Lecture 5. Forms and Mechanisms of Exchange in the Medieval Western Mediterranean

The Great Mosque of Cordoba, founded around 784 and expanded in the latter half of the tenth century, is one of the most striking monuments of world architecture. The red and white arches that distinguish its prayer hall and portals, its interior support system of double arcades, polylobed arched screens, and its gold mosaics and ribbed domes are iconic. Yet, while this monument is undoubtedly innovative, details of its construction and decoration also illustrate how medieval patrons, designers and builders incorporated pre-existing formal and structural elements from Syrian, Byzantine, & North African architecture, combining existing forms and techniques into a creative new architectural expression. The adaptation of these same formal elements in later western Mediterranean monuments illustrates how medieval architectural forms and solutions were transmitted as a result of specific and meaningful choices made by medieval patrons, designers, and builders. These movements of form and technique illuminate the meanings and mechanisms of architectural exchange across medieval religious and political boundaries.

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