The Forgotten Craftsmen Who Built Europe's Medieval Monuments

November 2024 9781805260974 480pp, 150 colour illustrations
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Available as an eBook
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Who really built Europe’s finest Romanesque monuments? Clergymen presiding over holy sites are credited throughout history, while highly skilled creators remain anonymous. But the buildings speak for themselves.

This groundbreaking book explores the evidence embedded in medieval monasteries, churches and castles, from Mont Saint-Michel and the Leaning Tower of Pisa to Durham Cathedral and the Basilica of Santiago de Compostela. Tracing the origins of key design innovations from this pre-Gothic period—acknowledged as the essential foundation of all future European construction styles—Diana Darke sheds startling new light on the masons, carpenters and sculptors behind these masterpieces.

At a time when Christendom lacked such expertise, Muslim craftsmen had advanced understanding of geometry and complex ornamentation. They dominated high-end construction in Islamic Spain, Sicily and North Africa, spreading knowledge and techniques across Western Europe. Challenging Euro-centric assumptions, Darke uncovers the profound influence of the Islamic world in ‘Christian’ Europe, and argues that ‘Romanesque’ architecture, a nineteenth-century art historians’ fiction, should be recognised for what it truly is: Islamesque.


Diana Darke has spent four decades in the Middle East. Her books include Islamesque and Stealing from the Saracens (both published by Hurst), My House in Damascus and The Ottomans. A non-resident scholar at Washington DC’s Middle East Institute, she holds degrees in Arabic and in Islamic Art and Architecture.

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