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Architecture of Faith: The History and Diversity of the World's Great Mosques

Evening Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, September 17, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1A0124
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Süleymaniye Mosque (1550–57), Istanbul, Turkey


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • For multiple registrations, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses.

Typically associated with domes, minarets, and rich decoration, mosques have achieved iconic status in popular conceptions of Islamic art and culture. Yet the architecture of Muslim places of worship is far more variable than often imagined, encompassing a range of forms, styles, and functions that reflect the geographical and cultural diversity of the Islamic world.

Ünver Rüstem, assistant professor of Islamic art and architecture at Johns Hopkins University, explores this tradition through examples extending from Spain to India and from the 7th century into our own time. Beginning in Arabia with the house of the Prophet Muhammad, which also served as Islam’s first mosque, he traces the development, spread, and diversification of the mosque as a flexible yet coherent building type, one that retained a number of key features over time and space while also responding to changing needs and contexts.

Rüstem discusses the medieval Great Mosque of Cordoba, later converted into a Christian cathedral; the 16th-century Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, monument to the mighty Ottoman Empire; and the Great Mosque of Djenné, a masterpiece of West African Islamic architecture rebuilt in 1907.

Related religious structures that are not mosques, notably the enigmatic Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, are also covered. In addition to examining their architectural and artistic significance, Rüstem considers these buildings from the perspective of their political symbolism, urban impact, and roles as social hubs, underscoring the multiplicity of meanings and frameworks associated with the mosque throughout history and today.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*

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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.