A multifoil arch (or polyfoil arch), sometimes also called a polylobed arch, is an architectural element of an arch containing multiple foils; symmetrical leaf shapes, defined by overlapping circles. The term foil comes from the old French word for "leaf." A specific number of foils is indicated by a prefix: trefoil (three), quatrefoil (four), cinquefoil (five), sexfoil (six), octofoil (eight), or multifoil and polyfoil for typically more than eight.
The multifoil arch is especially characteristic of Islamic art and architecture, and particularly in the Moorish architecture of al-Andalus and the architecture of Morocco and North Africa. The earliest examples are found in some of the arches of the Great Mosque of Cordoba in al-Andalus (present-day Spain), particularly the maqsura area dating from the 10th century Caliphal period. The typical multifoil arches that appear in later buildings have their earliest precedents in Fatimid architecture in Ifriqiya and Egypt. It also appears in the Aljaferia palace of the Taifas period of al-Andalus (10th-11th centuries). In the Almoravid and Almohad periods, this type of arch was further refined for decorative functions while horseshoe arches continued to be standard elsewhere.:232–234 They appear, for example, in the Great Mosque of Tlemcen (in Algeria) and the Mosque of Tinmal.:232 The motif of interlacing and multifoil arches also led rise to the sebka motif which is frequently employed in the art and architecture of the region.:257–258
Interlacing multifoil arches at the Alcazaba of Malaga in Spain (11th century)
Polylobed arches in the Agra Fort, India
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