe that Gothic is a typical Christian style. In fact, this style originated in the Arab world and was born by Arab and Muslim construction workers centuries after the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Ducker said that arches, ribbed vaults, conical roofs, bell towers, rose windows, domes with specific styles, various stained glass, castles, churches with twin towers and possibly cloisters can all be found in ancient buildings in the Middle East and southern Spain. She believes that the three-heart arch-a common three-petal style in churches, used to mark the trinity of Christianity-also originated in Arabia. At that time, people mistook the Dome Mosque in Jerusalem for the Temple of Solomon. Based on this ridiculous misunderstanding, some churches have copied the former architectural style.

The dome of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Flowers was designed by Philip brunelleschi. His design was inspired by Islamic architectural techniques and the work of a scientist in Cairo in the 11th century. Image source: Pocholo Calapre/Alamy
This Arab architectural style not only influenced the Middle Ages. The dome of Florence Cathedral, built by Italian architect brunelleschi, is a masterpiece of the early Renaissance. Its design inspiration probably comes from Islamic architectural technology and the works of a scientist named Ibn Al Haissam in Cairo in the 11th century. Antoni Antoni Gaudí, a devout Catholic and the designer of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, made it clear that he borrowed excellent Spanish Islamic architecture.

There may be several ways to produce this widespread influence: communication between Spanish Muslim-ruled areas and their Christian neighbors; The link between the Crusaders and the pilgrims going to Jerusalem; There is also trade between cities, such as Venice and cities in Arab countries. Although Christians and Muslims are often at loggerheads, they always look for opportunities to learn from each other or steal each other’s ideas, and often take away indispensable craftsmen from their enemies.

Ducker sometimes overdoes it, and some of her cases are unconvincing-for example, the connection between Big Ben and the minaret of Aleppo Mosque in Syria is far-fetched-but she has collected countless evidences to prove that there have been a lot of exchanges and interactions between Christians and Muslims. This can be said to be expected. At that time, long-distance travel often needed to go by sea, so the Mediterranean countries were closely linked. Arab civilization introduced rich knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, medicine and philosophy to Europe, including algebra and calculus methods. In addition, there is a writing case: the English word “tabby” comes from the name of a striped fabric, which was first named after a prince named Attab in the Umayyad Dynasty of the Arab Empire. Therefore, it is conceivable that the achievements of Islam in architecture have also been passed down. As Ducker pointed out, the following contents are no longer news: As early as 300 years ago, the 17th century British architect Christopher Wren confirmed the influence of “Saracen” (referring to the desert Arab nomads from Syria to Saudi Arabia today) on the “Gothic” style.

In order to resist the cultural war related to architecture-for example, people often use beautiful photos of European architecture on Twitter to show the supremacy of their race-Ducker thinks it is necessary to reiterate Ryan’s point of view to everyone at this moment. She doesn’t want to argue that one culture is superior to another, but she wants to point out that cultural influence sometimes goes in the opposite direction, such as from Rome to Byzantium and finally back to the Arab world.

“I don’t mean to belittle the great achievements of European architecture,” she wrote. “My purpose is to show that no one can’ own’ architecture, just as no one can’ own’ science.” (Similarly, no one can have cat stripes. Although these views are well-founded, they will still arouse some people’s anger, but for most rational people, her book effectively reminds us that civilizations