Mosque and Madrasa of Amir Sarghatmish
The monument is located on Saliba Street, in the Sayyida Zaynab district. It is adhered to the northwestern extension (ziyada) of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Cairo, Egypt
Hegira 757 / AD 1356
The Mamluk Amir Sayf al-Din Sarghatmish al-Nasiri (d. AH 759 / AD 1358) sponsored the building; he was in the service of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun.
This building contains a mosque, madrasa and a mausoleum. The madrasa was designated to teach the Hanafi School of fiqh – one of the four Sunni schools – and became a refuge for Hanafi Ulama, especially the Persians among them. Historians mention, in fact, that the patron, Amir Sarghatmish, was very close to Persian scholars and revered them to the point of excess.
The principle (northwestern) façade of the building overlooks the street. A dome tops the mausoleum on the southern end of the façade. This dome was built in the manner of Samarkand (Persian) domes, as it is of an elongated bulbous shape, with a high drum, built from brick. It is composed of an outer shell and an inner one. The southern façade is composed of a portal within a recess, which is crowned by an arch, and topped by a semi-circular domed ceiling, below which are muqarnas. This entrance is reminiscent of the portal into Madrasa al-Tashtamuriyya (built AH 782 / AD 1381) in the city of Jerusalem. On the left of the entrance is a slender minaret built of stone whose height measures 40 m, and which consists of three stories crowned by a carved dome. The second, octagonal, storey is decorated with an inlaid casing of red and white stone that is arranged in a geometric pattern made up of zigzag lines that assume the form of a linked chain of V-shaped letters. Minarets of this period are distinguishable by this particular decorative style, a further example of which may be seen in the minarets of the Mosque and the Khanqah of Amir Shaykhu which are located close to this building.
The design of the building follows the plan of cruciform, or cross-shaped, madrasas. The floor-plan consists of four iwans, arranged around an open courtyard, in the middle of which is a fountain. The qibla iwan (southeastern) is composed of singular architectural ornamental components. There is a dome with a high drum that covers the central section of the iwan and which, although it is lower, resembles the dome of the mausoleum. The dome in the qibla iwan is older than that in the mausoleum and is said to be the oldest dome on top of a madrasa mihrab extant in Egypt. It collapsed and was restored in 1940 to its original form. On the walls on the two sides of the mihrab, there are still remnants of revetment composed of marble panels containing the blazon and titles of the Amir Sarghatmish. There is another panel that contains leafy decoration and clusters of grapes and vine leaves. Nine panels of wall revetment from the qibla iwan were transferred to the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo.
There are clear Persian influences in the building, exemplified in the shapes of the domes, the decoration on the wall revetment of the qibla iwan, and of course the known interest of the building's sponsor in Persian arts and culture, along with his high regard for Persian people. These observations allow the assumption that the architect of this building was a Persian.
This monument is situated beside Ibn Tulun Mosque. The site once stood within the Tulunid city of Qata'i. The building comprises a mosque, a mausoleum and a madrasa to teach the Hanafi school of jurisprudence. Persian influences are evident in the mausoleum dome, which is bulb-shaped with a long neck, and in the ornamental components of the qibla iwan.
The building was dated based on an inscription band located at either side of the portal, which includes the name of the sponsor and the date of construction.
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Al-Maqrizi, Al-mawā'iz wa'l-i'tibār bi-dhikr al-khiţaţ wa'l-āthār [Exhortations and Contemplation of the Recollection of Plans and Monuments], 2 Vols, Cairo, 1853.
Salem, al-Sayyed Mahmoud Abd al-Aziz, al-Ma'din al-Masriya – Nazra 'Amma 'an aslaha wa tatawuriha mundu al-fath al-'arabi hatta al-fath al-Othmani [The Egyptian Minaret – A General View of its Origin and Development from the Arab Conquest until the Ottoman Conquest], Cairo, 1959.
Tarek Torky "Mosque and Madrasa of Amir Sarghatmish" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;eg;Mon01;28;en
Prepared by: Tarek TorkyTarek Torky
Tarek Abdel Aziz Torky holds a BA in Islamic and Coptic Antiquities from Cairo University (1982). He is currently Head of the Statistics Department at the Information Centre of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and reporter of the committee set up to prepare for the celebrations of the centennial of the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. As Expo Curator for the Discover Islamic Art project in Egypt he prepared the database information for the Egyptian monuments included in the project and participated in formulating the dynastic and cross-dynastic exhibitions. He has participated in the first phase of the Islamic Art in the Mediterranean project as product manager and prepared the texts and photos for the catalogue Mamluk Art: the Splendour and Magic of the Sultans (MWNF, 2001). In 2002 he obtained a scholarship for Med. Master on new technologies for valorisation and management of Mediterranean Cultural Heritage in Ravello, Salerno.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: ET 28