How Islamic Architecture Shaped Europe w/ Diana Darke

23 Nov 2021 – 18:00 - 19:00 GMT
Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution (online)

This fully illustrated talk will explain the little-known backstory of Gothic architecture, starting from historic Syria and Palestine, and moving westwards into Europe via Islamic Spain, Sicily and Venice. From Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock and the churches of the ‘Dead Cities’ of Syria, it will trace ideas and styles from vibrant Middle Eastern Cities like Damascus and Cairo to reveal the eastern roots of what Sir Christopher Wren called ‘the Saracen style.’

Diana Darke is a Middle East cultural expert with special focus on Syria.  A graduate in Arabic from Oxford University, she has spent over thirty years specialising in the Middle East and Turkey, working for both government and commercial sectors. Her previous book is the highly acclaimed My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Crisis (third edition 2016). Her work on Syria has been published by the BBC website, The Sunday Times, The Guardian and The Financial Times and she regularly broadcasts on BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent. 

With her Damascus house in use since 2012 as a refuge for displaced friends, her links with Syria are deep and ongoing.  She has been back seven times since the current uprising began in March 2011, most recently in April 2018, and remains actively committed to helping Syrians achieve a better future. She is currently a Non-resident Scholar at the top Washington think-tank MEI (the Middle East Institute). 

About Stealing from the Saracens
‘Spectator’ Book of the Year 2020, chosen by William Dalrymple.
‘BBC History Magazine’ Best Book of 2020

Against a backdrop of Islamophobia, Europeans are increasingly airbrushing from history their cultural debt to the Muslim world. But this legacy lives on in some of Europe’s most recognisable buildings, from Notre-Dame Cathedral to the Houses of Parliament.

This beautifully illustrated book reveals the Arab and Islamic roots of Europe’s architectural heritage. Diana Darke traces ideas and styles from vibrant Middle Eastern centres like Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo, via Muslim Spain, Venice and Sicily into Europe. She describes how medieval crusaders, pilgrims and merchants encountered Arab Muslim culture on their way to the Holy Land; and explores more recent artistic interaction between Ottoman and Western cultures, including Sir Christopher Wren’s inspirations in the ‘Saracen’ style of Gothic architecture.

Recovering this long yet overlooked history of architectural ‘borrowing’, Stealing from the Saracens is a rich tale of cultural exchange, shedding new light on Europe’s greatest landmarks.

Please book  by 1pm on the day of the lecture.
Members: Free
Guests: £5


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