The Great Mosque At Damascus

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Aside from the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the mosque of Cordoba, the Great Mosque at Damascus is perhaps one of the grandest symbols of Islamic art still standing in the 21st century. The building borrows palatial architecture and is decorated with intense mosaics and paintings; most of which have been destroyed but evidence is still there. Underneath the impressive double decker arches are arrangements of spolia from the Roman Empire and intricate images of a beautiful natural landscape. This landscape, which includes specific buildings but no animals or humans, has been a source of academic debate to find the true meaning. Many scholars believe the landscape is an interpretation of Islamic paradise while other scholars dispute that, claiming it is just a landscape of the nearby area. Klaus Brisch and Maria Georgopoulou argue these sides in their publications on the Great Mosque and ultimately this paper sides with Brisch and critiques Georgopoulou through a geographic and historical lens. The Great Mosque at Damascus does appear to demonstrate the images of Islamic paradise from the geographic perspective of the Umayyad Empire. Georgopoulou’s central argument in, “Geography, cartography, and the architecture of power in the mosaics of the Great Mosque at Damascus” is that while the ‘town’ and landscape are elaborate and not architecturally possible, the setting is a little too realistic to be considered an ideal paradise. She points to architectural holes in the

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