Category Archives: Middle Ages

The Great Mosque of Kairouan

By Richard Robinette

I choose the Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia as my architecture piece.  In the textbook “The Western Humanities” chapter eight covers the world of Islam and The Great Mosque is pictured on page 222.  I found this architecture piece to be interesting due to the fact that it was built to call the faithful to pray.  The Islam’s have different types of prayer buildings however the mosque which means “place for bowing down” is the most popular design.  This design was originally established by the Prophet Muhammad who was the founder of the Islam faith.  The first mosque was established in Medina where it was used for many different functions. These functions ranged from religious, judicial, political and social gatherings which showed the basic idea of Islam as the unity of life.

The Great Mosque of Kairouan was built in the ninth century by Emir Abou Ibrahim Ahmad and constructed of stone.  This mosque was built to follow the same pattern that the Prophet himself had designed.  It was rectangular in shape and the exterior walls were plain, this particular building was approximately 395×230’ and the height of the minaret, which is the tower showed in the picture, stands 103’ high.  There are nine gates in which the courtyard can be entered.  The courtyard itself is made of flagstones and properly shaped to drain water at the center of the courtyard.  The courtyard is where the Muslims come to pray.  The minaret is located on the north side and is where the prayer leader resides.  “Around the courtyard are beautiful horseshoe-arched porticoes containing some 400 ancient pillars.  These were reused from Roman, Byzantine, and Latin Christian buildings, and symbols of these former faiths can be seen throughout.”  This structure reflects the basic and simple style of early Islam and is currently being used today.

The Western Humanities Seventh Edition Roy T. Matthews, F. DeWitt Platt, Thomas F.X. Noble

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The Dome of the Rock

By Shannon Tucker

The Dome of the Rock is located in the Old City of Jerusalem.  It is located on the Temple Mount.  Caliph Abd al-Malik, built the building in 687 A.C.  He was a well-known ruler who was known for introducing a special currency for the Muslims.  But he is best known for constructing this monument.  Abd al-Malik wanted the Dome to be able to serve as a place for Muslims from the hot and cold weather climate.  He expected the structure to serve as a shrine for pilgrims, but not as a mosque for the public to come and worship.  Yazid Ibn Salam and Raja Ibn Haywah were the engineers in charge of building the Dome.  The Dome of the Rock took seven years to complete.    This structure has tiles with beautiful vibrate color that caught my eye.  This is the reason I choose it.  It is located on page 220 in our textbook.

The Dome is in the shape of a Byzantine martyrium, and is an example of Byzantine art.  The Dome was plated with 100,000 gold dinar coins.  The shrine is eight sided and is 20.20m in width and 20.48m in height.  Standing in front of this building you would look up and enjoy the ginormous size.  It is shaped as an octagonal set on an elevated drum with 16 piers and columns in a circle shape. The closing around the drum is an arcade of 24 piers and columns.  The exterior was covered with Iznik tiles.  The dome is made of wood, covered by gold.  It was picked to be built on the Temple Mount, because it is a symbol of Islamic belief.  It has theological symbols covering the wall on the inside.  The dome has a symbol of the heavens.  This shows its followers that they are following the right path in their religion.  The Dome stands out in its environment; it is surrounded by smaller, greyish buildings.  The land it was built on was picked on the standards of its faith, however the building around it, conflict with it.  There is no comparison to the detail and foundation of the Dome.   There are inscriptions on the interior of the Dome that go against Christianity.  The inside is decorated with mosaic, faience and marble which is quite excessive.  The exterior and interior are both very lavish and rich in color.

This Dome was built as stated above for people to go to get out of the heat and cold, while also giving a place for spiritual guidance and learning. It provided shelter for the extremely hot days and bitterly cold nights.  In 1955, the government of Jordan began a renovation program of the Dome.  The funding for this project came from the Turkey and Arab government. A lot of tiles had to be replaced due to heavy rain dislodging them.  Although it has had many restorations done, it is still standing today.

The Dome of the Rock is a structure that was built to give hope to Muslims and a place to worship.  It turned into a monument that still stands today and is admired by not only Muslims, but others who want to appreciate its beauty and meaning.  To think that this building was designed in such a primitive time is amazing with all the detail that went in to it.  Non- Muslims are allowed to enter the structure and view its magnificence and meaning.  This says a lot for how far people have come with learning and finding interest in others religion.

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Speyer Cathedral

By Peggy Reynolds

When looking for architecture in unit 2, I found the Speyer Cathedral on page 254. This view from the east of Speyer Cathedral shows a great example of the First Romanesque style; with its arches and dome roof shapes. They started construction in Speyer Germany in about 1030 and the building was finished before 1150. The building was founded by Conrad II. The building is still standing today and they conduct tours of the building. The condition of the building is unknown, but I am sure that the building is weathered and some parts might have been rebuild or worked on.

The structure of the building must be some type support system and the pillars also help hold the building up. The walling and building are made of stone blocks. Most of the walls are just pillars and have an open feel. The windows are rounded with points. The building is at least nine stories tall and the building is bigger that just what is shown from the east view.

The proportion of the building is somewhat even on the east view. There are two large towers are in the middle of east side and there is also a dome in the middle between the two towers. Towering downward there is a dome rounded front of the building. There is also more building on the side of the towers.

The context of this building being First Romanesque style is shown throughout this building. With the rounded windows, dome roofs, square triangle roofs, the pillars, and the window opens that are rounded with triangle points. The building gives shelter to the weather with it inside rooms and the walls being made of stone. The building was home to monks of the Cluniac order and was shelter to travelers.

The Speyer Cathedral got my attention with the towers it is not something I thought I would see in this unit. The building looks like something that you see in towns around the United States. It makes me think of court house and churches. I had some questions come to mind when looking that this build like; how did they build the building? I can see why it took them so long to build the building. I think the cause of my response would be that this building reminds me of churches and morning services. The building was a church of worship.

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The Western Façade of Notre Dame

By Matt Wigglesworth

The Western Façade is located in Paris’s capital city, Notre Dame thanks to the vision of Bishop Maurice de Sully. The original architect or mason is unknown, but the building is still standing to this day, even though taking on damage in the French Revolution. Construction of the building was Early Gothic style and began in 1163 and was finally finished in 1285. Notre-Dame de Paris, also called Notre-Dame Cathedral, cathedral church in Paris, France. It is the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages and is distinguished for its size, antiquity, and architectural interest. Notre-Dame lies at the eastern end of the Île de la Cité and was built on the ruins of two earlier churches.

“The buildings structure is famous for its intricate gothic-style design and for its aesthetic grandeur and harmony.”(  The Façade is divided into three equal horizontal bands: the three doorways, the rose window, and blind arcades (walled in windows). The original design of the building wasn’t structurally stable, so architects added pier buttress to all of the corners of the tower which gave great reinforcement.  The Façade could hold up to Ten thousand people. It also considered the best of Early Gothic art, the building is filled with strong vertical lines, ribbed vaults, pointed arches, the nave raises to a height of 115 feet from the pavement to the vaulting. The towers also catch your eye being 223 feet in the air. “Medieval architects represented their idea of human earthliness in relation to heaven through structures that were at once grandiose and ethereal–and Notre Dame’s interior achieves exactly this. The cathedral’s long halls, vaulted ceilings, and soft light filtered through intricate stained glass help us understand the medieval perspective of humanity and divinity. There is no access to the cathedral’s upper levels, obliging visitors to remain earthbound, gazing upward. The experience is breathtaking, especially on a first visit.” (

          “The first stone was laid in 1163. Maurice de Sully opened Rue Neuve so that material, including stones and beams, could be brought in. A total of 21 hectares of oak were necessary for Notre-Dame’s structure, which is why it is called the forest. The roof was made using 1,320 lead plates weighing over 210,000 Kilograms!” ( Most of the sculptures were damaged during the French Revolution, so all have been replaced or restored.

This building caught my eye at first glance because it is very visual appealing. The amazing arches caught my attention the most because the architects wanted to depict the difference between man and god. I don’t really have much emotional response to this piece, but I do appreciate the beauty and history of the building.






Works Cited

Roy T. Matthews, F. DeWitt Plat, Thomas F.X Noble

(The Western Humanities 7th Edition)


Courtney Traub


Rhey Cedron The Rose


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Notre Dame de Paris

By Steven Albrecht

I chose to do Notre Dame de Paris or also known the Notre Dame Cathedral, because I find it visually mind blowing! If you don’t believe me just take a look for yourself below. This amazing piece of Architecture still stands to this day in Paris, France. It is in pristine condition, and I bet it looks just as good as the day it finished construction. I first viewed this Cathedral in my textbook, but you can view it in my paper or if you would like there is a different picture in our text on page 260. Maurice De Sully was said to have started building this Gothic cathedral back in 1163. Maurice laid most of the ground work and made a road to transport materials. A little more than 30 years later he would pass away and Eudes De Sully would take the lead. This building finally care together around 1345.

This gigantic gothic structure is made of stone, so one could imagine its well supported. The cathedral is composed of many of different things from its huge buttresses to its amazing stained glass. From looking at the picture you can see the structure is supported by huge columns, and similar columns support the inside as well. A lot of limestone was used in the making of this cathedral, mostly for the gold painted statues inside. This structure also boasts five bells and a organ with 7,800 pipes (amazing!).

I would imagine that the massive scale of this building would be very intimidating, if you where to walk up to its huge arched entrances you would probably be blown away. Inside it can hold more than 10,000 people, and I’m sure its seen close to that many times. Due to all the entrances/exits traffic throughout the building goes very smoothly. The surroundings of this building go with it so well, all the shrubbery and Ivy just contribute to the overall feeling you get from this building. It’s hard to explain all the details of the interior in one-two pages, but its highlighted by majestic vaulted ceilings and chandeliers. Check out the website below for some awesome pictures of the inside building and info.

After completing this essay I feel very attracted to this building. I think all the history behind it causes this response, from the start of the third crusade being held there to Joan of Arch’s canonization.  The massive size of it, makes it worth going to see it alone. I’d love to go check it out one day. I also attached this picture of a gargoyle on one of the towers of  the cathedral, because it looks so awesome.

Works Sited:


Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Jan, 10 2011 Wikipedia Foundation, Inc.

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Notre Dame

By Lee Hudson

The building I have chosen for this assignment is Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.  Over the years it had numerous architects contribute to its overall design.  Construction began in 1163 and it is in excellent condition today.  It was first built on the site of a Roman temple to Jupiter, and then became Paris’ first Christian church, the Saint Etienne basilica.

Notre Dame Paris used an innovative design at the time, the flying buttress arched exterior support.  The cathedral originally had thin walls and was much lower, but as construction reached higher towards the heavens the need for further support was evident, as stress fractures began appearing in the foundations and support structures.  The flying buttress was incorporated into the design to gain exterior support for the weight demands of the high towers and also accentuated the overall aesthetic appeal of the cathedral.  The pointed arch, which was adapted from Muslim design, can carry and equally distribute heavier loads more effectively than a rounded arch.  It is also a more elegant and stylish design, and also permits two varying sized arches to be combined which gives the architect more choice in artistic design.

Notre Dame Cathedral is primarily made of stone.  The foundations are stone and mortar while the exterior consists of many areas of hand-carved stone designs.  The gothic style incorporates many angles, geometric shapes and layers giving the depth to any viewpoint.  There are hundreds of statues adorning the cathedral, lining the walls and borders, showing breathtaking artistic creativity down to the smallest detail.  These statues include many of Christianity’s key figures including St. Michael, the apostles, and the devil himself.

The scale of Notre Dame is enormous.  The statues range in size from half the size of a man, to full life-sized, up to much bigger than a person.  The cathedral itself is 128 meters long and 69 meters wide, with an area of 8832 square meters.  Its height is approximately 90 meters (295 feet).

Notre Dame rests in central Paris on the banks of the Seine.  It is easily accessible by foot, automobile or metro rail.  Its surroundings are very urban and it is located in a very old section of Paris.  Notre Dame Cathedral attracts 13 million visitors per year.  As the cathedral is more than 1500 years old, many of the surrounding buildings have been built with the cathedral in the background, and are designed to compliment the structure and vice-versa.

Notre Dame Cathedral is designed in the shape of a cross.  The interior design is just as ornate as that of the exterior, with intricately detailed carvings, beautiful tapestry work, and colorful stained glass windows.  The design was given thousands of hours of close attention and serves to put the audience in a state of awe towards God.

The cathedral uses the sunlight to its advantage with the use of its stained glass windows.  When it was constructed there was no electricity, so it is filled with natural light.  The stone and mortar construction serves to keep out the wind and the rain, as well as provide natural insulation from the heat and the cold.  Stone also will not rust or deteriorate like other materials and will continue to serve with minimal upkeep for hundreds of years.

I think the Notre Dame Cathedral is a marvel of engineering.  From its humble beginnings to the modern structural and decorative improvements, the cathedral has passed the test of time.  It makes me want to be one of the 13 million visitors it attracts, and in fact it is so popular that you must purchase tickets in advance.  The cathedral stands out as one the main attractions in Paris, easily in the top 3 along with the Louvre and the Eiffel tower.

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