The Ottoman conquest of some parts of Europe has long been considered a major loss to the Christendom, especially after the fall of Constantinople under the Islamic rule. Nevertheless, modern scholars agree that the conquest of some parts of the western world by the Ottoman Empire left a symbolic mark in the arts, especially painting, architecture, literature, and sculpture (Auld 239).
In addition, the Muslim world in Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa experienced significant cultural influence from the European cultures. One of the most significant impacts of the European-Asian cultural exchange was due to the architectural influence of cultures on each other.
In particular, the extent to which the Ottoman Empire shaped the European societies is still observable, especially in buildings left behind in some parts of Europe by the Ottomans (Howard 352). Scholars agree that the most significant mark of the Ottoman rule in Europe is the presence of mosques, which were built as a sign of the Islamic conquest of the Christian world.
Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to examine the influence of the Ottoman culture on the Christian world in terms of architecture. Arguably, the architectural influence of the Muslim culture in Europe is a clear indication that Europe benefited socially and culturally from the Ottomans as opposed to the common belief that the Ottomans left only a negative impact because of their desire to expand their religious influence.
The Ottoman conquest of various parts of Europe, especially Greece, Italy and surrounding regions, still remains an important part of the European cultural history. To make a clear and in-depth analysis of the Ottoman influence on the European architecture, it is worth looking at a number of buildings and structures in Istanbul, Sophia, Balkans, Greece and Italy in general (Brothers 77).
The Sulumaniye Mosque, a major tourist destination in the modern world, provides one of the best examples of the Ottoman architectural culture in the western world. The Mosque is one of the several works of architect Mimar Sinan. It was built between1550 and 1557 AD. Sinan, though rarely mentioned in historical records, had a major influence on various western architects. (Howard 231).
In fact, scholars prove that Sinan’s work had a major influence on Michelangelo and Andrea Palladio, the two most influential Italian artists (De-Osa 88). For instance, Sinan introduced the dome design in Italy when he built the Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul and the Selimuiye Mosque in Erdine. The design of Michelangelo’s Domer in Rome was a mimic of these structures.
The Dome culture became common in Italy, with many architects adopting the dome culture in a number of their works. For instance, the church of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice has a dome and several minarets on its top, which was not common for the Italian and European cultures in general (Renda 239).
The buildings designed by Andrea Palladio between 1508 and 1580 have large towers that represent the common Christian architectural design and additional large domes on the top of the main buildings and other smaller domes. The presence of the three domes is a unique feature in the western world and a common aspect of Islamic architecture.
In fact, it is worth noting that the domes were used in religious buildings, both in Venice and the Islamic world, providing an indication that the Christian architects Palladio and Michelangelo must have absorbed the Muslim Idea from the Ottoman regime.
Apart from the domes, a number of other aspects of the European buildings were borrowed from the Islamic architecture, especially by churches. For instance, the miniature paintings in a number of churches and palaces in Italy and Greece are similar to the paintings inside mosques and other buildings in the Islamic culture.
For example, the Ottoman miniature paintings are commonly used to illustrate the manuscripts in mosques, especially on the ceiling, walls and the floor (Brothers 81). The church of Hagia Sophia provides evidence of the integration of the Ottoman miniature painting style in western architecture.
On the ceiling, on walls and the floor, the miniature paintings occupied almost the whole space, with various colors and designs. In addition, written scripts were placed on the paintings to depict certain religious scripts or figures. The Church of Hagia Sophia took over this technique in its inside decorations, which depict various religious symbols and figures.
It is clear that the Ottoman architecture and building art influenced the later styles of European architecture. For instance, the use of abstract and stylized paintings inside churches, especially on the ceiling and the inside walls, influenced the later European Baroque and Rococo, which were also used in churches and other religious buildings.
The European architectural culture also borrowed from the Ottoman style of carpeting and window decoration. For instance, most of the Ottoman buildings had permanent carpets with immense decorative paintings. A good example of these paintings is the Hereke silk carpets, which were finely woven and decorated with various colors, shapes, and figures. This style reached Europe through Istanbul.
For instance, palaces and churches in Italy copied this design, which is seen not only on floors but also on wall hangings, ceilings, and windows. In particular, this is evident in the design of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, a building that was made after the renovation of a church previously used by Christians before the Roman conquest of the Constantinople.
Another important aspect of Ottoman architecture that reached the Christian world is the window design. The Ottoman architectures decorated windows using the Mihrab style, which suggested using multiple colors in glass screens (Carboni 193).
The Mihrab windows were also engraved with various figures to give a fine finishing that reflected sunlight. Similarly, this style reached Europe and is especially observed in Venetian palaces, where several windows were decorated using the Mihrab style in combination with traditional styles such as ogre arches (Howard 352).
In conclusion, it is clear that modern western architecture has borrowed much from the Ottoman architectural style, which is mostly seen in various religious and royal buildings in Europe. Specifically, the use of domes, inside decorations, and window designs in the European culture are borrowed from the Islamic culture.
It is also worth noting that most of these designs were used in religious and royal places in both cultures, suggesting that there was a contact between the two regions, with the Ottoman having a profound influence on the Christian building culture.
Auld, Sylvia. Renaissance Venice, Islam and Mahmud the Kurd: A Metalworking Enigma. London: Altajir World of Islam Trust, 2004. Print.
Brothers, Charles. “The Renaissance Reception of the Alhambra: The Letters of Andrea Navagero and the Palace of Charles”. V. Muqarnas, 11.4 (2004): 78-102. Print.
Carboni, Stefano. Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2007. Print.
De-Osa, Veronica. Sinan the Turkish Michelangelo. New York: Vantage Press, 2002. Print.
Howard, Deborah. Venice and the East. The Impact of the Islamic World on Venetian Architecture 1100-1500. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000. Print.
Renda, Günsel. A History of Turkish Painting. Geneva: Palasar, 2007. Print.