Balcaskie is a 17th-century country house 2 km north of St Monans, and is notable chiefly as the home and early work of architect Sir William Bruce.
The original Balcaskie House was built shortly before 1629, as the home of the Moncrieffs of Balcaskie, and was a traditional L-plan fortified house of three storeys and attic.
In 1665 the estate was bought by William Bruce, who began enlarging the house for his own use, between 1668 and 1674. In 1668 he acquired a baronetcy in Nova Scotia and became Sir William Bruce.
Bruce planned the new house himself and employed John Hamilton as mason, and Andrew Waddell as wright (carpenter). The house was expanded from the L-plan to an almost symmetrical U-plan, with the original building at the west end. The north front was given matching crow-step gables, with a balustraded two-storey central section. In addition, Bruce added tall corner towers to each angle. These had French-inspired details such as rusticated quoins. Bruce may have built the curving wing-walls and pavilions to the north front, however, these have also been attributed to a later building phase.
The estate was sold in 1684 to Sir Thomas Steuart, when Bruce moved to his new home at Kinross House. In 1698 it changed hands again, becoming the property of Sir Robert Anstruther, whose son Philip undertook works in the mid-18th century, including heightening the central block. It was now that the wing walls and pavilions were added, according to John Gifford. Further alterations were made by William Burn in 1830-32, including a porch and new windows, and a stable block. In 1856-58 David Bryce, an Edinburgh architect, worked on Balcaskie, adding several baronial features.
The gardens, to the south of the house, were laid out by William Bruce and are aligned to face the Bass Rock, on the opposite side of the Forth estuary.
The terraces and vista are inspired by French Baroque gardens, such as Vaux-le-Vicomte. The gardens were altered in the 18th century, and restored in 1826-7 by William Burn and William Sawrey Gilpin. Sir Walter Scott visited the gardens in 1827 and described the house as 'much dilapidated' but praised the restoration of the gardens.
Parterres were laid out in the 1840s by W. A. Nesfield.References:
The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture.
According to a traditional account, a small Visigoth church, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins, originally stood on the site. In 784 Abd al-Rahman I ordered construction of the Great Mosque, which was considerably expanded by later Muslim rulers. The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd al-Rahman II ordered a new minaret, while in 961 Al-Hakam II enlarged the building and enriched the Mihrab. The last of such reforms was carried out by Almanzor in 987. It was connected to the Caliph"s palace by a raised walkway, mosques within the palaces being the tradition for previous Islamic rulers – as well as Christian Kings who built their palaces adjacent to churches. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard.
In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features, such as King Henry II rebuilding the chapel in the 14th century. The minaret of the mosque was also converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. It was adorned with Santiago de Compostela"s captured cathedral bells. Following a windstorm in 1589, the former minaret was further reinforced by encasing it within a new structure.
The most significant alteration was the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the middle of the expansive structure. The insertion was constructed by permission of Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. Artisans and architects continued to add to the existing structure until the late 18th century.
The building"s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam. It had a rectangular prayer hall with aisles arranged perpendicular to the qibla, the direction towards which Muslims pray. The prayer hall was large and flat, with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance.
In planning the mosque, the architects incorporated a number of Roman columns with choice capitals. Some of the columns were already in the Gothic structure; others were sent from various regions of Iberia as presents from the governors of provinces. Ivory, jasper, porphyry, gold, silver, copper, and brass were used in the decorations. Marvellous mosaics and azulejos were designed. Later, the immense temple embodied all the styles of Morisco architecture into one composition.
The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, granite and porphyry. These were made from pieces of the Roman temple that had occupied the site previously, as well as other Roman buildings, such as the Mérida amphitheatre. The double arches were an innovation, permitting higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible with relatively low columns. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch.