Ottoman Influence on Christian Architecture

Influences from the beginning to the 18th century

Ottoman Empire ruled over parts of Europe and Asia for more than seven hundred years (Petersen 23). During its peak, the Empire had an influential culture, arts, and architecture. Ottoman architecture can be traced back to two movements that developed during the 16th century.

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The first movement emerged in Anatolia between the 14th and the 16th centuries (Petersen 27). The other movement was influenced by Christian art. In this article, the influence of ottoman in Christian architecture is going to be traced from its beginning to the present.

Currently, Ottoman architecture is considered stunning because of the combination of Islamic and Christian architectural designs. As such, the relationship between western culture and Islamic architecture goes back to the Ottoman era before it collapsed.

The dome culture, minarets, halls, pavilions, decorations, and window styles are prominent features that Christian architecture has borrowed from the Ottoman architectural ideas and styles (Krinsky 47).

Scholars believed that Ottomans architecture benefitted the most from Christian influence. On the other hand, it is worth noting that Christian Architecture was greatly influenced by the Ottoman culture because of their interactions. As early as the 15th century, the Ottoman influence on Christian architecture had been witnessed.

For instance, after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in the mid 15th century, they developed several structures such as dams, reservoirs, and water canals that depicted their architecture (Mattei & Anna 345). During the early modern period, the Ottomans had constructed several domed shaped structures across Europe. Sleek pencil-like minarets depicted the constructions.

During the end of the 15th century, Ottoman’s territories had spread to Monastir in Macedonia. In the region, mosques and bathhouses depicted Ottoman influence. The buildings were unique in that that they embodied the Ottoman architecture.

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Ottoman influence on Christian architecture can easily be related by analyzing how Sinan enhanced Ottoman architecture in Europe during the sixteen century (Petersen 223). Sinan’s construction designs were inspired by Ottoman architecture. It is worrying to note that despite his hard work, Sinan is little known in the Christian countries.

Sinan designed some of the worlds stunning structures. The structures include the Suleymaniye Mosque and the Selimiye Mosque. The two structures are hexagonal and have large domes on one side. The features were borrowed from Ottoman cultures.

Similarly, the structures have huge trilobite horseshoe minarets. His work motivated other architects who helped to popularize Ottoman architecture’s popularity in the west. As such, historians assert that Michelangelo’s dome in Rome was built based on some of Sinan’s mosque designs (Hillenbrand 124).

Other historians argue that Sinan might have copied his designs from the Italians. Sinan’s works indicate that there is a possibility that Ottoman architecture plays a role in Renaissance Italy.

Another researcher has pointed out the influence of Ottoman in Venice (Petersen 220). The researcher asserts that between the 11th century and 16th-century Ottoman influence on Venice architecture took place.

Other than focusing on the conventional art history publications that ascertain artistic effects through comparison of visual motifs, the researcher investigated the reflection of several prospective approaches of spreading concepts about foreign places such as integrating descriptions into architectural beautification or making use of civic spaces in untried means.

18th century to 19th century

The role of world exhibitions in Europe between 1700 and 1800 is an important aspect of Ottoman influence, which is seen in the modern Christian world (Petersen 145).

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Most western architects were influenced by Islamic styles, especially in decorations, domes, pavilions, and window styles. Although they did not copy the Islamic styles directly, they believed that incorporating the best ideas from the Ottoman era would contribute to their modernization of architecture (Mattei & Anna 336).

Historians, suggests that the period between the 18th and the 19th centuries marked a tremendous era that ottoman and Christian cultures integrated. During this time, Ottomans influence on European architecture began to be acknowledged. During the 18th century, the Ottoman Empire was quickly disintegrating as major European powers conquered and colonized several regions under their control.

The conquests resulted in the new contract between the Ottomans and the Europeans. The contact resulted in the fusion of European cultures and Ottoman cultures. During this period, extensive efforts were made to display art in Europea, attracting many participants from various parts of the world (Petersen 67).

Among the major sources of arts was the former regions occupied by the Ottomans. In particular, Arab, Persian, Byzantine, and Turkish architectures were exhibited in various European exposes during the 18th and the 19th centuries, leaving a major mark in the local architectural designs (Çelik 54).

During the period, several expos that brought the Ottoman architecture in Europe were conducted (Çelik 78). During the events, several Asian architectural designs were exhibited, attracting several European designers. In particular, it focused on rationalist principles of the composition of monuments and domes in Ottoman pavilions, mosques, and palaces. The Europeans designers were interested in these principles instead of their decorative forms.

Some historians argue that this phenomenon was common throughout the 18th century. Through the events, European architects and other artists developed a deep interest in Ottoman monumental principles and tended to ignore the decorative forms, perhaps because they were believed to be aligned to the Islamic faith (Petersen 31).

The interest in principles rather than decorative forms is also believed to be an obsessive focus of European interests during this period.

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With the exhibition of Ottoman arts in Europe during the 17th century, several Asian architectural ideas were brought to the western world. Several cases remain significant in the explanation of how the western architects obtained influence from the Ottoman architectural culture during the later centuries (Çelik 81).

During the time, the degree to which the Ottoman culture affected Christian architecture was evidenced by the constructions depicting Ottoman designs.

In general, several mosques built in Europe during the 18th century depicted Ottoman influence. For instance, the structures are hexagonal, have large domes on one side. The features have been borrowed from Ottoman cultures. Some structures have huge trilobite horseshoe minarets carrying the load down, supported by a cluster of three columns (Metcalf 74).

Also, some structures were built using iron, zinc, and glass, producing a metallic lacework uncommon in the western building styles. Although these materials were believed to be an aspect of the modernization, it is worth noting that the idea was borrowed from Ottoman structures.

From the 19th century to modern times

Gabriel Davioud’s presence in the 1898 Paris exposition of arts is significant in the analysis of Ottoman inspirations to the western architecture in modern times. Gabriel was one of the leading architects assigned to the work on rebuilding Paris after the revolution.

He designed the Trocadero Palace for the exposition. Although Gabriel borrowed a lot from European, Greek, and Roman styles, it is evident that the Ottoman styles played a significant role in the furnishing of the building. For instance, the Trocadero Palace bears two square towers, which takes shape common in the minarets of the Ottoman era, especially in North African mosques.

The towers have elaborately ornamented facades as well as pavilions with domes above them. The dome culture is a significant aspect of the Ottoman architectural designs. Also, the pavilions in the Trocadero Palace are positioned on either end of the building and used as the main entrances. The aspects provide evidence of the Islamic and Ottoman influence on Gabriel’s work in Paris.

Another important aspect of the Ottoman architectural designs in the Christian world is portrayed in Frank Furness’ work in America. In this case, the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, which took place in 1876, provides a good example of the degree of spread of Ottoman architectural ideas in the western world (Çelik 118). The building that hosted the 1876 expo in Philadelphia partly depicts Furness’ work.

He was particularly interested in the inclusion of several foreign and ancient principles, which he thought retained value and quality. Although Furness had never traveled to Europe or any part of the Islamic world, he was greatly inspired by Islamic architecture. It is believed that he obtained most of the Islamic ideas from his mentor Richard Morris Hunt.

Hunt was the designer of the Tweedy and Company Stores buildings in New York, which were completed in 1872 (Mattei & Anna 344). Hunt had been using Islamic styles and ideas in his work. For instance, the building has an entrance made of a façade with lobed arches that bear a horseshoe shape of different scales.

This design is a direct emulation of the Mihrabs or niches that were common in most entrances in Ottoman mosques, especially those built in Mecca and other parts of the Islamic world (Çelik 138).

In the 1900 Paris exposition, Eugene Henard displayed his liking for the Ottoman styles in his Avenue Nicholas II and the Pont Alexandre III buildings in Paris (Metcalf 66). One of the most important structures of his works is the Palace of Electricity situated near the Eiffel Tower. The structure bears evidence of Ottoman architectural styles and principles in several ways.

The structure has huge trilobite horseshoe minarets carrying the load down, supported by a cluster of three columns (Metcalf 74). Also, the structure was built of iron, zinc, and glass, producing a metallic lacework uncommon in the western building styles. Although these materials were believed to be an aspect of the modernization, it is worth noting that the idea was borrowed from Ottoman structures.

For instance, Henard was greatly inspired by the Great Mosque of Cordoba, which has similar structures that Henard included in his Paris work (Mattei & Anna 320). Also, Henard included spatial qualities of the palace, especially the sense of continuity created through the repetition of arches in either direction.

Works Cited

Çelik, Zeynep. Displaying the Orient: Architecture of Islam at Nineteenth-century World’s Fairs. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2010. Print.

Hillenbrand, Robert. Islamic Art and Architecture. London: Thames & Hudson World of Art series, 2009. Print.

Krinsky, Carol. Synagogues of Europe: architecture, history, meaning. Mineola, NY: Courier Dover Publications, 2005. Print.

Mattei, Ugo and Anna di Robilant. “The Art and Science of Critical Scholarship: Postmodernism and International Style in the Legal Architecture of Europe.” Tulane Law Review 3.2 (2001): 334-349. Print

Metcalf, Barbara. Making Muslim Space in North America and Europe.Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2006. Print.

Petersen, Andrew. Dictionary of Islamic architecture. London: Routledge, 2002. Print.

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