An arch is an architectural structure which helps support a structure and the weight above that structure. Arches appeared as early as the 2nd millennium BC in Mesopotamian brick architecture. The systematic use of Arches started with ancient Romans. They were the first to have applied the techniques of arch to a wide range of structures. Pointed arch is one of the most important types of Arches.
It is an arch with a pointed apex. Another name for pointed arch is “ogival arch”. ‘Ogive’ means a pointed curve. Today, the pointed arch remains a common feature in the European churches.It is a very important feature of European Gothic architecture and Islamic Architecture.
The question is where did the pointed arch originate from? Early historians of architecture such as Havell (1913) and Rivoira (1914) thought that the pointed arch occurred in India carved out of a solid block of some seventh century temples. However, this information has been dismissed by a famous historian, Hill (1993). Hill believed the Muslim origin of the invention of the pointed arch, which is today, believed to be the truth. Before the discovery of Pointed arches, round arches and barrel vaults were used to make ceilings.These arches had a great weight. Another problem faced with the use of round arches in the churches was, the issues with the shape and weight distribution.
For making round arches over a church bay, the bay had to be square in shape because if two sides of a bay measured one width and tow of the other sides measure another width, the tops of the arches across these widths would not be at the same height. Rounded arches could not support the increased height, width and weight of new building designs. Similarly, problems were raised with the use of vaults. Pointed Arches solved these problems.
Pointed arches were used to help support the weight of vaulted ceilings. The concept of the pointed arch operates in a similar manner as two leaning objects. Two sides of a pointed arch lean against each other for support and the increased force and loads placed on the arches from the ceiling is displaced onto the flying buttresses, which are supported by the ground. The increased roof support provided by the pointed arches allowed building walls to be thinner. Decorative details seen on arches were a natural consequence of Gothic design.
They also made it easier to make more windows and taller heights.The first appearance of the pointed arch in the Muslim World was traced to the Al-Aqsa Mosque (780), however the first building where the pointed arch was used constructively and systematically is the Palace of Ukhaidir in Iraq. Ibn Tulun Mosque was a source for the transfer of the pointed arch to Europe. It was built by Ahmad ibn Tulun the semi-independent ruler of Egypt in 870. Due to its good state of preservation the Ibn Tulun Mosque provides an excellent example of ninth-century decoration and structural techniques.
The central courtyard facade consists of slightly pointed arches resting on rectangular piers with engaged colonettes.This was an unusual arrangement for Cairo where marble columns were usually considered for use. There are rectangular arches with engaged colonettes between the arches. A band of sunken rosettes divided into eight lobes on either side of each niche forms a cornice running around four faces of the courtyard. Carved stucco work decorates the interior of the mosque.
Soffits of the arches of the sanctuary are the best examples where geometric interlace patterns are filled with stylized leaf ornament like Samarra stucco style. The edges of arches are also decorated with stucco.