Aljaferia Palace is one of the most beautiful Islamic palaces which can be visited in Spain. It was built in the second half of the 11th century in the Moorish taifa os Saraqusta (present day Zaragoza) by the King al-Muqtâdir Bânû Hûd.
I’m sure that you are wondering why I am talking about this building now. The building is wonderful but this is not the reason. Do you know who King al-Mu’tamân is? No? King al-Mu’tamân (1081-1085) grew in this palace and was educated under teachers and philosphers. Before 1081, he began to write an encyclopaedic work about Mathematics (Kitâb al-Istikmâl or Book of the Perfection) with his collaborators’ contributions. Al-Mu’tamân wanted to write the most important mathematical treatise until that time. Only four hundred propositions about Classic Geometry have survived: some results from Euclid’s Elements and Data, Apollonius’ Conics, Archimedes’ On the sphere and the cylinder, Theodosius’ Spherics, Menalaus’ Spherics and Ptolemy’s Almagest. There also are Arabic contributions as Thâbit b. Qurra’s treatise on amicable numbers, some of the Bânû Mûsâ’s works, Ibrâhim b. Sinân’s The Quadrature of the Parabola and Ibn al-Haytham’s Optics, On the Analysis and the Synthesis and On the given things. One of the most interesting results is the demonstrarion of Ceva’s Theorem (attributed to the Italian mathematician Giovanni Ceva (d. 1734) ). Unfortunately, al-Mu’tamân became King of Saraqusta in 1081 and the Book of Perfection was never finished so the sections about Astronomy and Optics weren’t writen. The Book of Perfection was commented by Maimonides (1135-1204) some years later.
In 1118 King Alfonso I of Aragon conquered Zaragoza and after a lot of years, the palace became the royal residence. Nowadays, we can visit most of its rooms included Catholic Monarchs‘s throne room. Can you imagine young al-Mu’tamân playing with his friends in this idilic place?
Or praying in the octogonal Oratory?
Visiting the Palace, we can see a very good quotation about the importance of the Geometry in the Islamic art:
The preference of the Islamic culture for abstract art developed a type of decoration based on geometric order, its main argument being repeated themes and the objective of suggesting infinity. Of great importance in this concept was the development of mathematics in the Muslim civilization, which were then skillfull applied to construction and decoration. Starting off with a few examples of symmetry, Hispano-Muslim and then Mudejar art was capable of developing complex decorative themes that were always based on repetition.
Location: Aljaferia palace in Zaragoza (map)
Have you seen this hexagonal tessellation in St. James Barton Roundabout next to The Haymarket of Bristol? This picture was taken from my high room in a hotel located next to it.
Location: The Haymarket in Bristol (map)
My holidays have begun and I’m going to spend some days in London and in South England. I’ve been in Canterbury in my first day in England and therefore my mathematical tourism has also begun in this beautiful city. Canterbury is very famous because Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343-1400) included its name in his famous Canterbury Tales and also because of its great cathedral. The building is wonderful and you can see some royal tombs (Henry IV and his wife Joan of Navarre) inside. For our mathematical aim, we can see the beautiful mosaics in the centre of the cathedral:
They are very beautiful, aren’t they? Do you remember the Sierpinski triangle?
Another interesting mathematical attraction which can be enjoyed in the Duomo of Pisa is the tiles of the floor. so if you go there you must look at the ceiling looking for the lamp and look at the floor looking for the tiles. Maybe you can find some other interesting attractions looking at the centre!