August 13, 2020
They are beacons of western civilisation. But, says an explosive new book, the designs of Europe’s greatest buildings were plundered from the Islamic world – twin towers, rose windows, vaulted ceilings and all
As Notre-Dame cathedral was engulfed by flames last year, thousands bewailed the loss of this great beacon of western civilisation. The ultimate symbol of French cultural identity, the very heart of the nation, was going up in smoke. But Middle East expert Diana Darke was having different thoughts. She knew that the origins of this majestic gothic pile lay not in the pure annals of European Christian history, as many have always assumed, but in the mountainous deserts of Syria, in a village just west of Aleppo to be precise.
“Notre-Dame’s architectural design, like all gothic cathedrals in Europe, comes directly from Syria’s Qalb Lozeh fifth-century church,” Darke tweeted on the morning of 16 April, as the dust was still settling in Paris. “Crusaders brought the ‘twin tower flanking the rose window’ concept back to Europe in the 12th century.”