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Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture shaped Europe, D Darke

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The architectural heritage of Europe and America owes an important debt to the Arab and Islamic world.

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Drawing on ideas and styles passed from vibrant Middle East trading cities into the West, the architectural heritage of Europe — and America — owes an important debt to the Arab and Islamic world, as I lay out in my new book, Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture Shaped Europe. England’s greatest architect, Sir Christopher Wren, wrote that what we call “the Gothic style should more rightly be called the Saracen style.”

The returning Crusaders, ironically, set up new kingdoms in the 12th century, mimicking the styles of their conquered enemies, whom they called the Saracens, meaning “people who steal.” The Norman French brought the styles back to Normandy, where they synthesized them into what was originally just called “French work” in cathedrals like Notre-Dame and Chartres, before importing the style into England, under Norman rule at the time, in buildings like Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

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