Great Mosque of Damascus. West arcade mosaics. Detail: Mansion of Paradise.
8th c Syrian Umayyad Mosaics
(661 - 1031)
This two story mansion bears an interesting resemblance to the "Treasury" tomb at Petra that we examined in a previous lesson. Both are thought to reflect the now destroyed examples of the Hellenistic style of Alexandria. The elaborate mansions of Alexandria would have been seen and much admired by the Moslem conquerors. It seems thoroughly appropriate that such luxurious buildings with their fountains and wooded grounds would have been selected to represent the delights that awaited the believers in Paradise.
The Great Mosque of Damascus had been commissioned by the Umayyad caliph, Walid I, after he moved the capital fromMecca to Damascus. During the first half of the Umayyad dynasty the still unified Empire continued its expansion, aquiring most of North Africa and moving into the Indus Valley in India. They captured most of Spain, but their movement into France was stopped in 732 by Charles Martel in the famous battle of Poitiers. Their movement into China had been halted in 715, and they failed to take Constantinople during a fierce siege of 717-18. In was only in 1473 that Constantinople finally fell to the Moslems. Later we will look at the art created there.
The Umayyad caliphs favored Arabs for controlling the bureaucratic organizations they established to rule their gigantic empire. Converts to Islam, especially in Persia, found that they did not enjoy the same privileges as the Arabs, and unrest grew. Toward the end of the 8th century the family of Abbas, the Prophet's uncle, galvanized the unrest and drove the Umayyads out of Damascus. They established a new dynasty, the Abbasids, who later moved their capital to Baghdad, where they ruled until the Mongol conquest in 1258.
UMAYYAD | Great Mosque of Damascus. West arcade mosaics. Detail: Mansion of Paradise. | 708-715 | Islamic | Umayyad