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Why is there no Islamic architecture with glass in windows before the 18th century? Glass windows frequently appear in gothic architecture since the 11th century but why does medieval Islamic architecture lack glasswork?

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    I don't know first hand, but I suspect the Arabian peninsula and North Africa are pretty warm places, without too many bugs. There isn't much need for windows there until you have air conditioning. I honestly don't now about Iran or Pakistan though. I don't know about India / Bangladesh / Indonesia window history at all, so can't comment on that. Perhaps central Asian Islamic architecture will have windows? Although in the 17th century most of the central Asian plain was nomadic. I wonder what the mosques were like back then in that area. Jan 27, 2019 at 16:47
  • It might be worth looking into Muslim architecture in North China as well. These structures are likely to have windows, as North China has bugs and cold weather. Although I have not idea if window usage was prevalent during the Ming of Qing dynasty. Jan 27, 2019 at 16:49
  • BTW, welcome to stack exchange: history. Jan 27, 2019 at 16:50
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    This is an example of 15th century Islamic architecture of Central Asia thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/… Even central asian islamic architecture lacks glass window. ln lran it appeared in 18th century. Jan 27, 2019 at 19:32
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    "Cairo abounds in buildings with stained glass windows of all periods from the ninth century to the twentieth." touregypt.net/featurestories/glass.htm (that link may have a malicious ad)
    – Spencer
    Jan 27, 2019 at 20:15

3 Answers 3

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The Blue Mosque may have had stained glass windows since 1617.

Nonetheless, consider the tradition of ventilated buildings in Islamic architecture. Buildings for hot, dry climates often have thick walls and small windows. This insulates while maintaining airflow, and may be the only option for earthen construction. In such places it's so bright outside that a small fraction of that light suffices inside. If for some reason you want to block the window, stick something into it. No glass is needed for this arrangement.

In Islamic architecture, latticework screens called jali represent an artistic approach to the principle of ventilated buildings. They provide shade, brilliant highlights, and interesting shadows, just like stained glass. This traditional element may help explain a relative dearth of stained glass windows in monumental buildings.

Jaali at Sarkhej Roza

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    I'd be quite surprised if there aren't more examples of pre-18th century glass usage in the Ottoman Empire or Transoxiana. Cities like Istanbul and Bukhara get snow during the winter. Jul 29, 2019 at 8:21
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Some of the earliest (8th and 9th- century) buildings in the Islamic world had colored glass windows and there is no subsequent period during which colored glass windows were not used in architecture (Christian as well as Islamic,, secular and religious) somewhere in those areas of the world in which Islam was a major influence. Because the formal study of Islamic architecture by historians in the "west" is a fairly new discipline and because window-fillings are, at best, a secondary feature of any architecture, the documentation of the recordable history of colored glass windows in Islamic architecture is a subject in its infancy.

With a Masters Degree in Art History, and a specialization in Islamic art history and a thesis on representations of colored glass windows in Persian miniature paintings, I have read innumerable scholarly articles, often archeological excavation reports, and traveled in Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Uzbekistan recording in situ examples of such windows. ,There are few articles about this interesting tradition written for the general public, so "evidence" consists of articles like F B Flood article on windows in the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in a "Muqarnas" publication.

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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Mar 5, 2022 at 20:14
  • With a Masters Degree in Art History, and a specialization in Islamic art histroy and a thesis on representations of colored glass windows in Persian miniature paintings, I have read innumerable scholarly articles, often archeological excavation reports, and traveled in Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Uzbekistan recording in situ examples of such windows. ,There are few articles about this interesting tradition written for the general public, so "evidence" consists of articles like F B Flood article on windows in the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in a "Muqarnas" publication.
    – mmpeters
    Mar 5, 2022 at 20:28
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    It would still be useful to add citations for one or two or three such articles here.
    – Jan
    Mar 6, 2022 at 1:40
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KAC Creswell in "Muslim Architecture in Egypt" 1 describes and has photo and drawing of a still in situ colored glass window attributed to 1140's in Mosque of Al-Azhar in Cairo.

Five bankers boxes of notes, at least 1000 photos taken by me and others are difficult to post!!


  1. K. A. C. Creswell, Early Muslim Architecture I (Oxford, 1932), 42 ff.Creswell42 ffIEarly Muslim Architecture1932 Google Scholar
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    K. A. C. Creswell, Early Muslim Architecture Vol. II is available on Internet Digital Archive. Perhaps provide a page reference and quote. Aug 3, 2023 at 15:12
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    ONE photo would be nice, however.
    – Spencer
    Aug 3, 2023 at 22:09
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    Hi Martha, welcome to the History Stack. Am I right in assuming you are also the author of the mmpeters post above? It seems you might have access to a lot of information which would go a long way in answering this question. I hope you find time edit your answer to include a little more of that information you mention.
    – justCal
    Aug 4, 2023 at 11:54

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