Qasr mshatta

Brief Identification Edit

The Qasr Mshatta, also known as the Qasr al-Mshatta, is an ancient ruin from an Islamic monument that is dated sometime around 743-744. It is believed to have been built around the the of al-Walid II's reign as the Umayyad Caliphe. It is a very prominant piece of Islamic Art, however, there is quite a lot of mystery surrounding the piece.

Technical Evaluation Edit

The building consists of a large square enclosure that is 140 meters on each side [Walmsley, 102] with four semi-circular buttress towers. The most well known feature of the palace is the southern facade, which is made up of a delicately carved stone frieze. Inside of the palace it is divided into three longitudinal strips, with the central strip containing the entrance, the central courtyard, and the audience hall. [see Petersen, 140]

In many of the finest ashlar-built structures, one of the more common technical themes, which is found in the Qasr Mshatta, are delicate protruding joints made with fine lime mortar. [see Lavan, Zanini, and, Sarantis, 504]. The thin joints are a style that is very signifigant during the Mesopotamia Era, rather than thick layers of Mortar which is more common during the Byzantine Empire. [Petersen, 296] The facade, now on display in Berlin, is known for being a unique display of extensive stone-carved architectural ornamentation from the early Islamic Period. With the structure being located right next to an airport, it has gone suffered through quite a bit of weathering caused from air pollution. [National Museum of Berlin].

Starting in 2009, there was a research and reconstruction effort done by the Department of Antiquities of the Hashemit Kingdom of Jordan, the Berlin Institute of Technology, and the Berlin National Museums in order to learn more about the mystery surrounding the technology and History of the palace. During this effort, in 2010, the groups began rebuilding the facade and the palace with its three arches. While rebuilding the structure, the architects did so by building in the traditional way that it would have been built. While rebuilding the pointed vaulting in 2011, the builders used a formed scaffolding which shifted forward stepwise, in the way that the Early Muslims would have built it. [Berlin Institute of Technology]

Today the facade of the Palace can be found in the National museum of Berlin. It was given to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II as a gift from the Ottoman Sultan Abdül Hamid II in 1903. [National museum of Berlin]

Local Historical Context Edit

Building of the structure is said to have begun in 733 during the reign of Umayyad Caliph al-Walid ibn Yazid. [Berlin Institute of Technology]. It was, however, believed to have never been completed following the assassination of al-Walid II, and that it was severely damaged following an earthquake in 749. [see Berlin Museum]. The Qasr Mshatta is located about 30 kilometers south of Amman. [See Berlin Museum]. The contents of the decor of the Mshatta give ideas that the Early Muslim community was attentive with distinctions between what was considered secular and sacred space. According to an article on the website for the Met Museum, most of the decoration filling the zig-zag shapes along the side of the wall of the southern facade consists of animated creatures, which keeps with the decor of the secular elite. On the other side, however, there lacks any kind of animals at all. [Williams]

World-Historical Significance Edit

The Qasr Mshatta is believed to be on of the more significant pieces of architecture from the Early Muslim world. Historians say that it is a great representative of the art and architecture of the time. According to the information on the piece given from the Berlin National Museum's website, the palace features characteristics and motifs that are typical from late antique, Coptic, Syrian, and Sasanian models, showing that the structure influences the later architects during later times. [Berlin National Museum]. The structure is known for being very ambitious and taking influences from other societies. While it may mostly portray influences of Syrian architecture, it also takes influences from other notable societies, such as Mesopotamian and Constantinopolitan. [Ettinghausen, Grabar, and Jenkins, 51]. These influences that the palace takes, show the size of what the Empire was. The ability to bring together all of these different societies and put them into on piece of architecture shows the influence that the Umayyad Empire had on the entire world, as they were able to mix their own culture with others to create some of the most ambitious art ever made.

Suggested Bibliography Edit

Berlin Institute of Technology "Qasr al-Mushatta - an Umayyad Palace in Jordan"

Luke Lavan, Enrico Zanini, and Alexander Constantine Sarantis, Technology in Transition: AD 300-650, 2007

Richard Ettinghausen, Oleg Grabar, and Marilyn Jenkins Islamic Art and Architechture 650-1250, 2001

Alan Walmslet, Early Islamic Syria, 2013

National Museum of Berlin "Museum für Islamische Kunst"

Betsy Williams, Dept of Islamic Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Andrew Petersen, Dictionary of Islamic Architechture, 2002

Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Walid II"

Encyclopedia Britanica, "Abdulhamid II"

Oxford Islamic Studies Online "Umayyad Caliphate"

BBC History, "Historic Figures- Wilhelm II"

Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Sasanian Empire (224-651 A.D.)"

BBC Religions, "Coptic Orthodox Church"