The Architecture of al-Andalus: Photographs by Michael Barry



The great northern fortress of Gormaz is situated on a commanding ridge looking over the Duero valley


This exhibition presents the architectural legacy of nearly 800 years of Islamic presence in Spain. The photographs show the beautiful and impressive remains of fortresses, palaces and other buildings from that era. It includes world-famous buildings such as the Alhambra in Granada and the great Mosque in Córdoba, but also less well-known but noteworthy structures from across Spain.

These photographs were taken by the Irish author and photographer, Michael B. Barry, during the preparation of his book Homage to al-Andalus, the Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain. Michael, from West Cork, has also written extensively on the history and heritage of Ireland.


The Arab Baths in Ronda


Al-Andalus refers to Islamic Spain and Portugal. In 711 CE Muslim forces from North Africa invaded and defeated the Visigothic rulers. The Umayyad dynasty, originally from Syria, ruled most of the Iberian Peninsula from their capital, Córdoba, for the next 250 years, creating a new Arabic-speaking Islamic society. By the middle of the tenth century, Córdoba was a leading city of the world, adorned with elaborate mosques, bathhouses and libraries, as well as public lighting, running water and sanitation.


The castle at Belmez dominated the route north-west from Córdoba


Umayyad rule collapsed at the beginning of the eleventh century and over thirty statelets, called Taifas, emerged. The Christian kingdoms in the north began to strengthen and expand. Seizing the opportunity presented by the weakness of the Taifas, the Almoravids, Berber Muslims from what is now Morocco, conquered al-Andalus towards the end of the eleventh century. The Almoravids were followed in turn by the Almohads who were themselves defeated in 1212 by a Christian alliance which subsequently overran most of al-Andalus. By 1250, only the Nasrid Emirate of Granada was left, an area roughly equivalent to two thirds of present-day Andalucía. Despite the territorial decline, the cultural brilliance continued, as manifest in the construction of the sublime palace-city of the Alhambra from 1238.


Decorative detail at the Mihrab, the niche indicating Mecca, in the Great Mosque in Córdoba


The end of al-Andalus came in 1492 when the Catholic forces of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile took Granada. The last of the Muslims were expelled at the beginning of the seventeenth century. However, the legacy of al-Andalus remains. It can be found in Arabic words in the Spanish language, in place names and, above all, in exquisite buildings great and small.


Interior of the former mosque at Almonaster la Real


The exhibition is kindly sponsored by the Spanish Tourism Office in Dublin.