The Great Mosque of Damascus and the medieval Islamic mosaic industry

This lecture is part of the Michaelmas Term Research Seminar Series.

The lecture will be held in the Lecture Room at The Khalili Research Centre, 3 St John Street, Oxford, OX1 2LG.


The Great Mosque of Damascus is famous for its mosaics from the early 8th century, commissioned by caliph al-Walid I, and for their ‘discovery’ by art historians in the 1920s.  The story of the mosaics for the intervening 1200 years has not been studied in the same detail.  With the exception of a few obvious areas of restoration, the programme is often discussed as if it was the 8th-century original.  It might be assumed from this that, apart from temporary interest in the medium at the times of the restorations, there was no medieval Islamic mosaic to speak of.  I will argue, on the contrary, that the varied additions and alterations to the mosaics in the Great Mosque are evidence of relative continuity in mosaic-making (at least in Damascus) which may even have lasted into the early modern period.