Recreating the sound of the Islamic past of the Mosque of Cordoba

November 6, 2018, University of Seville
Mosque of Cordoba Credit: University of Seville

How did sound propagate inside the Mosque of Cordoba in the time of Abd al-Rahman I? Today, thanks to virtual simulation tools, it is possible to know the sound fields of spaces that no longer exist. This field of work is known as acoustic archaeology by some researchers. Working in this field, researchers from the Higher Technical School of Architecture at the University of Seville have carried out a study in which they have determined the variation of the acoustic parameters such as reverberation, clarity or definition in the Mosque of Seville.

Faced with the visual homogeneity of the interior of the Islamic , the results obtained in the acoustic study confirm that sound perception varies by area. This is due to the successive expansions that the temple has experienced during its history.

"The mosque founded by Abd al-Rahman I responded acoustically to Muslim liturgical requirements, providing a living space that favoured their majesty. Later expansions gave a formal appearance of superposition on the pre-existing space. However, notable sound differences were produced in the interior space. This, united with the increase in depth caused by the expansion of Abd al-Rahman II, meant a reduction in the acoustic quality of the areas furthest away from the qibla wall," explains the University of Seville professor Juan José Sendra.

With the expansion of Al-Hakam II, two acoustically juxtaposed mosques were obtained. The last lateral expansion, by Al-Mansur, in which even the mihrab was decentred with respect to the new layout, was separated from the rest of the building, with a clear degradation in the quality of verbal communication.

Mosque of Cordoba. Credit: University of Seville
The Christian era

The Christian transformations of the Mosque, which made it suitable for use as a cathedral, substantially modified the Muslim space. Therefore, the experts find that the modern-day space of the Mosque-Cathedral is a "complex architectural unit," with a multiplicity of sound spaces, the fruit of all the spatial transformations that have taken place, each different according to the spatial archetype, whether Muslim or Christian.

Mosque of Cordoba. Credit: University of Seville
Sound spaces

The research group spent more than a decade working in this field of study. In recent years, two Plan Estatal I+D+I (State R+D and innovation) Projects on Spanish cathedrals, mainly Andalusian, stand out. Various articles have been published from different perspectives, which analyse the sound in the cathedrals of Seville, Granada, Malaga, Cordoba and Jaen. Specifically, in the case of Seville Cathedral, articles have been published that analysed both the acoustic-spatial variety of the cathedral space, as well as the influence certain special spatial configurations have on acoustics for concerts, or how temporary architectural features present for certain religious celebrations.

Currently, they are also working on publishing a book to decodify the complex and fragmented of the Mosque-Cathedral today via analysis of its process of evolution from the first mosque of Abd al-Rahman I until the present day, with the aim of recovering a lost memory.

Explore further: French app hopes to link Muslim faithful with prayer sites

More information: Rafael Suárez et al, Virtual acoustic environment reconstruction of the hypostyle mosque of Cordoba, Applied Acoustics (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.apacoust.2018.06.006

Related Stories

3D sound for the Zurich Opera House

April 29, 2016

With the audio software SpatialSound Wave from Fraunhofer, sounds can be positioned freely in the room, so that visual and acoustic events coincide realistically. In the Zurich Opera House the three-dimensional sound has ...

Asymmetric sound absorption lets in the light

October 6, 2017

If you've ever lived in an apartment building or stayed in a hotel room, you are probably familiar with the inconvenience of inadequate sound absorption. Acoustic absorption refers to the absorption of sound energy by a material. ...

Recommended for you

Rare fossil bird deepens mystery of avian extinctions

November 13, 2018

During the late Cretaceous period, more than 65 million years ago, birds belonging to hundreds of different species flitted around the dinosaurs and through the forests as abundantly as they flit about our woods and fields ...

Violent crime rates rise in warmer winters

November 13, 2018

As global temperatures climb, warmer winters in parts of the country may set the scene for higher rates of violent crimes such as assault and robbery, according to a new CIRES study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.