Kaaba Tiles (more questions than answers)

Ever since my recent visit to Istanbul, Kaaba tiles have been swirling around in my mind. I first discovered them during a trip to Turkey two years ago, when I thought that I’d get home and look them up on the magical interwebs and find information and images to sift through to my heart’s delight. Not so much. Before we go further, here’s one, from the Mosque of Rustem Pasa (in Istanbul):

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Kaaba tile, Mosque of Rustem Pasa, Istanbul

Just look at it for a minute – see the Kaaba (the black rectangle) in the middle? See the minarets around the outside? See how there are six? Well, a seventh one was added to the actual mosque that surrounds the Kaaba after the Blue Mosque (Mosque of Sultan Ahmed) in Istanbul was built with six minarets. Of course, the mosque at Mecca, the center of Islam, had to have one more. So a seventh one was built at the Al-Masjid al-Haram (surrounding the Kaaba and meaning “the sacred mosque”) in 1629. Does that mean that this tile dates to before 1629? It seems like it must, but as with most questions about these tiles, then again, it may not.

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The Dome of the Rock: A Whirlwind Tour

The Dome of the Rock popped up on the screen recently in an Islamic architecture class that I’m sitting in on, and I thought, oh yeah!  The Dome of the Rock!  When I looked into it again after class, I realized that I’d forgotten how rich and complicated it is. So rich and complicated that I’ve really been struggling with this post, trying to figure out what the point is.  Here’s what I’ve come up with: 1) The Dome of the Rock is breathtaking beautiful; 2) The Dome of the Rock is somewhat mysterious; and 3) The Dome of the Rock may be an Islamic building, but it’s firmly rooted in architectural traditions that came before it.

Let’s start with the beauty. Take a look:

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, 691 CE

Wow flipping wow!  Doesn’t that knock your socks off? Continue reading

Reflections on the Süleymaniye Mosque and the Italian Renaissance (Never Say Never)

I never thought I’d write a post connecting my first love, the Italian Renaissance, with my long-time companion, Islamic art and architecture.  Well, as they say, never say never.  Because although I didn’t expect it when I started, this is that post.

I’m starting to daydream about Turkey again, and the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul and its architect, Mimar Sinan, are on my mind.

Suleymaniye Mosque, 1550-58, Istanbul, Turkey; the courtyard, with columns from Pergamon

If I had to sum up the Süleymaniye (soo-luh-MAHN-ee-yay) Mosque in one word, it would be “calm.”  When I was there last summer, we were almost the only people in the building, both in the courtyard (avlu, above) and the prayer hall (musallah, below).

Suleymaniye Mosque, 1550-58, Istanbul, Turkey; interior

Quiet. Serene. Calm.  And oh so beautiful. Continue reading