Venice and Islam in the Middle Ages by Howard
Howard writes the article; Venice and Islam in the Middle Ages, to provide her observation on the probes of architectural influence. She focuses on isolating and identifying the characteristics in the Venetian built ecosystems that can be attributed to and are specifically of an Islamic origin. Howard notes that Venetians, who lived in the Eastern Mediterranean could have admired certain values of Arab civilization and wished to copy -their culture, expertise in science, economic prosperity, and religious unity. She has presented examples of San Marco Church, The Church of Santa Fosca, Torcello, The Doge’s Palace and the Venetian Palace, all found in the Venetian city, and related them to Islamic architectural designs to show how Islamic designs influenced the Venice design culture. Through her examples, Howard seeks to demonstrate the changing times and cultures through history timeline as seen in the architectural designs in the Venetian city. She has shown what led Venetians to borrow from the Islamic culture. She compares the current state of buildings and architecture in the city with the past state where the Islamic architecture had imparted a notable influence on the Venetian architecture.
Howard has pointed out the glittering mosaics, shimmering marbles, exotic skyline and the Byzantine characteristics. She also notes the use of Moorish qualities which is an Islamic design in the church buildings. She further looks at the resemblance between relief panels in Islamic and Venetian buildings and the designs in the outer domes of buildings in both cultures. Another point of focus the author says is the metalwork lanterns which she remarks that, even though they were probably made in Venice, they show the influence exerted by Islamic metal works. The insistent two-dimensionality and openness in the Doge’s Palace is another point that she uses to prove her claim of Venice borrowing from Islam.
The buildings used as examples were erected in different centuries. Howard has objectively chosen buildings meant for Christian use to give a strong support of the influence of Islamic architect on that of Christians in Venice. By comparing church and the Muslim buildings, she successfully presents differences in architectural designs of different settings and times. Howard has also given a detailed history of the origins of other designs found in the buildings like the Symmetry that resembles the Islamic and the Egyptian wood carvings, and the idea of double domes which she says that is attributed to Persian origins. She also shows how these cultures were transmitted probably by the interaction of Venetians and Islam through trade.
The presence of several designs considered as non-Christian objects in the Christian buildings like Islamic tree of life motif in Dogaressa Felicitas Michiel’s tomb,the stone window grilles in San Marco that are similar to great Umayyad mosque in Damascus, the double dome which is similar to that of Ibn Tulun mosqueprompts Howard to present a rhetoric whether this phenomenon is a show of a blurring boundary between the Eastern and Western culture. With these clear demarcation of the design similarities in the buildings of Christians and Islam, the author has put up a well-grounded argument in her study, and she has proved the point that the Venice architect was significantly influenced by the Islam architect. For instance, the outlining ogee-arched reliefs in rectangular panels, a formula reminiscent of the Islamic mihrab niche in the Middle Ages and the Islamic reminiscences on the exterior of the aps of the Church Of Santa Fosca, which also from its octagonal shape, it’s said that the roof was meant to like a vaulted dome, a design common in the Islam culture.
The reader can quickly identify the logic behind the argument in the article. This is because the author has presented practical and observable examples that can be verified. She also notes the limitation of her study in presenting all the historical facts on all designs in the building. She, therefore, recommends more research into the Venetian attitudes towards Islam, how Islamic designs became incorporated into the city’s urban buildings, the early responses to this ‘eastern’ townscape, and on the experiences of Venetian sojourners in the Levant and further afield. This recognition of limitation and areas of further studies puts the reader in the right context of her argument.