Bab Mardum Mosque – An inspiration for Gothic?

by Rabah Saoud Published on: 13th January 2002

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Bab Mardum Mosque was built in Toledo Spain between 999 and 1000 according to an inscription found on its façade. It was believed by Lambert (1958) to be the inspiration for the ribs used in Gothic Architecture all over Europe.


Summarised extracts from a full article:
A review on Architecture in Muslim Spain and North Africa (756-1500AD) by Rabah Saoud

Bab Mardum Mosque was built in Toledo Spain between 999 and 1000 according to an inscription found on its façade. The mosque is thought to be a private institution as reflected by its mediocre size (26.4 square feet) and its pavilion type form (Hoag, 1987). Its significance is in its contribution to early gothic architecture.

Marcais (1954) found a link between Bab Mardum, the mosque of Casa de las Tornerias (Toledo 12th century), and Abu Fatata Mosque (Tunisia), while Creswell extended this link to include Sussa Ribat and Mosque of Masjid-I-Tarikh at Balkh.

These buildings have one common plan consisting of square shape subdivided into square compartments. In Bab Mardum, Casa de las Tornerias and Balkh, there are nine chambers covered with domes. In Bab Mardum the technique introduced in these domes is very revealing, with the insertion of supporting ribs intersecting each other in similar fashion to that of Cordoba. The ribs of the central dome were arranged in a star form crowning the structure and externally the dome was raised slightly above the rest of the roof. The whole structure is supported by four centred columns which also define its nine bays and above them horseshoe arches were placed.

In one of these domes, the ribs intersect at 90 (in the centre of the dome, a basic form of the quadripartite ribbed vaults of early Gothic architecture which appeared in late 12th century. Lambert (1958) firmly believed that the ribs of Bab Mardum must have been the inspiration of the Gothic ribs. Toledo was conquered by Alfonso VI in 1085(endnote 5) and Bab Mardum was immediately converted into a Christian church under the name of Cristo de la Luz. Direct imitation was undertaken in the second half of the 12th century at the construction of Casa de las Tornerias (also in Toledo) under the Christian rule. Meanwhile, the first quadripartite vault appeared in St. Dennis in 1144.

The weakening of the Caliphate in Cordoba and the civil war that broke out in 1010 was created power vacuum. That allowed opportunist leaders to establish small kingdoms and states leading to the appearance of taifa kingdoms. Internal fighting and divisions gave a golden opportunity to northern Christians to strengthen themselves and recapture some key towns such as Toledo (1085), Saragossa, Seville and Badajoz which led to the transform of the much Muslim architecture to Europe. After that period Muslim artistic and architectural production became limited producing a few monuments such as the Aljaferia Castle built in Saragossa.

The construction technique of ribbed dome in Bab Mardum, that inspired the
Gothic earliest ribbed vaulting, the quadripartite vault.


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