Kornik Castle

Kornik castle in Kornik, Poland restored in the 18th century by Count Dzialynski is an extraordinary example of architectural sophistication and beauty combined with practical usage. What is even more astonishing is that this castle, donated to the Polish Nation in 1924, was influenced by Muslim architecture and copied the ornate arcades and architecture of the Alhambra, the Muslim palace in Spain as well as elements from Sultan Hassan Musjid in Cairo and the Taj Mahal in India.

The oriental culture was not foreign to Polish noblemen who in the 17th and 18th centuries were known to claim to descend from Sarmatians, an ancient Iranian tribe. They adopted oriental (predominantly Persian and Turkish) traditions. Wide contacts between Central Europe and the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 17th century resulted in the spread of Turkish Muslim fashion in Poland, exemplified in the national costume of the noblemen: long robes and coats and curved swords.

At the same time many architectural elements of Muslim buildings were popularised in Western Europe in pattern-books. A model of Alhambra was exhibited at the world exhibition in London in 1851.

Among the jewels of the Kornik collection are two manuscripts of the Holy Qur’an from the 15th and 17th century. Muslim influence on the west can be felt in more ways than one including architecture. Many of the national buildings of Europe owe some debt to Muslim influence.

Malgorzata de Latour-Abdalla