Ablaq (Arabic: أبلق;) is an architectural style involving alternating or fluctuating rows of light and dark stone. Records trace the beginnings of this type of masonry technique to the south parts of Syria. It is associated as an Arabic term, especially as related to Arabic Islamic architectural decoration. The first recorded use of the term ablaq pertained to repairs of the Great Mosque of Damascus in 1109, but the technique itself was used much earlier.
The stone is a type of Islamic engineering art that was characterized by architecture in the Levant, Egypt and some areas of the Arabian Peninsula, where it depends on the formation of blocks square or rectangular plaster, which is dominated by inscriptions and decorations of beautiful colors of different – where the white stone enters with black or Pink .. It was riding over the doors of the halls or inside. One of the most important examples used by this stone is the Al-Azm palace in Damascus, Syria.
This technique is a feature of Islamic architecture. The ablaq decorative technique is a derivative from the ancient Byzantine Empire, whose architecture used alternate sequential runs of light colored ashlar stone and darker colored orange brick.
The first known use of the term ablaq in building techniques is in masonry work in reconstruction improvements to the walls of the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus. According to records, these reconstruction masonry improvements to the north wall began in the early twelfth century. The local stone supply may have encouraged the use of alternating courses of light and dark stone. In the south part of Syria there is abundance of black basalt as well as white-colored limestone. The supplies of each are about equal, so it was natural that masonry techniques of balanced proportions were used.
It is noteworthy that the origin of the word is Yemeni, which is Balak – “in the language of the people of Yemen a kind of stone, which is also a limestone stone in the lexicon of the sepia, which was mentioned in the engraving decree.
The technique itself, however, was used much earlier, Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba being a notable example, Medina Azahara, and possibly Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as the Dome of the Rock.
Ablaq is a building style that combines white and red brick, giving it both stability and flexibility. In Israel, Havelek characterizes the Mamluk construction style, although they used red and white stones without bricks for beauty purposes only.
The Mamluks utilized mottled light effects and chiaroscuro in their buildings, and among the architectural elements that complemented it was ablaq. Finely dressed ashlar stones was often combined with brickwork for vaults. These Mamluk and Syrian elements were applied and shared by the Ayyubids and Crusaders in Palestine, Syria, and Egypt.
The Arabic name “Ablaq” means “particolored”, since it is a building technique that usually combines two or three stone colors. This is usually expressed in a wall in which the courses are alternately built: one course of stone in one color, and one layer of bricks of a different color. Sometimes, black stones (such as basalt or granite) or white (various types of limestone) are mixed, and red bricks are used. Sometimes the combination will not be reflected in the entire structure, but only in the door jambles and window shades.
Abelk’s origin is in the Asia Minor region and along the Taurus and Zagros Mountains. Due to strong tectonic movements, this area is still known to be very sensitive to earthquakes, and as a result, its residents have sought ways to deal with their damage over the generations. On the one hand it required great stability, and on the other hand it needed a certain elasticity that would allow the house to move a little, without collapsing in every earthquake. Thus the idea of the Abelk was born – the use of stones that will provide strength and stability, along with artificial bricks, which are considered a more flexible material and a natural shock absorber. The method was to embed the two types of materials in large structures, usually according to layers. Sometimes the Abelk stones were incorporated only in window frames and doors, which are considered weak points in the building.
In 1266 – 1269 Sultan al-Zahir Baybars al-Bunduqdari built a mosque known as Mosque of al-Zahir Baybars or the Qasr Ablaq Palace which was constructed with alterations of light and dark masonry. Based on this mosque, ablaq as a masonry technique of alternate rows of light and dark, was fully in use in the thirteenth century.
A distant echo to the idea inherent in Abelk can be found in the description of the construction of the Second Temple in the Book of Ezra: “Let the dust of the stone be raised, and it shall be the crown of the earth” (Ezra 6: 4). Three stone courses – three, and one wooden course. In other words, the Temple was built from combinations of three stone courses and one wooden course, and so on.
The Mamluk architecture of Syria, Egypt and Palestine adopted the ablaq technique in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In these countries at about this time black and white stone were often used as well as red brick in recurring rows, giving a three colored striped building.
The ablaq masonry technique is used in the Azm Palace in Damascus and other buildings of the Ottoman period. In fact, Dr.Andrew Petersen, Director of Research in Islamic Archaeology at the University of Wales Lampeter states that ablaq (alternating courses of white limestone and black basalt is “A characteristic of the monumental masonry of Damascus.”)
At the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, ablaq lintels in alternating red and white courses are combined to highlight the voussoirs of the Great Arch. Jerusalem mamluk architecture (period 1250 AD to 1516 AD) include multi-colored mansonry in white, yellow, red and black. The origins of the marble ablaq treatments at the Dome are controversial, some theorizing them original, and some saying they were later additions (and differing then as to the dates and identity of the builders).
The Mamluks, who ruled the Land of Israel between 1260 and 1517, brought the Abelk technique with them from Asia. Since the earthquakes typical of Turkey are not so common in the Land of Israel, and the bricks were not available at the time, Havelek underwent an interesting turnabout upon his arrival in Israel. In fact, most of the Abelk buildings in Israel are “fake Abelk”: this is not a combination of stone and brick, Of stones of different colors. Of course, the element of elasticity has disappeared from such a depression, and all that remains is style and color. Abelk of this kind also spread to Europe mainly as a window decoration, so that in Hungary the term ablak is still used to describe a window.
In Jordan, the Mamluk fortified khan at Aqaba (ca 1145) is a medieval fortress modeled after those used by the Crusaders. It contains an arch above the protected entrance. The horsesoe arch has ablaq masonry, harkening to Mamluk architecture in Egypt.
The Mamluks brought the use of Abelk to the level of art, and most of the buildings built in Israel, and especially in Jerusalem, are made of beautiful red and white ablaze. The source of the white stone stones in the Mamluk Abbasid in Jerusalem is the local limestone, whereas the red stone stones were brought from quarries in Hebron.
Pisan ecclesiastical monuments—particularly the Cathedral of Pisa and Church of San Sepolcro (commenced building 1113)—used ablaq, not simple “black and white in revetment” between the conquest of Jerusalem in the First Crusade (1099) and the completion of the latter ca. 1130. Various architectural motifs—ablaq, the zigzag arch, and voussoir (rippled and plain) were used. These embellishments were a direct appropriation of Moslem architecture, resulting from pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and war against the Saracen in the First Crusade. Those visitors to Jerusalem could see ablaq at the Dome of the Rock, and at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as well as other examples that may no longer be extant. Thus zigzags (see Norman architecture) and ablaq became part of the repertoire of Romanesque architecture.
South Carolina architect John Henry Devereux created a striking black and white ablaq edifice in the St. Matthew’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church. However, that original conception has since been plastered over in monochrome red.
Ablaq Building in Jerusalem:
The most magnificent buildings left behind by the Mamluks in Israel are concentrated around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and on the streets leading to it. There are many similar characteristics to the building of this splendor, but most prominent is the use of red and white stones. Examples of Mamluk Jerusalem architecture:
Library of Khaldiya (Birkat Khan)
Tomb of Hazon Turkan
The palace of Lady Tonshuk and the tomb of Seth Tonshuk
The Ratzia Hospital
On the Temple Mount itself there is a wealth of Mamluk ablaze buildings, such as the Madrasat Ashrafiyya, the Ottoman dynasty, the cotton sellers’ gate, and more. The Mamluks also renovated the stoops surrounding the large Temple Mount plaza, and along the Western Wall a beautiful vaulted system, entirely made up of Abelk, was preserved.