Islamic Art and Architecture of Spain and its Impact

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Course Information
Art History
Terms offered: 
Language of instruction: 



This course studies art, architecture, ornamentation, and design in Muslim Iberia between 711 and 1492, as well as the transformation of cities, buildings and artistic traditions after the Christian conquest of the Kingdom of Granada. It includes several visits to monuments in Andalusia.

Watch this short video to get an overview for this course!

Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Be able to distinguish the main characteristics of the art and architecture from the different periods of al-Andalus
  • Understand art and architecture as an expression of spirituality, aesthetic principles, and political agendas
  • Understand the historical, cultural and urbanistic evolution of Granada, from al-Andalus to the period of Carlos V, as an example of the transformation of a city based on varying world views  
Method of presentation: 

Two 90-minute lecture classes per week, two 90- to 120- minute visits per week.

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Student participation - 15%
  • Mid-term exam - 20%
  • Final exam - 30%
  • 4-6 page mid-term paper - 15%
  • Weekly journal entries - 20%
Weeks Units Visits Readings
Week 1

Unit 1 

Introduction to Islamic art and Architecture terminology

Brief introduction to the history of Al-Andalus (8th-15th centuries)

Unit 2 

Andalusi art and architecture: styles and influences

Visits (3h each)

Alcaicería, Madraza, Corral del Carbón, Alcázar Genil

Museum of Hispano-Muslim Art

Hernández/Marcos/Romero Chapters 1 and 2
Week 2 Unit 3   The Umayyad Emirate (8th and 9th centuries).   Unit 4   The Umayyad Caliphate (10th century): Madinat al-Zahra’: Town-planning, architectonic decoration and artistic handcraft.   Visit (6h)   Day trip to Córdoba: Madinat al Zahra, The Great Mosque, the Umayyad city.   Hernández/Marcos/Romero Chapters 3 and 5   Almagro/Orihuela/Sánchez Khoury Guichard Hillebrand  
Week 3 Unit 5   The Taifa Kingdoms (11th century)   Unit 6   Amazigh Dinasties: The Almoravids and Almohads New faith, new aesthetics. Mosques and fortresses.   Visits (3h each)   Albayzin: Ziri Wall, Puerta Elvira, the Old Medina   Dar al Horra, Bañuelo, water in the Albayzin   Hernández/Marcos/Romero Chapters 4 and 6   Robinson Díez Jorge  
Week 4 Unit 7   The Nasrids I (13th- 15th centuries): The Alhambra Fortress and Royal Palaces    Unit 8   The Nasrids II (13th- 15th centuries): The Generalife   Visits (3h each)   Alhambra: Alcazaba, outside walls and towers   Alhambra: Nasrid Palaces and Generalife   Hernández/Marcos/Romero Chapters 7 and 8   McIntosh Díez Jorge  
Week 5 Unit 9   Mudéjar art: Islamic forms in a Christian context.   Unit 10   Art and architecture in Al-Andalus after the Christian Conquest   Visits (3h each)   Mudéjar Architecture in the Albayzín   Cathedral and Royal Chapel   Hernández/Marcos/Romero Chapters 9 and 10   Sheren  
Week 6 Unit 11   Calligraphy, pottery and crafts.   Final examination: Review and exam Workshops (1h each)   Arabic calligraphy   Nasrid craftwork   Hernández/Marcos/Romero Chapter 11   “Arabic Script and the Art of Calligraphy”  


Required readings: 
  • Almagro A., Orihuela, A. and Sánchez, C. Map-Guide of the Andalusi Albayzín. (English edition) Granada: El Legado Andalusí: Escuela de Estudios Árabes, 1995. 
  • Díez Jorge, Mª Elena. The Alhambra and the Generalife. An Art History Guide. Granada: Editorial Universidad de Granada, 2008. 
  • Grabar, Oleg. ”Islamic Spain, the first four centuries: An introduction.” Al Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1992. 
  • Guichard, Pierre “Córdoba, from Muslim Conquest to the Christian Conquest” in Awraq 7, (2003). 
  • Hernández Walta, Ana; Marcos Cobaleda, María; and Romero Sánchez, Guadalupe. Islamic Art and Architecture Field Visit Handbook. Granada: Editorial Atrio, 2014. 
  • Hillebrand, Robert. “The Ornament of the World: Medieval Córdoba as a cultural centre.” In Jayyusi, Salma (ed.) The Legacy of Muslim Spain. Brill, 1994. 
  • Khoury, Nuha N. N. “The Meaning of the Great Mosque of Cordoba in the Tenth Century”, Muqarnas Vol. 13 (1996): 80-98.
  • McIntosh, Christopher. “A foretaste of Paradise: the Islamic Gardens and its forebears.” In Gardens of the Gods: Myths, Magic and Meaning in Horticulture. London: I.B. Tauris, 2005. (pp 35-45)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Unit Two: Arabic Script and the Art of Calligraphy”
  • Robinson, Cynthia. Ubi Sunt: Memory and Nostalgia in Taifa Court Culture. Muqarnas 15 (1998): 20-31.
  • Sheren, Ila Nicole “Transcultured Architecture: Mudéjar’s Epic Journey Reinterpreted” Contemporaneity: Historical Presence in Visual Culture Vol 1 (2011).