« PreviousContinue »
small apertures to give vent to the exhalation of the perfumes constantly burning in it.
"Most of the rooms are vaulted, and their vaults are in many instances cut open with striking boldness and delicacy for the admission of light. The vaults, ceilings, beams, and wainscots are either painted or gilt; in many rooms they are inlaid with marble, jasper, and porphyry, and are almost everywhere loaded with inscriptions and various mosaic ornaments."'*
Although there are, besides the Alhambra, a large number of remains of Arabic architecture scattered throughout Spain, yet it has been deemed best to select as a specimen the celebrated palace which still forms so conspicuous an ornament of the city of Granada, because it is the one most generally known, and it suggests itself immediately to the mind of the persons who study this interesting subject.
The civilization, the manners, and the faith of a people are so exactly represented by the style of architecture which they have adopted, that the few remarks we venture to make here cannot be thought out of place. Just as the Buddhist topes in India, the Parthenon at Athens, and the simple but imposing temples of Egypt, enable us to unravel the various phases of intellectual and religious development which prevailed amongst the greatest nations of antiquity, so we can to a considerable extent read the history of Mohammedanism on the walls of the Alhambra, and obtain an accurate comment on the Koran from the domes of that splendid palace. It supplies us with “sermons in stones " in the truest sense of the word.
Essentially given to nomadic habits, wanderers over the face of the earth, the Arabs, or Saracens, wlien by a kind of exception they became located in Spain, naturally reproduced in their architecture the lightness and fragility which characterized their encampments; the tent origin of the Moorish style of construction may be traced in the slenderness of the pillars, and whilst these are fashioned in imitation of the poles which supported the awning, the idea of the latter is in a measure kept up by the general decoration of various devices in mosaic work, and painted stucco or glazed tiles, which gives to the whole the semblance of being covered with richly patterned carpeting or embroidered tapestry; not, indeed, in exact imitation, or so as to aim at illusion, but with just that degree of adherence to a prototype which is observable in all artistic architectural decorations. The lightness of the remaining Moorish structures, already alluded to, appears in its perfection if we examine the Giralda at Seville, though this is a more massive tower than is to be found anywhere else as the work of a Moslem architect. Another important feature, which must not be omitted even in a summary description, is that style which gives to all the Saracen palaces the appearance of strongholds designed to protect the conquerors against their vigilant enemies. The beauties of architecture are ever combined with great solidity, and whilst the inner portions of the buildings are perfect patterns of elegance and gracefulness, the walls themselves could well set at defiance the Spanish legions of Don Pelayo.
* Laborde's “ Travels in Spain,” vol. ii., pp. 103, 104. VOL. XIX. FIFTH SERIES.
The horse-shoe or crescent arch is so obviously the fundamental element of Moorish structures that the most careless observer must notice it at once. It resembles the symbol of Mohammedan faith, and was, no doubt, expressly adopted in imitation of it. Perhaps, too, the same religious delineations may be recognized in the smaller curves or scallopings which frequently indent the outline of the arch itself, and from which were borrowed the cusps that form the trefoils, quatrefoils, etc., of Gothic architecture, though certainly not out of respect to the symbol of Islamism. To the crescent or horse-shoe arch, again, we should point as having directly suggested the crescent or bulbous dome, so characteristic a feature in the buildings presented to us by Mohammedan countries. The outline or section of the latter accords so strikingly with the curvature of the other, (the one being constructed at its base, the other at its span,) that we can scarcely suppose it to have been a merely accidental coincidence, especially as such a form of dome is hardly to be accounted for otherwise than by some intention of the kind, and more particularly if the dome of Saint Sophia at Constantinople is to be received as the prototype for such features in Mohammedan architecture.*
Again, let us look at the decorations which covered the walls of Moorish palaces and mosques, and see how thoroughly they illustrate the religious faith of the people. We know that the Koran interdicts the representation of all human, or even merely animal, shape. The orna. ments, therefore, which filled up every frieze or compartment were exclusively geometrical patterns of singular beauty and complexity, inexhaustible variety of combinations, and a wonderful degree of harmonious intricacy, arising out of very simple elements. We must also take into reckoning the variety produced by colour, whereby the arrangements of lines and figures could be greatly diversified. These ornaments are generally known by the name of Arabesques, a term which has, however, been often misapplied to devices exhibiting a combination of animal and vegetable forms, human figures, and those of birds and quadrupeds, terminating in foliage and flowers.
Finally, and under the same heading of decorations, we observe the use of inscriptions, evidently with reference to ornamental effect. So far there is a very striking analogy between the practice of the Moslems and that of the ancient Egyptians; if the latter covered the walls of their edifices with hieroglyphics, the others inscribed theirs no less profusely with sentences; and the characters of their ordinary writing, elegant and fanciful in themselves, were as studiously ornate and calli. graphic as possible; and so well do they harmonize with the rest, as to seem to belong to the embellishment, and to have sufficient value as such, independent of their meaning.
We have thus given a short and very imperfect description of the Alhambra, that gorgeous palace where the kings of Granada held their court, and emulated all the glories of Eastern civilization ; let us now direct our attention to the government of the Spanish Moors, their laws, and their administration. Except in a very few particulars, these were framed according to the same pattern as that adopted by the Eastern
Khaliphate. The sovereign, in whom all power was vested, and who exercised it as the delegate of Heaven, had all the privileges both of a religious and of a temporal ruler. He administered the government with the advice of a council of State (mesuar); the hajeb, or primo minister, enjoyed under him the general superintendence of affairs, and corresponded, in point of authority, to the grand vizier of the Turkish sultan. Each province had for its viceroy a military commander named a wali; whilst the administration of justice was in the hands of magis. trates called kailis, who took for their authority in delivering judgment the text of the Koran and the traditional decisions of the companions of the “ Prophet."
But although the principles of government were the same as in the East, and the vices of Mohammedan constitutions as prominent, the position of the Spanish Arabs, surrounded as they were by enemies, contributed to give to their institutions a vigour and solidity which they never pos. sessed elsewhere. The khalifs of Cordova supported a large military force, always ready to take the field, and a numerous fleet to defend their coasts from any maritime inroads.* The services rendered to agriculture by the Moors must also be borne in mind; they were really incalculable; and, appreciated merely from that point of view, the expulsion of the Moslem population of Spain by the Christian kings was a most impolitic act. The Moors, as Count de Laborde observes, expert in all the mechanical arts, and particularly skilled in agriculture, had carried every branch of public and private economy to the highest degree of perfection. They had introduced into Spain the cultivation of cotton, silk, and rice; they had made canals for irrigation, and reservoirs, by means of which they conveyed water to the highest and driest lands. Their estates, divided into little fields, and constantly tilled, as is the case in countries of confined cultivation, formed a striking contrast to the immense wastes of the Spanish lords, to the domains of the crown, and to those of religious corporations. The Arabs obtained their knowledge of agriculture from the traditions of the East, the works of the Chaldæans, the writings of Mago the Carthaginian, and some Greek authors whose books have not come down to us; they possessed, in particular, a treatise on Nabathæan agriculture, which they seem to have constantly followed, and which was found to be perfectly adapted to the climate and the soil of the country they inhabited. Almost the whole of this invaluable work, which is written in Chaldæan, was translated and new modelled in the complete treatise on agriculture, by Ebn Zachariah, of Seville, better known by the name of Ebn el Arram. We see in it the minute attention which those nations paid to every branch of cultivation,-to the analysis, classification, and manure of the soil, and to rustic buildings, plantations, and the care of animals. It is a memorial of the high degree to which this species of industry can be carried; and Spain may boast the possession of the three most complete works, written in different ages on this subject,--that of Columella under the Romans, that of Alonzo de Herrera in the fifteenth century, and the treatise of which we are speaking.
The Moors were no less skilful in all kinds of manufactures : the invention of paper is, according to many authorities, due to them; and they particularly excelled in the manufacture of silk and cotton stuffs, morocco leather, etc., which were brought to great perfection by them. The geographer of Nubia, who travelled in Spain about the twelfth century, declares that in the kingdom of Jaen alone there were six hundred towns or boroughs which traded in silk. The stuffs made at Granada were prized in the East, and even at Constantinople, where all the arts were flourishing at that period. They are frequently mentioned in the Greek Mss. of the Lower Empire, amongst others, in a review published on the history of the Deacon Leo; and we find that Granada stuffs, the beauty of which was greatly admired, appeared in Greece in the time of Comnenus.
As the Moors were the agriculturists, so the Jews were the merchants of Spain. In the days of Don Roderic, they had invited the Arabs from Africa, and had afterwards fomented most of the divisions which brought on the ruin of the champions of Mohammedanism. They possessed all the capital, exercised all the trades, and turned to their own advantage the repugnance to work which was at that time, as it is now, the unfortunate characteristic of the Spaniards.
It might have been desirable for his Most Catholic Majesty, although we much question the hypothesis, to do without those two classes of industrious subjects, the Arabs and the Jews : but then it was necessary to be able to replace them ; it was necessary, by wise laws, rewards, and encouragements, to direct the energy of the Christian population towards industry. Unfortunately, no such thing was done. The continual wars in which the Spaniards were involved had prevented them from making any progress in the arts of civilization. The enthusiasm of honour and religion,--the grand spring of action in chivalrous times,-had, during peace, degenerated into a spirit of pride and idleness, incompatible with application to mechanical pursuits. This fault which, amongst the Spaniards, originated more in their institutions than in their character, might easily have been corrected by their Sovereigns, had they taken any pains to overcome it; but while they had wars to carry on it was not their interest; and afterwards their power was always too much limited. Thus it was that the expulsion of the Moors and Jews, under Ferdinand and Isabella, struck a most fatal blow at the greatness of Spain. From the time of the conquest of Granada to the reign of Philip III., more than three millions of those two races quitted the Peninsula, and carried with them not only a great part of the acquired wealth, but that industry and love of work which are the soul of it. Spain still feels this loss, and it is one which it will never completely repair.
(To be continued.)
God never wants the fitting man at the right time to do His work. As the moral Ruler of the world, whatever the rash sciolism of the day may advance to the contrary, He retains the direct personal superin. tendence of that which He has made. Hence, every crisis in human history has had its representative men, providentially gifted with the rare endowments required for the emergency. “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.” (Gal, iv. 4.) The uniqueness of that central occasion and that unparalleled gift was alike suggestive and typical of the Divine procedure throughout the annals of human progress.
Every age has its distinctive peculiarities ; and, as a rule, the men who are prominently charged with its guidance may be termed its children,-in this sense, that the heaven.given idiosyncracies which adapt them for their life-work, are thoroughly tinged with, and indeed grow out of, the individuality of the period in which they live. Hence the mutually-interacting influence between such men and their day is such as may well strike the most casual observer. Unhappily, indeed, this is the case with that which is evil, as well as with that which is good. An energetic age like our own is sure to have its characteristic forms of wicked activity, and to produce men who, in the service of what is bad, mould, and are moulded by, its genius. But reverent faith is not slow to recognize a Divine superintendence, which to every such successive development of evil says, “ Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further : and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.” (Job xxxviii. 11.) The Providence which has guided each preceding period can and does utilize the resources of the present; and the psalmist's inspired utterance never fails : “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee; the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain.” (Psalm lxxvi. 10.)
No one that cherishes convictions such as have thus been expressed can fail to have his faith in Providence strengthened by a study of Dr. Livingstone's life. Such was the impression manifestly produced on the mind of Mr. Stanley, the effervescent, enterprising journalist traveller, whose story of the way in which he discovered the great explorer has just been published, and whose narrative is certainly innocent, on the surface of it, of anything distinctively religious. He writes, on the day after their meeting on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, as follows:“ These are facts worthy of reflection. I was commissioned for the duty
*“How I found Livingstone : Travels, Adventures, and Discoveries in Central Africa; including four Months' Residence with Dr. Livingstone." By Henry M. Stanley, Travelling Correspondent of the “New York Herald.” London : Sampson Low, Marston, Low, and Searle. 1872.
"Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and its Tributaries ; and of the Discovery of the Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa. 1858–1864.” By David and Charles Livingstone. London: John Murray. 1865.
“The Weaver Boy who became a Missionary: being the Story of the Life and Labours of David Livingstone." By H. G, Adams. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1872.