We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more Ceilings in Islamic Architecture - Oxford Islamic Studies Online
Select Translation What is This? Selections include: The Koran Interpreted, a translation by A.J. Arberry, first published 1955; The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, published 2004; or side-by-side comparison view
Chapter: verse lookup What is This? Select one or both translations, then enter a chapter and verse number in the boxes, and click "Go."
:
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result

Ceilings in Islamic Architecture

Source:
The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture What is This? Provides in-depth historical and cultural information on over a thousand years of Islamic art and architecture

Ceilings in Islamic Architecture

Upper interior surface of a room. Many different types of ceiling are found in Islamic architecture, including Coffering, Artesonado, and Muqarnas. Only fragments survive from a few wooden ceilings in the early hypostyle mosques of the central and western Islamic lands. Beams from the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem (8th century; see Jerusalem, §II, B) are carved with a great variety of vegetal, geometric, and architectural motifs. The Mosque of Ibn Tulun (879)in Cairo (see Cairo, §III, B) had a flat wooden ceiling with a narrow wooden frieze nailed to the top of the arcades supporting the roof. Measuring almost 2 km in length, the frieze was inscribed with verses from the Koran. The wooden ceiling from the Great Mosque of Córdoba (see Córdoba, §III, A) as extended in the 960s and 980s was dismantled in the early 18th century and later replaced. The ceiling comprised closely placed transverse beams supporting planks, the whole protected by a gabled roof covered with tile to allow an insulating layer of air between ceiling and roof to keep the interior cool. More than 50 fragments of the carved and painted beams from the original ceiling have survived in museums (e.g., Copenhagen, Davids Saml. 2/2002) and private collections. They are decorated with a carved and painted complex geometric interlace. Wooden beams believed to come from the Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia and probably dating from the 11th century have similar painted decoration of vegetal scroll forms with geometric and interlace designs.

Ceilings were often elaborately decorated with designs that refer to the celestial sphere. This echoes a long tradition in Near Eastern and Mediterranean architectural decoration, and both explicit and symbolic representations of the heavens painted on ceilings and dome interiors were found at the early Islamic palaces at Qusayr ῾amra (c.712–15) and Khirbat al-mafjar (c.724–43). The star patterns often seen in wooden Artesonado ceilings carry cosmological meaning. For example, the ceiling of the Palacio de Comares (c.1333–54) in the Alhambra (see Granada, §III, A) displays an astonishing symbolic rendering of the seven heavens of Islam. The carved and painted wooden ceilings of early Yemeni mosques are less dramatic but equally interesting. For example, the 12th-century mosque at Asnaf has a carved, painted and gilded wooden ceiling with interlace and star patterns, giving articulation to an otherwise plain space, while the ceiling of the 13th-century mosque at Sarha is decorated with interlace ornament in brown and white, with polychrome scrollwork decoration. The Amiriya Madrasa in Rada῾ has an elaborated painted ceiling whose designs may have been copied from Indian textiles.

Ceilings decorated with figurative painting in the Islamic tradition are rarer, although a few examples exist in the Mediterranean world. The best-known is the ceiling of the Norman Cappella Palatina (c.1132–89) in Palermo, which incorporates a multitude of images of animals, musicians, elements of the princely cycle and decorative motifs on a wooden muqarnas ceiling, contrasting with the Byzantine design of the church and the Greek-style mosaics that decorate the cathedral walls. Cefalù Cathedral (c.1130–1200), also in Sicily, has similar ceiling decoration, but it is not visible from the floor of the cathedral.

Bibliography

  • K. A. C. Creswell: Early Muslim Architecture, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1932–40; rev. and enlarged edn. of vol. 1, 1969).
  • M. Gelfer-Jørgensen: Medieval Islamic Symbolism and the Paintings in the Cefalù Cathedral, trans. C. C. Henrikse (Leiden, 1986).
  • J. Bloom: “The Qubbat al-Khadra῾ and the Iconography of Height in Early Islamic Architecture,” Ars Orientalis, xxiii (1993), pp. 135–42.
  • R. Barnes and R. Hillenbrand: “The Painted Ceiling of the ῾Amiriya: An Influence from Indian Textiles?,” The ῾Amiriya in Rada῾: The History and Restoration of a Sixteenth-century Madrasa in the Yemen, ed. S. al-Radi, Oxford Studies in Islamic Art, 13 (Oxford, 1997), pp. 139–48.
  • J. W. Allen and M. Abu Khalaf: “The Painted Wooden Ceiling in the Inner Ambulatory of the Dome of the Rock,” Ottoman Jerusalem, the Living City: 1517–1917, ed. S. Auld and R. Hillenbrand (London, 2000), pp. 465–72.
  • S. M. Sharif: “Ceiling Decoration in Jerusalem during the Late Ottoman Period: 1856–1917,” Ottoman Jerusalem, the Living City: 1517–1917, ed. S. Auld and R. Hillenbrand (London, 2000), pp. 473–8.
  • E. J. Grube and J. Johns: The Painted Ceilings of the Cappella (Genoa and New York, 2005).
  • Cosmophilia: Islamic Art from the David Collection, Copenhagen (exh. cat. by S. S. Blair and J. M. Bloom; Chestnut Hill, MA, Boston Coll., McMullen Mus. A; Chicago, U. Chicago, IL, Smart Mus. A.; 2007), nos. 34, 94.
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2021. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice