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MWNF Travel Books

Islamic Art in the Mediterranean | Portugal
2010, Paperback
2010, eBook
2001, Paperback
Title In The Lands Of The Enchanted Moorish Maiden
Subtitle Islamic Art in Portugal
200 pages, 170 colour illustrations, 11 plans
Series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean
Country Portugal
Author(s) Cláudio Torres, Santiago Macias (among others)
Local Coordinator(s) Teresa Gamboa, Isabel Menezes, Miguel Valdemar
Photographer(s) António Cunha
Publisher(s) MWNF, international co-edition
Languages English, Español, Français, Italiano, Português.
Description In The Lands Of The Enchanted Moorish Maiden: Islamic Art in Portugal uncovers five inspired centuries of Islamic civilisation that shaped the people of the former Gharb al-Andalus. From Coimbra to the furthest reaches of the Algarve there are palaces, Christianised mosques, fortifications and urban centres, all of which bear witness to the splendour of a glorious past. This artistic recollection is the expression of a very delicate symbiosis that determined the particularities of vernacular architecture and still permeates the cultural identity of Portugal.

Ten itineraries invite you to discover 76 museums, monuments and sites in Lisbon, Sintra, Coimbra, Evora, Mertola, Faro and Sesimbra (among others).

More about this Booksda
If such were the aim, Portugal could offer the ideal place to test the validity of a co-ordinated approach to the promotion of culture based on advances in scientific research and development of public awareness. The case of Islamic art in the land of the ancient Gharb al-Andalus, this extreme western fringe of the Muslim territory in the Middle Ages, is particularly revealing in this context.
This is so because, at first sight, five centuries of Muslim presence have left no conspicuous traces of a monumental heritage as "spectacular" as that found in nearby Andalusia or in the other Muslim territories of the Iberian Peninsula. Despite the echoes found in the toponomy, in "torre de mouro", "herdade do mouro", "horta do mouro" and other names such as Alcarapinha, Alpedrede or Alfaro.
One can invoke various factors to explain this phenomenon. Some of which are purely connected to physicality: we all know of the ravages on towns and architecture caused by earthquakes and of the loss of "legibility " of the original forms, brought about by a growing urban fabric.
Other comparatively more significant factors relate to historical events and are very inspiring. These factors must more than ever be scrutinised because, by bringing to light a heritage little known, even to the local population, they contribute also to dispelling many preconceived ideas. From this point of view, Portugal is a terrain particularly propitious for salutary re-evaluations.
Indeed, contrary to certain myths which have been skilfully fostered, it is precisely because of the formidable development of maritime routes that had already opened the region to the exchange of goods and ideas, that the Muslim civilisation did not have to impose itself by the sword. Instead, quite passively, Islamic culture moved into the local practices and modes of living.
Thereon, resorting to force and ostentation became less pressing and it is in a harmonious and subtle symbiosis with the vernacular architecture that the passing of the torch took place.
Furthermore, since the region was, between the 8th and 13th centuries, quite some distance from the political centres of Cordoba and Seville, it was not subject to major religious or palatine programmes. The creation of which - albeit in a smaller number - nevertheless adopted the stylistic language of the buildings found in the more eastern part of the Iberian Peninsula. The recurring budding of regional autonomy, a concept immediately embraced by the native population, including the MozArabic communities, further enhanced this distance. Thus, the architectural landscape evolved through mutual crossbreeding and not through a violent power struggle.
It is, therefore, in the handling of volume, in the techniques of construction, in the additional functional or decorative pieces in common architecture that the Andalusian symbiosis remains deeply engraved in the legacy.
Without it, one could not explain the 16th-century explosion of Mudéjar decoration, or that of Manuelin art, or the Gothic of Alentejo where audacious vaults combine with delicate framing and skilful polychrome finishes of the Azulejo.
This "Moorish" legacy however can also be perceived today in rich mosaic detail. In the plaintive sound of the popular choirs of Alentejo, in the contained tracery of Coimbra weaves, in the skilful ornamentation of Redondo ceramics, in the design of gardens, in the flavour of an escabeche, or in the legend of the Enchanted Moorish Maiden.
This is why in Portugal, more than anywhere else, it is essential that a concerted promotion of the results of the archaeological, documentary and heritage research takes place. Only this can illuminate the many interwoven paths that lead to this singular culture, in order to identify its artistic manifestations and help understand its role in the wider context of the Islamic Mediterranean.
Thus a rich harvest of archaeological finds will bring back, in their varying state of evolution, capitals, epigraphy, funeral stele or ceramics dating from the era of the Caliphs and of the Almohads. A precise restoration process will bring to light typically Mud?jar craftsmanship of some horseshoe arcs inscribed within their beautiful alfiz decorated with mouldings, and churches classified until now as Visigoth could today be returned to their former identity of mosques.
Compared with museum collections, this focus on a well-defined segment of heritage presents two advantages.
First it will improve legibility and, secondly, it will exorcise history of some highly damaging clichés. In the Iberian Peninsula, for instance, the first major rupture of civilisation took place, not in the 8th century - a period which is traditionally spoken about as one of major Arab "invasions" - but definitely during the Christian Reconquest, with the introduction in the southern lands of the first foreign garrisons and a new social order.
Formats, Prices & Orders
English version

Paperback [2001, 15 x 21.5 cm, out of stock]

Paperback [2010, 15 x 22.9 cm, ISBN 9783902782120, available]

Get it now from Amazon

eBook [2010, ISBN 9783902782137, available]
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