Sidi Qasim al-Zelliji Zawiya
In the Medina, Boulevard du 9 avril, Tunis, Tunisia
Hegira second half of the 9th century / AD 15th century
Sidi Qasim al-Zelliji.
The mausoleum has undergone several extensions, including the works undertaken by Shaykh Abu al-Rayth al-Kachach, at the beginning of the 11th / 17th century, who added the rooms around the patio to accommodate travellers and merchants from the interior of the country. At the beginning of the 12th/ 18th century the founder of the Husaynid Dynasty, Husayn ibn Ali al-Turki, ordered the erection of the oratory on the southeast side of the mausoleum.
Today the mausoleum has been converted into a museum housing collections of funerary stones and ceramics of the Islamic period. Part of the monument is used as a school of ceramic art.
The zawiya comprises a courtyard with porticoes on three sides. These served as bedrooms, originally reserved for visitors, either pilgrims or townspeople. On the west side stands the funeral chamber with a pyramidal roof. Flanking the entrance, at the northeast corner, is an oratory built at the beginning of the AH 12th century (AD 18th century). The complex is prolonged on the west side by a garden which formerly adjoined the ramparts, now destroyed.
The walls are made of rubble tied with lime mortar, but the decoration uses a wider range of materials, such as cut stone, marble, plaster and ceramics.
Access to the monument is through a double door surmounted with a lintel of finely hewn arch-stones. The bases of the piers have been decorated with serpentiform motifs. One hallway leads to the oratory and another opens onto the courtyard.
The oratory is a pillared hall with an unusual layout. The three naves are parallel to the qibla wall, as in certain Moroccan sanctuaries. The Hafsid-style columns and capitals are made from kadhal a stone commonly used for paving and for framing doors and windows.
The square courtyard is paved with marble slabs enlivened with inlaid marble braiding in geometric patterns.
Each of the four porticoes comprises five pointed Moorish arches built of dressed ochre shelly sandstone. They rest on white marble columns with Hafsid capitals.
The funeral chamber is covered, above a square base, with a pyramidal roof with varnished green tiles. The three external faces are identical. They all have blind arcatures in ochre stone on a whitewashed background. Under the base of the dome runs a wide strip of alternate rectangular niches and ceramic panels.
Inside, the funeral chamber is divided into two rooms by a large black and white marble arch resting on columns surmounted by capitals with rosettes and zigzag patterns, in the pure Hispano-Maghrebin tradition.
Flat-backed niches are set into the walls of the first room. The lower part is covered with ceramic tiles and the upper part with carved plaster arabesques. The star-pattern tiles were made using the cuerda seca technique. The second room houses the wooden catafalque over the tomb of Sidi Qasim, next to a fine commemorative inscription.
Sidi Qasim, a zellij (ceramic tile) maker from al-Andalus and of uncommon ability, lived in Tunis during the second half of the AH 9th / AD 15th century and was known for his generosity and great piety. This monument includes some beautiful painted ceilings, a collection of glazed tiles and some cuerda seca ceramic tiles. A cenotaph, remarkable for its beauty and the feeling of peace it inspires, is the final resting place of the saint. Restored with the help of funding from the Spanish government, this mausoleum is now used as a museum.
The inscription by the side of the saint's tomb, also historic sources. The exact date is unknown, but the inscription announces that Sidi Qasim died in 901 (1496), proving that the monument was built before that date.
Daoulatli, A., Tunis sous les Hafsides, Tunis, 1977, pp.206–12.
Marçais, G., Architecture musulmane d'Occident, Paris, 1954, pp.470.
Marçais, G., Manuel d'art musulman, Paris, 1926–7, pp.860–2.
Ifriqiya: Thirteen centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia, pp.72–73, 74.
Mohamed Béji Ben Mami "Sidi Qasim al-Zelliji Zawiya" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;tn;Mon01;11;en
Prepared by: Mohamed Béji Ben MamiMohamed Béji Ben Mami
Né le 27 janvier 1950 à Tunis, docteur en archéologie islamique, Mohamed Béji Ben Mami est directeur général de l'Institut national du patrimoine et vice-président de la Municipalité de Tunis. Il a restauré, sauvegardé et mis en valeur plus d'une cinquantaine de monuments de la médina de Tunis, dirigé les fouilles de grands sites islamiques et organisé diverses expositions relatives à la civilisation arabo-islamique.
Depuis 1996, il est vice-président de l'Union des historiens arabes et représentant de l'Union des archéologues arabes de Tunisie.
Mohamed Béji Ben Mami a pris part à divers congrès internationaux et publié plusieurs articles et ouvrages, parmi lesquels Tourbet el-Bey (Tunis, 2004) et Les médersas de la médina de Tunis (Tunis, 2005).
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: David Ash
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: TN 11