Essay about a Mosque Architecture

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The architecture of a mosque is strongly shaped by the regional traditions of the time and place where it was built. As a result, the style, layout, and decoration can vary greatly. Nevertheless, because of the common function of the mosque as a place of congregational prayer, certain architectural features appear in mosques all over the world.

Mosques must have a large prayer hall that is joined by an open courtyard, called a Sahn. Within these courtyards, fountains are usually built for both a welcome in hot lands and are important for the ablutions (ritual cleansing of the body) done before prayer.

This is the most fundamental necessity featured in all mosque architecture.

The first place of worship for Muslims was the home of the Prophet Muhammad. He inspired the earliest type of mosque, called the hypostyle mosque. This type spread widely throughout Islamic lands. The mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia- Great Mosque of Kairouan, Umayyad, Abbasid, Hegira 221 / AD 836, is an archetypal example of the hypostyle mosque. It is a large, rectangular building made from stone and is supported by columns throughout the halls. This mosque does have a very large Sahn, or courtyard as well. The mosque was also built on a former Byzantine site, that had allowed the use of repurposed materials, such as the columns of the building. It was a decision that was made practical for the Islamic conquest of this Byzantine land.

The hypostyle plan was used widely in Islamic lands before the introduction of the four-iwan plan as Iwan, Ctesiphon, Iraq, c. 560. In the eleventh century in Iran, the hypostyle mosques started to be converted into four-iwan mosques, and as the name indicates this had made it into a vaulted space that opens on four sides to a courtyard. The iwan was developed in the pre-Islamic time of Iran, where it was used in monumental and imperial architecture.

In many mosques around the world, there are always fountains or wash centers have been built and are used before every prayer in the mosque. This is found to be in an open courtyard, called a Sahn. Another essential element of a mosque’s architecture is a mihrab, also called a niche in the wall that indicates the direction of Mecca, towards which all Muslims pray. Another aspect of mosque architecture is a Minaret, these are towers attached to a mosque from which the call to prayer is announced.

One feature of a mosque that is not fully necessary, is called a Qubba or a dome.

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It is not a ritual requirement like the mihrab, though a dome does possess significance within the mosque as a symbolic representation of the reach of heaven. Also, the interior decoration of a dome is often used with geometric motifs to create breathtaking patterns. All these features are very common and can be easily recognized.

Throughout the Byzantine period, the classical tradition can be seen throughout its history and end development but was mostly recognized in its early stages. One of the most obvious contexts was seen in its architecture. The longitudinal plan used in many early Christian churches drew from the shape and design of many classical buildings. In Byzantine architecture, a similar use can be seen in these Christian churches.

Images were used in Byzantine worship as symbols of the faith and aspects of their beliefs. Some religious figures however were deemed iconography and were frowned upon as time went on. Iconoclasm sought to destroy such images in fear that they were being respected on their own and forgotten in the grand scheme of the religion.

Iconoclasm is the social belief in the importance of the destruction of icons and other images or monuments, most frequently for religious or political reasons.

They feared that the people would begin to worship these images, rather than the actual holy person being depicted in the bible. The religion started to move away from devotional images and representations towards more decorative and identity-less designs. Although iconoclasm did not last long in Byzantine art, it reached a peak in Islamic art and became the style that has been used to this day.

Not long after, a powerful reaction against iconoclasm set in and a new line of emperors brought back the tradition of lavish religious art and architecture that continued the making of images of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and Saints. Most mosaics had a subtle blend of Hellenistic styles and more abstract ideas because of the Byzantine period.

In 1204, Latin Crusaders sacked Constantinople bringing an end to the Middle Byzantine era. It remained in Byzantine hands until it was also captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1453 and revived the work of murals and icon paintings once again.

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