What could have been the source of inspiration behind the Galilee Chapel at Durham Cathedral?
The Great Mosque of Cordoba and its Influence on Spain
One of the most memorable and influential buildings of Islamic Spain was the Great Mosque of Cordoba, built between the 8th and 10th centuries, and in its time considered a wonder of the world by both Muslims and Christians.
Unsurprisingly, its interlaced arches, super-imposed arcades, and elaborate star-shaped vaults inspired many later buildings for centuries.
Cordoba was capital of the Caliphate of Cordoba in Spain, which included most of the Iberian Peninsula. The city, with a population estimated at 500,000 in the tenth century, was the largest in western Europe and perhaps the world, and renowned for being a centre of learning.
Could Andalusian Buildings Have Inspired Elements of Durham Cathedral?
Perhaps, as there are striking similarities. Some of the elements of Durham Cathedral are similar to the Jafiriyya Palace in Saragossa, in Northern Spain, itself strongly influenced by the Great Mosque of Cordoba. Saragossa was taken by Alfonso, the king of Aragon, in 1118, to become his capital, and may have been familiar to the bishops of Durham and their entourage. Another possible way in which ideas could travel was through the movement of craftsmen.
The closest similarities between Durham and Andalusian architecture are the intersecting arcades in the Cathedral nave (before 1133), and the overall structure of the Galilee Chapel, constructed in the late twelfth century.