Mahometan Ornament

The Saracens, who originally came from Northern Arabia, like the Moors of Hamitic origin, were both for a long time the chief standard bearers of Islam art. When Sicily was conquered by the Normans, the Saracens placed their art at the disposal of the conquerors, in many cases Christian Churches were ornamented and decorated by Mahometan artists. In this manner a peculiar Saracen-Norman style of art developed by itself in Italy. Unfortunately, there are so very few remains of Saracenic art in Sicily now existing that we cannot form any general view of what it really was.

Moor, in English usage, a Moroccan or, formerly, a member of the Muslim population of what is now Spain and Portugal. Of mixed Arab, Spanish, and Amazigh (Berber) origins, the Moors created the Arab Andalusian civilization and subsequently settled as refugees in North Africabetween the 11th and 17th centuries. By extension (corresponding to the Spanish moro), the term occasionally denotes any Muslim in general, as in the case of the “Moors” of Sri Lanka or of the Philippines.

The Turks followed the example of all Mohametan rulers and adopted the architectural forms of Constantinople, the Church of Sta. Sophia, built by Justinian becoming the model on which all their mosques in future were based. Previous to the conquest of Constantinople, the Osmanli Turks had already taken possession of Nicaea in 1330 A.D., where there were many Seljuk mosques to which they added and enlarged.

The employment of tiles encasing the porches and minarets gives a Persian character to all these mosques. The first great mosque built in Constantinople was the mosque of Mohamet II, built in 1663-69 A.D. on the site of the Church of the Holy Apostles, this was designed by Christodoulos, a Greek architect. In all these mosques a central dome with great apses forms the chief feature, as in STa. Sophia.

In the Cathederal of Cordova, the Alhambra in Granada, and in Alcazar in Seville, Mahometan Ornamental work may be seen in its highest splendor. In the artistic interlacing and interweaving of geometric and arabesque ornament, Moorish artists show extraordinary talent. Despite the exuberance, Moorish Ornament never wearies the eye, so distinct that each can be distinguished from the other easily and clearly. The fine Arabic lettering was often used by the Moors as Ornament.
Image from page 229 of "Styles of ornament, exhibited in designs, and arranged in historical order, with descriptive text. A handbook for architects, designers, painters, sculptors, wood-carvers, chasers, modellers, cabinet-makers and artistic locksmiths

TitleStyles of ornament, exhibited in designs, and arranged in historical order, with descriptive text. A handbook for architects, designers, painters, sculptors, wood-carvers, chasers, modellers, cabinet-makers and artistic locksmiths as well as also for technical schools, libraries and private study

Year1910 (1910s)

AuthorsSpeltz, Alexander O’Conor, David

SubjectsDecoration and ornament

PublisherNew York : E. Weyhe

Contributing LibraryUniversity of California Libraries

Digitizing SponsorMSN

Spandril from Mahometan architecture.

The power of the Seljuks lasted till their conquest by Timur 1400 A.D., who devestated the country, which eventually in 1453 A.D. passed into the possession of Mohamet II. historically known as Amir Timur and Tamerlane (Persianتيمور لنگ‎ Temūr(-i) Lang, “Timur the Lame”), was a Turco-Mongol conqueror. As the founder of the Timurid Empire in Persia and Central Asia.

To legitimize his conquests, Timur relied on Islamic symbols and language, referred to himself as the “Sword of Islam”. He converted nearly all the Borjigin leaders to Islam during his lifetime. Timur decisively defeated the Christian Knights Hospitaller at the Siege of Smyrna, styling himself a ghazi. By the end of his reign, Timur had gained complete control over all the remnants of the Chagatai Khanate, the Ilkhanate, and the Golden Horde, and even attempted to restore the Yuan dynasty in China. His main religion, Islam. Timur himself described to him his mother’s descent from the legendary Persian hero Manuchehr.


Around 1370, Husayn surrendered to Timur and was later assassinated, which allowed Timur to be formally proclaimed sovereign at Balkh, Timur and his brother-in-law Amir Husayn, who were at first fellow fugitives and wanderers in joint adventures, became rivals and antagonists. Timur’s invasion and destruction of Delhi continued the chaos that was still consuming India, and the city would not be able to recover from the great loss it suffered for almost a century.

Timur did besiege and take the city of Smyrna, a stronghold of the Christian Knights Hospitalers, thus he referred to himself as ghazi or “Warrior of Islam”. A mass beheading was carried out in Smyrna by Timur’s soldiers. He ruled over an empire that, in modern times, extends from southeastern Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, through Central Asia encompassing part of KazakhstanAfghanistanArmeniaAzerbaijanGeorgiaTurkmenistanUzbekistanKyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and even approached Kashgar in China. The conquests of Timur are claimed to have caused the deaths of up to 17 million people, an assertion impossible to verify.

His tomb, the Gur-e Amir, still stands in Samarkand, though it has been heavily restored in recent years.

Exhumation and alleged curse

Statue of Timur

Timur’s body was exhumed from his tomb on 19 June 1941 and his remains examined by the Soviet anthropologist Mikhail M. GerasimovLev V. Oshanin and V. Ia. Zezenkova. It was determined that Timur was a tall and broad-chested man with strong cheek bones. At 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 meters), Timur was tall for his era. The examinations confirmed that Timur was lame and had a withered right arm due to his injuries. His right thighbone had knitted together with his kneecap, and the configuration of the knee joint suggests that he had kept his leg bent at all times and therefore would have had a pronounced limp. Gerasimov reconstructed the likeness of Timur from his skull and found that Timur’s facial characteristics displayed Mongoloid features with some Caucasoid admixture. Oshanin also concluded that Timur’s cranium showed predominately the characteristics of a South Siberian Mongoloid type.

It is alleged that Timur’s tomb was inscribed with the words, “When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble.” It is also said that when Gerasimov exhumed the body, an additional inscription inside the casket was found, which read, “Whomsoever opens my tomb shall unleash an invader more terrible than I.”

In any case, three days after Gerasimov began the exhumation, Adolf Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the largest military invasion of all time, upon the Soviet Union. Timur was re-buried with full Islamic ritual in November 1942 just before the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad.