Did Gothic Cathedrals of Dark Age Europe Begin as Islamic Mosques?

Ehsan Butt

Dark age of the Europe is a period described in modern textbooks during which Europeans created greatest marvels of human civilization and development; the feats that modern sociological science associates with a society's overwhelming sense of liberty and internal and external peace and security. The structures now called Gothic Cathedrals are told to be built during those Dark Ages. They represent one of the major advancements in European architecture and construction project management. The buildings consisted of many windows brought glowing light into Cathedrals. Peoples’ eyes were drawn toward the amazing art, as if they were looking up toward heaven. Anyone in the towering facade would feel a sense of awe because of the scale and intricate art and the beauty of the architecture. *

Although the literature on the history of their origin with details such as the necessity of such grand structures, their originators, planners, designers and the communities which had the resources to build and utilize them has been destroyed. However despite the lack of transmitted literature, standing in front of these huge and beautiful structures reveals confidence, sense of dignity, proud, sense of honor, human relationship bonding spirit in their creators as strong communities and their vigorous civil society with a culture of rule of law justice and equality. Such accomplishments, looking at known human history in other times and locations of the globe are not possible in short time without such qualities necessary for imagining, planning, carrying out such community projects . Creation of such structure one after the other, spread over area all over Europe, point to their fair and institutionalized system of collaboration, dispute resolution and delivering justice. The Europe at those times could not have been reeling under kings and blind-faith church, despotic system rigidly enforced bindings on individuals tightened under divisions like priests and laymen suppression of new ideas and enterprises with iron fists like that of inquisition. A society is not an entity unto itself, John Dewey (1859-1952) said, but rather an aggregate of individuals who grow and evolve. By extension, only a society that could grow and evolve as its citizens did would be truly free. How was that strong society eradicated? Surely not with those few encounters described with conflicting details like King Harold II of England is defeated by the Norman forces of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings England.

Gothic architecture, as we call it, is Arab and Islamic heritage. Islamic architecture shaped Europe is the thesis supported by abundant evidence in the book: Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture Shaped Europe by Middle East expert Diana Darke is published by Hurst on 20 August 2020

The above observation from the cathedrals has also found support from other areas of European heritage where there is significantly less chance that human intervention can destroy or distort the transmission of historic evidence. One such area is the history and origin of English language. It has been observed that linguistic relationship between English and Arabic is so close, deep and systematic/genetic that English can be seen as a deviant Arabic dialect? Dr. Zaidan Ali Jassem of Qassim University, Buraidah, KSA has presented and explained its abundant evidence.

Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba: Was it an exception?

                 Cathedral,  Reims, France

    Cathedral Wells, Somerset U.K

It is well known that the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, Spanish Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba, also called Great Mosque of Córdoba, Spain was converted into a Christian cathedral in the 13th century. It was built by the Umayyad ruler ʿAbd ar-Raḥmān I in 784–786 . Its Islamic history literature survived in the world despite Spanish kings and Catalan (Catholic) royal church almost destroyed as much information as they could of its past by burning Iberian Muslim literary heritage and  destroying its Muslim character by converting the structure to a Christian cathedral. Many other mosques, falling completely in the custody of hostile kings, were not that fortunate in preserving their real history. However historical information is preserved in the ground archeology and elements of local history of the European structure and its surroundings. Frequently only a little inspection of their structure reveals their original mosque character.

Dated 1026, Casket with Arabic inscription
بة تامنة لصاحبه أطال الله بقاه مما عمل بمدينة قو[نكة] .......... [سنة] سبع عشرة
وأربع مائة عمل محمد بن زيان عبده أعزه الله
Translation "God accept his prayer of its owner, may God prolong good effects of his deeds at the city of Periwinkle [years] seventeen and four hundred (i.e. 417 AH)  (article) created by Abdo Mohammed Bin God help him"

Monastery de Santo Domingo de Silos

Medieval times Islamic treasure relics still existing in many European cathedrals point to the buildings previous custodians. Some researchers like Avinoam Shalem have suggested they are perhaps trophies of war. 
"From Royal Caskets to Relic Containers: Two Ivory Caskets from Burgos and Madrid", by Avinoam Shalem" Muqarnas 12 (1995), 24-38.,

Medieval manuscripts abound with such design of caskets used for keeping money. Thus the running and other expenses of mosque cathedrals and accepting contributions from visitors, many of whom would be rich merchants and aristocrats, required such expenses and beautiful containers they feel at home.

Money, money, money - gold and silver coins - a medieval rich man's world Yates Thompson MS 3, f. 174r

Edwin Johnson 1842–1901 was born in Hampshire, England  and became Professor of Classical
Literature British Museum in London University. Edwin quotes Sir Christopher Wren 1632–1723 who rebuilt St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and fifty other churches in England and was as one of the first Englishman in the available literature who studied the history of these buildings. In his 1668 survey of Salisbury Cathedral Christopher Wren noted that the term "Gothic" is a vulgar and inaccurate expression unsuitable for such buildings. In many other texts of that time Gothic was associated with all that was rude and barbaric. A passage in Smollett's "Humphry Clinker" refers the so called Gothic style to a Saracen original. Edwin concludes that Gothic came to be admired due  to the ecclesiastical revival. Edwin stated that "Wren never doubted that our abbeys and cathedrals were imitations of Mohammadan buildings in Spain, Italy, and the East."
p 695, Gothic and Saracen Architecture, in The Westminster Review, Volume 136, July-Dec 1891
published by Leonard Scott Publication Company, New York

The Pointed Arch,  technically known as "ogival"
It ushered a new era of buildings in twelfth century, though its application can be traced in Arabia at least five centuries before. https://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/201203/the.point.of.the.arch.htm
New York Museum of Modern Art director Glenn Lowry  published a  monograph on "Islam and the Medieval West" in 1983. His observations included features existing in the building that  point to the actual purpose of the building to be a Muslim mosque.

Lowry suggests that "the builders of St. Andrew's Cathedral not only copied Islamic architectural features, but emulated their specific uses in religious settings as well. This was more than imitation—it was wholesale adoption."

Freemasons historical origins was the golden age of  Islamic civilization while it ruled the world without a rival or signs of decline.
"The natural source of secrecy is fear. When any new religion over-runs a former religion, the professors of the new become the persecutors of the old. We see this in all instances that history brings before us."
                                                    ORIGIN OF FREEMASONRY by Thomas Paine
Freemasons were open minded, well educated people enthusiastic for evidence based investigations for fact finding. One of their society, the Royal Society, became founding organization to promote science.
  A group of twelve men, including Robert Boyle and Christopher Wren, met in London to set up a society to study the mechanisms of nature. At a time when superstition and magic governed reason, the repressive dogma of Christian belief silenced many, and were post-war loyalties ruined careers, these men forbade the discussion of religion and politics at their meetings. The Royal Society was born and with it modern, experimental science.
[Freemasonry and the Birth of Modern Science by Robert Lomas]

Julie Harris investigated the general conventions used for Mosque to Church Conversions in the Iberian Reconquest* [1]  She focused on the Christian appropriation of Toledo's mosque by its conversion to the Cathedral of Santa Maria. Describing her general observations  on the details of such conversions she stated:

“Despite the anti-Islamic stereotyping and propaganda that was prevalent in Iberia and north of the Pyrenees, Reconquest Christians professed an admiration for particular mosques and seemed eager to retain the converted structures until they could no longer function adequately. Discomfiture over using an Islamic structure as a church was relatively rare”

p 172

Built as mosques their direction is towards Makkah, south eastward, however using them as Christian church the Christian assemblies began facing north eastern walls.
“The Mosque as Architecture structure was used in north east direction”  p 165

Along with the conversions the word Mosque from their names replaced with Gothic with the assumption that all knowledge about Iberian Goths invitation to Muslims and overwhelmingly converted to Islam has been erased. However the historical details of Iberian Goths invitation to Muslims and overwhelmingly converted to Islam has survived to show that in Europe Gothic and Islamic have been in fact equivalents.   
* Word Reconquest is a misnomer

Iberian Goths Overwhelmingly Welcomed Islam and Accepted Islam

Abu Bakr ibn al-Qutiyyah—“the son of the Gothic woman”was a Spanish Historian in the Early Islamic Spain. He expresses proudly his Visigothic Lineage

 In the late 730’s Sara, the granddaughter of Witiza, penultimate king of the Visigoths, fitted out a ship in Seville and sailed downriver to the Atlantic, entered the Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar, and sailed east to the Palestinian port of Ascalon. Sara was on her way to the Umayyad court at Damascus.

She had obtained an audience with the caliph Hisham to demand restitution of as many as a thousand estates in the environs of her native city that had been confiscated by Ardabasto, one of her three uncles, despite the fact that an earlier caliph had confirmed her right to inherit. Hisham upheld her claim and wrote to his governor in North Africa, ordering him to enforce it and assist Sara in every way. Perhaps to render her position even more unassailable, he married her to one of his freedmen, ‘Isa ibn Muzahim. The couple returned to Seville together.
Sara and ‘Isa had two sons, Ibrahim and Ishaq. It is to the great-grandson of Ibrahim that we owe our knowledge of Sara’s journey to Damascus, for Abu Bakr ibn al-Qutiyyah—“the son of the Gothic woman”—begins his short account of the Muslim conquest of Spain with the story of his great-great-grandmother Sara, of whom he was justifiably proud [2]

Normans kings who later repaired or modified some cathedrals are sometimes described as the original builders of those structures. However scholars  have clarified the misconception:

“The Norman architecture, in its dependence on the architecture of Islam, bears witness in the most indisputable manner to the priority of Islam.”  p-72-73,  THE RISE OF CHRISTENDOM. by EDWIN JOHNSON, M.A. , LONDON  1890.

Pre-Islamic Spain and Europe has nothing to do with Christianity. Spain as all Europe were religiously well informed Monotheistic Constantinople centered Roman, Deistic or Hanifi. Islam, as stated in the Qur'an, is also a revival of Hanifi tradition of prophet Ibrahim.

Islamic Foundations of European Civilization
Some more details that substantiate this fact can be seen by a simple search for other related posts of ARFA.

European Universities Originated from Traditional Islamic Mosque( Cathedral) Schools

The times now seen as European dark ages (late 8th and early 9th centuries of Middle ages) were actually the most bright when the seeds of learning and scholarship were sown.

"Every cathedral had such a school; there were generally fewer than 100 students in a school. Notable cathedral schools during the early European Middle Ages) were at York, North Yorkshire, Eng.; Orléans, Fr.; and Reims, Fr."

"cathedral school". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.

Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 27 Feb. 2015

Earliest European Cathedrals are not Oriented towards the East Direction as Claimed

From over 10 years Ian Hinton surveyed almost 1,750 churches in England and Wales. He concludes that against the common belief of Christians their Churches don't face east. [3]

It must be remembered that directing buildings accurately in the primary direction of East at any location is much simpler than finding the direction towards a point, Kaabah,  thousands of mile away. Therefore any discrepancy in actual and estimated direction towards Makkah is understandable while such a discrepancy in determining and constructing buildings in the simple east direction would raise many questions.

Ian Hinton's survey identified a gradual clockwise rotation in the building orientation as you move from east to west in the country. This trend confirms that the buildings were oriented towards a point in the south east. If the direction in the straight East was intended the errors in orientation would give a random but even scatter towards both north east and south east directions. 

The red line going south-west in the images below indicates the Qibla Makkah direction in the extreme west and east of England.  The line shows the clockwise rotation shift trend in the Qibla orientation as we move from the extreme west locations towards the east locations in England. 

Google Map Images with overlay from online Muslim Qibla Direction Finder, Red Arrow indicates Qibla, direction of Makkah: 

Maps & Satellite Images of European Medieval Cathedrals Show they are Oriented in the Direction of Makkah as Mosques

Spanish Cathedrals

Cathedral-Mosque of Córdoba, Calle del Cardenal Herrero, 1 14003 Córdoba, Spain, https://goo.gl/maps/dVPLZ

Great Mosque of Córdoba, Spain which was converted into a Christian cathedral in the 13th century.




Despite Muslim intention to orient it precisely towards Makkah its orientation deviates from the Qibla Orientation given by Google Maps in the image below. 

It is abut 45 degrees further south from the Google Qibla direction. This difference can be seen in the Seville Cathedral as well.


David A. King has provided data and figure below about the medieval Andalusian Muslim methods and application for Qibla orientations in his article "The Orientation of Medieval Islamic Religious Architecture and Cities"  p264 JHA, xxvi (1995), NASA Astrophysics Data System,  Published by Science History Publications Ltd. Dr. David has discovered that the wide margin between the actual Qibla direction and the selected orientation is due to the difference of  the method for the determination of Qibla used by Muslim before 9th Century he calls the “folk astronomy of Jurists”, that is, based on shadows and what can be perceived by the naked eye.  He suggests that this is practiced more by Islamic legal scholars (fuqaha).  He contrasts this to mathematical astronomy, which developed sophisticated tables (zij) for determining the Qibla that came into use after 9th Century. 

The selection of Qibla too much away and towards the west can be explained by Dr. David King's discovery of the early method of Qibla determination as he shows that it results in a Qibla direction deviating towards the west. However deviation towards west also makes the other side of the rectangular building becoming aligned with the East West direction. Thus, for Mosques with extreme deviations, after their Christian occupation and conversion into East-West oriented churches their original character of being Mosques build in the Qiblah Makkah orientation became difficult discover.

Seville Cathedral

Av de la Constitución, s/n 41004 Sevilla, Spain

In 712 Seville opened its gates to the Moslems, who erected a splendid mosque where the church of the Christians stood: this mosque is stated to have been burnt by the Normans. It was succeeded by another, built about 1 1 84, by the Emir Abu-Jusuf-Yacub. St. Ferdinand converted, which completed in 1511, this edifice into a cathedral, exactly on the foundations of what had been Seville’s biggest mosque. In fact, the famous Giralda tower of the Cathedral, the symbol of Seville, is the minaret of the mosque. 

The fact that It still stands on the foundations of the original mosque has been unanimously accepted.

"The present imposing cathedral, standing on the site of the mosque, once more sends forth its voice of testimony to the fact that the Church reposes on the foundation of Islam.”

Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

The Minaret, used for calling for prayers five times a day,  is built using a well known design for minarets of mosques in Europe including Spain, such as Seville Mosque now called Cathedral, where such structures survived along with their records in historical literature. 

Streets and Alleys around are short width to keep direct distance from the the top of minaret smaller for hearing the call for the prayers.

Portuguese Cathedrals
Alcobaça Monastery, 2460-018 Alcobaça, Portugal


French Cathedrals

Abbaye de Cluny, Rue du 11 Août 1944, 71250 Cluny, France

French archaeologists with the National Center for Scientific Research and other institutions in France have recently unearthed 21 Islamic gold dinars among other stash of coins and other objects made of gold from the Abbey of Cluny. Cluny, was one of the largest abbeys of Western Europe during the Middle Ages. The treasure was buried in fill where it seems to have stayed for 850 years,” the scientists said in a press release issued by the institute. 21 Islamic gold dinars struck between 1121 and 1131 in Spain and Morocco, under the reign of Ali ibn Yusuf (1106–1143), who belonged to the Berber Almoravid dynasty.

In 1790 during the French Revolution, Cluny abbey was sacked and mostly destroyed, with only a small part of the Abbey surviving. Today, there remain only the buildings built under the Old Mode as well as a small portion of Cluny III. The sections including the tower still stand; the ruined bases of columns give an idea of the size of the rest of the church. The surviving structure represents less than 10% of the floor area of Cluny III, which was the largest church of Christendom, until the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, five centuries later. Engineers, architects and computer modelling professionals have developed many models to illustrate findings about the original building.

Arabs presence is evidenced by many accounts, all paint Arabs as some uncouth  raiders, a famous describes how Bishop Maiolus of Cluny in 973, was held prisoner  by Arabs for some time for ransom, together with his travel-companions.
The Arab Presence in France and Switzerland in the 10th Century,  Kees Versteegh,, Arabica, T. 37, Fasc. 3 (Nov., 1990), pp. 359-388

Bayeux Cathedral, also known as Cathedral of Our Lady of Bayeux, Bayeux, Normandy, France

Local Site Map of  Bayeux Cathedral, also known as Cathedral of Our Lady of Bayeux, Bayeux ,Normandy, France

Flying Buttresses, Notre Dame Cathedral In Paris
6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Place Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris

The Basilica Of Saint Denis
1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur 93200 Saint-Denis, France


A building in the perpandicular direction can conveniently used as Mosque for Muslim prayer purposes.  

Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral

5 Rue des Acacias28000 Chartres, France

Notre-Dame d'Amiens Cathedral

30 Place Notre Dame 80000 Amiens, France

Cathcart Old Parish Church Glasgow, Scotland
119 Carmunnock Rd, Glasgow G44 5UW, UK

Plan View

Precise Orientation Angle Measurement using online
https://setcompass.com/ with Multi Legged Route option
It can be see that the Cathcart Church orientation is precisely in the Muslim Qibla direction and widely different, ~ 24 degrees away, from the East direction required for it to be a christian church.

Cathedrals of England

Southwark Cathedral
London Bridge, London SE1 9DA, United Kingdom

 City of London passed through the destruction of the Great Fire of 1666 and had its churches rebuilt. The  St. Paul's Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill, designed by Sir Christopher Michael Wren and rebuilt on new foundations, completed in 1710.  The orientation of the St. Paul cathedral was rotated for the new building.

Lincoln Cathedral, Minster Yard, Lincoln LN2 1PX, United Kingdom


Canterbury Cathedral, Cathedral House, 11 The Precincts, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2EH, United Kingdom

Cathedral House, N Circus St, Nottingham NG1 5AE, United Kingdom

Winchester Cathedral at Winchester in Hampshire , England

Cathedral Green, Wells, Somerset BA5 2UE, United Kingdom

  1. Caistor St Edmund church , Norwich, Norfolk NR14, UK
  2. Although this is considered as Roman at the moment and Roman is associated with, an invented story , a place Rome that appeared after the demise of Islamic civilization of Europe especially the emirate and then taifa of Sicily. Islamic civilization historians did not see any place, worth mentioning, called Rome in Italy and always meant that the word Roman points to Constantinople. See Related: "There Was No Byzantine Empire" Charles Collins, Levan Humanities Review, Volume 2, Issue 1, 2014

Arabic on the King Offa coin, significantly large number of early Islamic civilization coins finds, including early Abbasid, ~ 900AD in this area point to strong relationship or presence of Islam. for detail see  Islamic Foundations of European Civilization

Exeter Cathedral 

Exeter Cathedral, 1 The Cloisters, Exeter EX1 1HS

St Albans Cathedral
St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 1BY, United Kingdom

More Images of the above site: http://www.castlewales.com/llantho.html

Belfry of Ghent

is one of three medieval towers, which was a minaret of the mosque, the adjacent building oriented in the exact qibla direction

Sint-Baafsplein, 9000 Gent, Belgium

Universiteitshal Naamsestraat 22 , 3000 Leuven Belgium

The Catholic University of Leuven, (of Louvain in French, and historically in English), was considered the largest, oldest and most prominent university in Belgium.

Austrian Cathedrals

St. Stephen's Cathedral, Stephansplatz 3, 1010 Wien, Austria

Italian Cathedrals

Muslim historians describe Barah/Bari/ Imarat of Bari in Italy that includes building of a cathedral mosque by its Muslim emir Al-Mufarraj ibn-Sallam.

see page 371-2, Vol I,  The origins of the Islamic state : being a translation from the Arabic by al-Baladhuri, Ahmad ibn Yahya, d. 892; Hitti, Philip Khuri, 1886-1978;  Murgotten, Francis Clark, 1880,  Published 1916

* http://darkagesproject39.weebly.com/cultural-achievements.html

The Minaret of San Sebastián is a small tower that was part of one of the mosques of Ronda and later served also missing steeple Church of St. Sebastian. It was declared a historic monument in 1931. Square in plan, has three bodies in height. The first two were built in the fourteenth century, while the third is Christian era.

The Basilica of Saint Nicholas located in the Old Centre district of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Swedish Cathedrals

Tharik Hussain a Fellow at the Royal Geographical Society in London, a specialist in Muslim heritage and culture has recently tweeted about his observation of the presence of Muslim Civilization heritage in the Lund Catherdral building:

[1]  Mosque to Church Conversions in the Iberian Reconquest , Medieval Encounters 3,2 , Koninklijke Brill, Leiden, 1997

[2]  Muslim Spain: 0711-1492 A.D.Syed M. Imamuddin, Brill Archive,  http://goo.gl/Qj7n4h

[3] British Archaeology, Ian Hinton, Churches face East, don't they? Church alignments. Do churches face sunrise on saints' days? Issue 94 May/June 2007


Islamic Foundations of European Civilization

Owning the Past, Controlling the Present: The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba

Islamic influences in Florence By KAMIN MOHAMMADI

Archaeologists identify  Muslim graves in soth France facing towards Mecca, are believed to date from the 7th century

Is the Historic Name of Britain, Vilayat/Wilayet/Blight(Distorted), the Arabic word "wilāyat", An Islamic State?

The enigmatic orientation of the Great Mosque of C—rdoba explained David A. King Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt (www.davidaking.org and davidaking.academia.edu/)
The enigmatic orientation of the Great Mosque of Córdoba David A. King J. W. Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Suhayl 16-17 ( 2018-2019 ), pp. 33 - 111

Mughal Architecture Grew in Europe in Britain After British Traders Reached India and Appreciated Its Buldings 

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