Ostarrichislam - Allah's Chapel

It is widely known how strongly Moorish Spain, Al-Andalus, and the Arab world influenced Christian Europe in the Middle Ages in the wake of the Crusades. An example that shows just how interwoven the Arab and the European cultures are, particularly in religious architecture and art, can be found in Austria, in St. John’s Chapel in the Styrian town of Pürgg.

Due to the so-called “Prohibition of Images “in Islam (i.e. the prohibition of religious images featuring humans or animals) the Islamic culture brought forth a very refined culture of writing and perfected the art of ornamentation in the field of architecture.  Naturally, this also influenced European art and architecture. Anyone visiting St. John’s Chapel in the Styrian town of Pürgg can witness the impressive evidence of this cultural exchange when looking at the chancel arch above “Christ on the cross”. The fresco on this chancel arch features the word Allah in Kūfic script entwined with arabesques repeated ten times and was created when the whole church (built in 1100) was painted with frescos in the Romanesque style in the years 1160 to 1165.

Apparently, Kūfic script also influenced a relievo on the southern wall of the chapel. Very similar relievos, but created at a later time, can be seen on the Verdun Altar in the Klosterneuburg monastery church or at castle Petersberg in Friesach, Carinthia.