Photo essay

Europe – home to the world’s most eclectic mosques

We spotlight a few of the continent’s most refined contemporary prayer spaces

The Rijeka Islamic Centre, in a suburb of Rijeka, Croatia.
Designed by Branko Vučinović and Darko Vlahović around an original concept by the Yugoslavian sculptor Dušan Džamonja, the Islamic Centre of Rijeka in Croatia is a cultural hub for the city’s 10,000 Muslim residents. The building opened in 2013 and its turtle-like domes and open prayer spaces can host 1,400 worshippers at a time. Photo by Dragoncello/Alamy

Domes, minarets and geometric patterns. These three staples have given life to some of the most refined and ornate mosques in the world. They are also seen in a growing number of innovative Islamic prayer spaces across Europe.

These contemporary places of worship range from functional and unassuming, state-funded institutions to airy wooden structures, all of which invite anticipation and optimism about the future of Islamic design. With World Architecture Day now upon us, there’s no better opportunity to check out some of our favourites.

Cologne Central Mosque, Cologne, Germany

Muslims perform the first Friday prayer in the holy month of Ramadan at Cologne Central Mosque. Photo by Mesut Zeyrek/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Muslims perform the first Friday prayer in the holy month of Ramadan at Cologne Central Mosque. Photo by Mesut Zeyrek/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Cologne central mosque was completed in 2015. Designed by German father and son architects Gottfried and Paul Böhm, who previously specialised in church architecture, the building features ample floor space and high ceilings to amplify recitations.

Ar-Rahma Mosque, Kyiv, Ukraine

Muslims are seen around Ar-Rahma Mosque as they make preparations on the eve of Eid al-Adha amid the war between Russia and Ukraine. Photo by Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

One of seven Muslim places of worship in Kyiv, the Ar-Rahma Mosque has faced many obstacles in its life. The Ukrainian capital’s Tatar Muslim community originally raised funds for the mosque in 1994. However, owing to reluctant planning committees, the community secured approval years later, completing construction in 2011.

Westermoskee, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Known to local congregants as ‘Westermoskee Aya Sofya’, the Amsterdam Westermoskee was inspired by the Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia. It opened on the 1 April 2016. Photo by George Pachantouris/Getty Images

The Amsterdam Westermoskee opened in 2016. While French architects Marc and Nada Breitman have spoken of their Ottoman inspirations, the structure also has an elegantly cloistered academic quality.

Votanikos Mosque, Athens, Greece

A general view of the Votanikos Mosque in Athens, the first official place of worship for Athens’ Muslims. Photo by Angelos Tzortzinis/dpa/Alamy Live News

Cozy, carpeted and welcoming, the Votanikos Mosque in Athens opened in 2020 and is the first official Muslim place of worship in the city since the Greek war of independence in 1821. While it feels like a community project, the mosque was financed by the state and built by a consortium of Greece’s four largest construction firms.

Grand Mosque of Rome, Italy

The Grand Mosque of Rome is the seat of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Italy. Photo by: Left: Mirzavis/Alamy, Right: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

The Grand Mosque of Rome is the largest Muslim place of worship in the western world. It was opened in 1994 by Pope John Paul II and designed by Italian architects Paolo Portoghesi and Vittorio Gigliotti, in collaboration with the Iraqi architect Sami Mousawi. Its courtyards and meticulously maintained gardens reflect a long-standing Muslim presence in Italy.

Cambridge Central Mosque, United Kingdom

The partially solar-powered Cambridge Central Mosque has a zero-carbon footprint. Photo by Kate Green/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The environmentally friendly Cambridge Central Mosque makes use of natural materials, such as wood and marble. It also boasts impressive solar energy capability and a zero-carbon footprint. Completed in 2019, the mosque won the Royal Institute of British Architect’s client of the year award.

The Great Mosque of Strasbourg, Alsace, France

The Great Mosque of Strasbourg and the Ill river. Photo by Leonid Andronov/Alamy

Perched on the riverbank, the Great Mosque of Strasbourg was converted from a defunct foie gras factory. It now hosts a mainly Moroccan congregation of 1,200 worshippers. Upon completion in 2011, the mosque’s president thanked Paolo Portoghesi — the architect also involved in designing the Grand Mosque of Rome — and described the building as a “flower opening next to the water”.

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