mosque

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mosque

(mŏsk), building for worship used by members of the Islamic faith. Muhammad's house in Medina (A.D. 622), with its surrounding courtyard and hall with columns, became the prototype for the mosque where the faithful gathered for prayer.

Structure

The basic elements of a mosque are a place large enough for the congregation to assemble, especially on Friday, the Muslim sabbath, and orientation so that the faithful may pray facing in the direction of the holy city of Mecca. The wall facing Mecca is called the qibla wall and is marked by a mihrab, which usually takes the form of a decorated niche. In later ages mihrabs became quite elaborate; they are decorated with wooden fretwork in Morocco, with carved and pierced marble in Syria and Iraq, and with lusterware tiles bearing quotations from the Qur'an in Iran.

A mosque usually includes a number of distinctive elements: a mimbar (or minbar), a pulpit that is entered by a flight of steps and stands next to the mihrab; a maqsura, an enclosed space around the mihrab, generally set apart by trellis screens, in which the caliph, sultan, or governor prays; a minaretminaret
, tower, used in Islamic architecture, from which the faithful are called to prayer by a muezzin. Most mosques have one or more small towers, which are usually placed at the corners.
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, a tower, usually built at one or more corners of the mosque, from which the call to prayer is sounded; a sahn, a courtyard, surrounded by riwaqs, colonnaded or arcaded porticoes with wells or fountains for the necessary ablutions before prayer; and space for a madrasa, a school that often includes libraries and living quarters for teachers and pupils.

All the great mosques are resplendent with elaborate decorations, but the prohibition against imitating God's works by creating living forms is always obeyed. Decorations are abstract, and geometric plant forms are so distant from their originals as to be unrecognizable.

Representative Mosques

An early mosque, the Dome of the Rock (691–692) in Jerusalem, is a unique architectural monument. It follows an octagonal Byzantine plan, with a dome entirely of wood. Domed mosques, however, were not commonly built until some six centuries later. The mosque of 879 near Fustat was built by Ibn Tulun of stucco and brick and ornamented with floral reliefs in stucco.

In the 14th cent. a Persian innovation appeared, in which four iwans—monumental facades with pointed vaults—were arranged around a central courtyard. The arm toward Mecca, wider and deeper than the others, contains the mihrab. A fine example of the form is the Great Mosque (1356) of Sultan Hasan at Cairo. The structure at Córdoba, Spain, represents a departure from the four-iwan style. This hypostylehypostyle
, the chamber in Egyptian temples in which a number of columns supported a flat stone roof. Forming the chief and largest inner space of the temple, it was entered from the outer courtyard and, in turn, gave access to the holy of holies and the small inner sanctuaries
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 mosque was begun in 780 and enlarged in the 10th cent. until its prayer hall, with 16 rows of columns and arches, occupied an area greater than that of any Christian church. The Cathedral of Córdoba was built in 1238 right in the middle of the mosque area.

Mosques of Persia inherited the Sassanian vaulting tradition and surface decoration with resplendent ceramics. They thus possess a distinctive character in their pointed onion-shaped domes, lofty pointed portals, and magnificent polychrome tiles. In the 15th and 16th cent. the colonnaded prayer halls were replaced by large, square, domed interiors, sometimes surrounded by lower vaulted side aisles, as in the Blue Mosque at Tabriz (1437–68). This structure, of essentially Byzantine plan, is sheathed with incomparable blue ceramics. The imperial mosque at Isfahan (1585–1612) had four impressive porticoes on the court, and its main prayer hall, crowned by an onion-shaped dome and with a porch having an enormous pointed arch flanked by slender minarets, represents the climax of Persian mosque design.

When the Turks took Constantinople (1453) they used the great Byzantine church Hagia SophiaHagia Sophia
[Gr.,=Holy Wisdom] or Santa Sophia,
Turkish Aya Sofia, originally a Christian church at Constantinople (now İstanbul), later a mosque, and now converted into a museum.
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 as a mosque, and later employed it as a model for Islamic religious structures. To the great open plan of Hagia Sophia with its dominant dome they added smaller domes, half domes, buttresses, and minarets and used Persian tiles and rather garish painted decoration for interiors. Thus they achieved at Constantinople such superb monuments as the mosque (1550–57) of Sulayman I, the Magnificent, by the architect SinanSinan
, Muslim architect, 1490?–1588?. He is regarded as the greatest of Islamic builders, and his finest achievements lie in his solutions to spatial problems posed by dome-topped structures.
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, and the huge Ahmediyeh mosque (1608–14) of Ahmed I.

Indian mosques betray their Persian origin in the prevalence of onion-shaped domes, round minarets, and great portals with pointed arches, although the traditional Persian tile sheathing is largely restricted to interiors. The use of stone and marble for exteriors, however, lends them a solid monumentality rarely seen in other Muslim styles, while colored stones inlaid against the white marble add touches of vivid beauty. During the Mughal dynasty, particularly under the brilliant reign of Shah Jahan (1627–58), mosques of surprising grandeur were erected. Among the finest Mughal examples are the huge mosque with its superb domes and entrance at Fatehpur Sikri (1556–1605); the three-domed Pearl Mosque at Agra (1646–53), famous for its simple plan and delicate inlays; and the Jama Masjid [great mosque] at Delhi, the largest in India.

For a further discussion of the architectural development of the mosque, see Islamic art and architectureIslamic art and architecture,
works of art and architecture created in countries where Islam has been dominant and embodying Muslim precepts in its themes. Background

In the century after the death (A.D.
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; Mughal art and architectureMughal art and architecture,
a characteristic Indo-Islamic-Persian style that flourished on the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal empire (1526–1857). This new style combined elements of Islamic art and architecture, which had been introduced to India during the Delhi
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; Moorish art and architectureMoorish art and architecture,
branch of Islamic art and architecture developed in the westernmost lands of the Muslims, known as the Maghreb: N Africa and Spain. The Great Mosque at Al Qayrawan in Tunisia is the prototype of western Islamic religious edifices.
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; Persian art and architecturePersian art and architecture,
works of art and structures produced in the region of Asia traditionally known as Persia and now called Iran. Bounded by fierce mountains and deserts, the high plateau of Iran has seen the flow of many migrations and the development of many
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.

Mosque

A Muslim house of worship.

Mosque

 

a Muslim religious structure. Mosques of the seventh and eighth centuries were rectangular and had a gallery-enclosed courtyard and a multipillared prayer hall. One or several mihrabs were in the prayer hall, in the wall facing Mecca. The Umayyad Mosque (705–715) in Damascus is an example of this form of mosque. In the tenth century a different type of mosque appeared, with iwans on the axes of the courtyard.

As a result of the influence of local building traditions, distinctive types of mosques were developed in different countries. In northern Africa, mosques generally have a deep prayer hall with numerous naves opening out on the courtyard, paneled ceilings, and domes on stalactites (for example, Kutubiyya Mosque in Marrakech, 1153). In Iran and the countries of Central and Middle Asia, mosques have iwans along the sides of the courtyard and a monumental protruding portal on the main facade (for example Kalian Mosque in Bukhara, 12th century, rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries; Cathedral Mosque in Isfahan, ninth to 20th centuries). Turkish mosques are centrally planned and roofed by a large dome surrounded by smaller domes or semidomes (for example, Suleiman Mosque in Istanbul, 1557).

Mosques are usually ornamented by stucco, stone, or wood carvings; patterned brick or stone facades; glazed ceramics; inlays; mosaics; and murals. Contemporary mosques are built from the latest construction materials, but, for the most part, they retain the traditional layout.

REFERENCES

Bartol’d, V. V. “Orientirovka pervykh musul’manskikh mechetei,” Soch., vol. 6. Moscow, 1966. Pages 537–42.
Golvind, L. La Mosquée ... . Algiers, 1960.

mosque

mosque
A Muslim house of worship.

mosque

a Muslim place of worship, usually having one or more minarets and often decorated with elaborate tracery and texts from the Koran
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