This is a 'book review' from the Guardian of a book, no, not just any old book, an 'explosive new book... exhilarating, meticulously researched' entitled "Stealing from the Saracens" .
As Notre-Dame cathedral was engulfed by flames last year, thousands bewailed the loss of this great beacon of western civilisation. The ultimate symbol of French cultural identity, the very heart of the nation, was going up in smoke. But Middle East expert Diana Darke was having different thoughts. She knew that the origins of this majestic gothic pile lay not in the pure annals of European Christian history, as many have always assumed, but in the mountainous deserts of Syria, in a village just west of Aleppo to be precise.
“Notre-Dame’s architectural design, like all gothic cathedrals in Europe, comes directly from Syria’s Qalb Lozeh fifth-century church,” Darke tweeted on the morning of 16 April, as the dust was still settling in Paris. “Crusaders brought the ‘twin tower flanking the rose window’ concept back to Europe in the 12th century.”
“I was astonished at the reaction,” says Darke. “I thought more people knew, but there seems to be this great gulf of ignorance about the history of cultural appropriation. Against a backdrop of rising Islamophobia, I thought it was about time someone straightened out the narrative.”
And so she has, with Stealing from the Saracens, an exhilarating, meticulously researched book that sheds light on centuries of borrowing, tracing the roots of Europe’s major buildings – from the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey to Chartres cathedral and St Mark’s basilica in Venice – back to their Middle Eastern precedents.
“Again and again,” says Darke, “I am so struck by how much of this stuff that we think of as essentially Christian and European was based on ignorance and misinterpretation of much earlier Islamic forms.”
She quotes an example even I can refute.
She points out that the enormous influence of the Dome of the Rock was down to the Crusaders of the Middle Ages mistakenly thinking the building was the Temple of Solomon.They used the domed, circular layout of this supposedly Christian shrine as the model for their Templar churches (like the City of London’s round Temple church)
Temple Church, as any fule kno, was inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also in Jerusalem and which has always been a centre of Christian worship (even if the various denominations have argued over the years, sharing bits, and snapping at each other from time to time) Construction started in the 4th century, centuries before the inception of Islam. And if you wonder where the dome came from, the Pantheon in Rome predates the lot, from 126AD.
I have been in them all; not that that makes me an expert, but I have an interest.
… from left, the interior of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock, and Temple Church in London.
below left, Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. They are domes. Round things, hemispherical, the building of which was described by Vitruvius in his architectural treatise written 30-15 BC,.
The book comes at a charged time, when supposedly western architecture is being mobilised by right-wing nationalist groups to bolster their idealised vision of a “pure” European identity. There are now countless social media accounts promoting messages of white supremacy disguised as heritage appreciation, while recent government edicts about tradition and beauty carry similar overtones. Darke’s work takes an eloquent sledgehammer to such ignorant, dog-whistle propaganda, revealing how the monuments idealised by the alt-right have their roots in the very culture of which they are so suspicious.
The irony is in the name itself: in Wren’s day, Saracen was a pejorative term for the Arab Muslims, against whom the Crusaders had fought their “holy war”. It originated from the Arabic word “saraqa”, meaning “to steal”, as Saracens were seen as looters and thieves. Never mind the fact that the Crusaders plundered their way across Europe, Jerusalem and Constantinople – pilfering the wonders of Islamic architecture as they went, and airbrushing the origins of their booty in the process.
The Guardian very rarely allows comments any more. But this article is repeated at Microsoft News, which frequently allows comments, and doesn't always (only sometimes) close those comments when they fail to accord with the PC/woke agenda. How long these will remain I don't know.
- Does the author consider 5th century BC Greek architecture and it's design features? Does the author consider Roman architecture and how it increased load bearing by designing arches? All this even before Christianity which is 500 years older than Islam. Even the so called Arabic arch is Visigothic and not Islamic.
- It is a real shame though that the Arabic world has remained in the 7th century, with not a single advance made culturally or scientifically. It is as if something happened in the 600's that lobotomised the region. Its also a shame the author appears to have absolutely no knowledge of history, but there again that probably is not the purpose of the piece.
- Normal article from the 'Christian and White European' hating Guardian journalists. Why does this newspaper not rename itself the VOICE OF ISLAM AND BLACK LIVES MATTER' This paper with the other European and Christian Hating media broadcasting outfit THE BIASED BROADCASTING CORPORATION, is just constantly churning out anti British, anti Christian and anti White people articles. And trying to stop via MSN FACEBOOK CNN any opposed views like mine
- Does the guardian ever stop trying to undermine our culture and general way of life? Appalling rag
- What a load of spherical objects! I suppose the author is suggesting "culture appropriation" which is another bandwagon gathering pace.
- The Guardian need to be more concerned about the darkness of its own origins to be honest, given that its founder John Edward Taylor ran a cotton plantation in the early 19th century..
- ... and who did the Arabs/Islamists "culturally appropriate" (what a silly concept) the style from? Because Arab/Islamic culture produced very little that was new. Yes, they preserved much of what they learned (stole) from other cultures (usually cultures that they'd conquered) and in time that knowledge came to Europe, but they didn't originate everything themselves. Even "Arabic" numerals aren't really Arabic in origin, we only call them that because we got them from the Arabs, but they didn't invent them. By the way, most Syrians wouldn't consider themselves to be Arabs, and the fifth-century Church in Syria would have been Christian and nothing whatsoever to do with Islam which wasn't around until the sixth-century.
- "The ignorance is widespread" Anyone else see the irony? Oliver, Big Ben is the bell, not the tower. That's apart from the fact that the tower has officially been called the Queen Elizabeth Tower since 2012.
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