Islamic Architecture & Europe w/ Diana Darke

21 Oct 2023 – 14:00 BST
Wimbledon BookFest
Rutherford Theatre (Wimbledon High)
35 Wimbledon Hill Road
SW19 7NB

Stealing from the Saracens author, broadcaster and Middle Eastern specialist Diana Darke traces the Arab and Islamic roots of Europe’s architectural heritage in this illustrated talk.

Europe’s cultural debt to the Islamic world can be seen in some of the continent’s most recognisable buildings. Diana will delve into the history of this aesthetic exchange, shedding new light on Europe’s greatest landmarks, from Notre-Dame Cathedral to the Houses of Parliament.

Diana’s latest book, Stealing from the Saracens, is a revealing history of Islamic architectural influence on Europe’s cathedrals, palaces and monuments.

‘…shows how our cultures – including our religious cultures-interact and interweave in ways that challenge all kinds of assumptions we might make about our history.’  – Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury

About the book

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.

About the author

Diana Darke is an Arabist and cultural expert who has lived and worked in the Middle East for over thirty years. She is the author of The Merchant of Syria: A History of Survival and My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Crisis. She tweets as @dianadarke.


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