Friday, 23 June 2006

Arabs in Pisa?

Pisa baptistery floor

Originally uploaded by andreakkk.

This work makes me think of the Maghreb. It makes me think of the Alhambra, the Generalife, the life and work of the Moors in Spain. The geometry is quintessentially Moorish, using overlapping squares and eight pointed stars to create a lattice of interlaced strips.

But it's actually the baptistery floor in Pisa. It's not the only bit of 'Arab' work I've seen in Pisa, either. There's an eight pointed star over one of the baptistery doors, a griffin that might be Hispano-Moorish, north African or even Persian standing guard over the cathedral apse, and 'Saracenic' pointed arches in the cathedral. And Pisa did trade with Moorish Spain and with the African coast - having taken over Cagliari as a useful staging post.

Everyone knows about Venice and its Byzantine past. And Sicily, a strange half-Norman, half-Arab kingdom which developed its own mix of styles.

But there seems to be an Arab story in Pisa.... which hasn't often been told.

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