In the Shadow of the Church

The Building of Mosques in Early Medieval Syria


In his book In the Shadow of the Church: The Building of Mosques in Early Medieval Syria Mattia Guidetti examines the establishment of Muslim religious architecture within the Christian context in which it first appeared in the Syrian region, contributing to the debate on the transformation of late antique society to a Muslim one. He scrutinizes the slow process of conversion to Islam of the most important town centers by looking at religious places of both communities between the seventh and the eleventh century. The author assesses the relevancy of churches by analyzing the location of mosques and by researching phenomena of transfer of marble material from churches to mosques.

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Mattia Guidetti, Ph.D. (2006, University of Venice) is Universitätassistent at the Institut für Kunstgeschichte of the University of Vienna. He has published on Islamic art. His research interests deal with art history in the Mediterranean region.
Winner of the Syrian Studies Association (SSA) Prize for 2017:
"Mattia Guidetti’s In the Shadow of the Church: the Building of Mosques in Early Medieval Syria is an extremely important contribution to the history of medieval Syria and addresses a key, long-recognized lacuna in Islamic art history: the integration of the narrative of Islamic art with that of the art of Late Antiquity. It argues against a paradigm of “rupture” with the coming of Islam by successfully demonstrating that Early Syrian mosques were deeply influenced by Late Antique Church forms, and that the development of the mosque should thus be viewed as arising out of Church development in the period immediately prior to the rise of Islam. While a handful of historians have successfully integrated the history of early Islam into the world of Late Antiquity of which it was clearly a part, this is one of the first, and to date the most sustained, attempts to do so within the field of Art History. The committee was particularly impressed by Guidetti’s exploration of the premodern mechanisms of coexistence among religious communities in medieval Syria. Likewise, Guidetti’s contribution to the study of cultural transference of ideas and objects via his examination of spolia—architectural elements reused from earlier Roman and Christian-era monuments—was outstanding. Guidetti’s rich and deeply researched book opens a new chapter in the field of the Art History of Syria and promises to remain influential for years."

"This book is a remarkable scientific work and documentation of the coexistence, cohabitation and interaction of two civilizations, Christian and Muslim, mainly through their material creations, especially shrines. [...] A very interesting and useful academic work that examines in depth a subject of great scientific importance." - Angeliki Georgiou Kompocholi, in: Journal of Oriental and African Studies 27 (2018)
After the Conquest: The Entangled Lives of Churches and Mosques
Cities and Churches after the Conquest
Narratives about Early Mosques and Presumed Cases of Conversion of Churches into Mosques
Mosques near the Basilica of the Nativity and the Holy Sepulcher
The Contiguity of Churches and Mosques
Deconstructing the Paradigm of Partition
“Contiguity”: Churches and Mosques in the Conquered Cities
Mosques, Markets, and Administrative Complexes
Muslims’ Attraction to Churches
In and Out of Place
The Coexistence of Religious Communities and the Location of Places of Worship
Communities’ Encounters
Art and Identity in Early Medieval Bilad al-Sham
Material Transfers in the Early Medieval Mediterranean: Marble Columns from Churches to Mosques
Christian Columns and Marble Material in Early Medieval Mosques
Literary Evidence of the Reuse of Christian Columns in the Early Medieval Period
Modalities of the Acquisition and Transfer of Materials
Spolia in the Historiography of Islamic Art
More Christianorum: Marble and Columns in Early Medieval Mosques
Marble and the Aesthetics of Polychromy
Columns as Links of an Architectural Network
Sacred Columns
The Vanishing of the Late Antique Sacred Landscape
A New Place for Christian Spolia in Islamic Art
Primary Sources:
Secondary Literature:
List of Figures

All interested in the history of early Islamic art, archeology and architecture and anyone concerned about the transition from late antiquity to Islam, processes of conversion, the development of sacred landscapes and the use of spolia.
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