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Islamic Arts


Medieval Islamic Religious Architecture
Architecture reveals a great deal about a culture, and also about periods in history. To appreciate Islamic architecture, it is important to understand that Islam forbids the depiction of animals and humans because early Muslim leaders wanted to prevent animal worship. As a result, Islamic artists used intricate calligraphy (usually of passages from the Qu’ran), geometric and abstract designs, and floral patterns to decorate their works. In Muslim architectural design, the phrase “architecture of the veil” means that the private courtyards at the center of houses and mosques (churches) are kept secret. They cannot be seen from the street, and the exterior (or façade) of the building does not reveal the structure’s size, shape, or function. The concept of “weightlessness” is also important in Islamic religious architecture. Walls with openings in them and very high ceilings are used to make a building seem “lighter” than it actually is.

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