Opposite the north entrance to the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria, Damascus, Syria
Hegira 762–822 / AD 1361–1421/2
Sayf al-Din Jaqmaq al-Arghunshawi (r. Damascus, AH 821–3 / AD 1418–20).
The Madrasa al-Jaqmaqiyya was built opposite the north entrance to the Umayyad Mosque, by order of the then Governor of Damascus, Sayf al-Din Jaqmaq al-Arghunshawi. It was constructed on the foundations of the former school for orphans, the Maktab al-Nasir Hasan, founded in AH 762 / AD 1361, and was completed and turned into a convent in AH 769 / AD 1367. The building re-used decorative elements of the previous monument that was destroyed by Timur's attack on Damascus in AH 803 / AD 1401. Jaqmaq enlarged the former building southward by constructing a turbe (mausoleum) and re-instating a maktab (orphanage). He also added windows to the north façade.
The madrasa has a rectangular plan measuring 20 m x 17.5 m. It has a two-aisled room with a covered square courtyard. Like the Taurizi Mosque in Damascus (built AH 823–6 / AD 1420–3), and the Mausoleum of al-Ashraf Barsbay in Cairo (completed AH 828 / AD 1425), it is an example of a mosque with a covered courtyard, in contrast to the formerly common riwaq-type mosque that followed the example of the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus. The covered courtyard became typical of Mamluk madrasas in Syria.
During the Mamluk period, the major cities of Aleppo and Damascus adopted features of imperial architecture developed in Cairo, although in each city these were adapted in different ways and developed into a characteristic style. The madrasas outer walls are decorated in black-and-white stone alternating in rows, a decorative technique known as ablaq, and a typical architectural feature of Damascene architecture. The high niche with elaborate masonry, seen also on the façade, is exceptional and represents a very early example belonging to the first construction phase of AH 762 / AD 1361. This feature was skilfully developed and attributed to many buildings in Aleppo and occurs frequently from the beginning of the AH 9th / AD 15th century seen also, for example, in the Utrush Mosque.
An elaborate muqarnas niche with polychrome stone ornamentation decorates the eastern facade of the mausoleum where the founder, Sayf al-Din Jaqmaq al-Arghunshawi (d. AH 824 / AD 1421) is buried.
The building was restored following bomb damage in the 1940s. Today the building accommodates the Museum of Arabic Calligraphy.
The madrasa was built by the Mamluk governor of Damascus, Sayf al-Din Jaqmaq al-Arghunshawi (r. AH 821–3 / AD 1418–20), serving as his mausoleum. Its layout is typical of Syrian madrasas in the Mamluk period: a central covered courtyard flanked by two aisles. The façade also features Mamluk decorative elements: pronounced ablaq stripes topped by a muqarnas portal and huge bands of calligraphic inscriptions, similar to Ayyubid madrasa facades but more elaborate. An elaborate high niche on its eastern facade, a feature common in Mamluk Aleppo, reveals reciprocal influences between the two cities.
According to the inscription above the entrance of the building, the madrasa was founded in the year 810 (1407–8), during the reign of Sultan Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, by the Governor, Sayf al-Din Jaqmaq al-Arghunshawi. There is also a re-foundation date inscription of 822 (1421–2).
Al-Almawi, A. B. (d. 981 / 1573), Tanbih al-Talib wa Irshad al-Daris [The Instruction of the Pupil and the Guidance of the Student], Damascus, 1947.
Al-Nu'aymi, A. Q. (d. 927 / 1520), Al-Daris fi Tarikh al-Madaris [The Scholar's Guide for this History of Schools], Damascus, 1947.
Meinecke, M., Die mamlukische Architektur in ägypten und Syrien, 1992, Vol. I, p.190, fig. 139; Vol. II, p.329, cat. nos. 29, 58.
Sack, D., Damaskus, Entwicklung und Struktur einer orientalisch-islamischen Stadt, Mainz 1989.
Sauvaget, J., Les monuments historiques de Damas, Beyrouth, 1932, p.75ff; cat. no. 60.
Verena Daiber "Madrasa al-Jaqmaqiyya" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;sy;Mon01;16;en
Prepared by: Verena DaiberVerena Daiber
Verena Daiber is an historian of Islamic art an archaeology. She studied Near Eastern Archaeology and Arabic Literature at the Free University of Berlin. After her employment as research associate at the German Archaeological Institute in Damascus she obtained her PhD at the University of Bamberg in 1991 on the public architecture of Damascus in the 18th century. Since 2017 she is the curator of the Bumiller Collection / Bamberg University Museum of Islamic Art that holds Islamic metalwork from the Persian world. After publishing on ceramics, architecture and imagery of the central Arabic lands, she works on the development and publishing of the Bumiller Collection.
Copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: SY 20
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Mamluks | Cairo, Damascus and Jerusalem: Centres of Mamluk Intellectual Life Western Influence in Ottoman Lands | Syria The Mamluks | The Sultan and his Court Arabic Calligraphy | Monumental Calligraphy
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