Name of Monument:

Ribat and Mosque of the Sayyida


Monastir, Tunisia

Date of Monument:

Hegira mid-3rd century / AD 9th century

Period / Dynasty:

Aghlabid and Zirid


Probably an Aghlabid princess of unrecorded name. Or it could be that the ribat carries the name of a Zirid princess who was buried there at the time of the renovation of the oratory or later.


The ribat was built in the mid-3rd / 9th century but its oratory was very probably renovated between the end of the 4th and the first half of the 5th century (AD 10th–11th). The ribat was abandoned for an indeterminate period, whereas the oratory continued to be used for prayer until quite recently.


The only surviving parts of the ribat are the mosque in the south part and the western wing of the small fort, both discovered during site excavations. A single-storey building, the ribat does not have a lookout tower. Whereas most Tunisian ribats have circular towers, the Sayyida Ribat excavations have exposed polygonal towers at the corners and the centre of the western wall. Several tiny cells made of quarry-stone rubble have been found. These probably served to accommodate warrior monks. Leading to these is a gallery which must have been supported by a square pillar. However, the most well-preserved part of the site is the mosque. It consists of a rectangular prayer hall (10 m x 6.75 m) with three naves and two bays. This room is roofed with groin-vaults supported by very high-pitched semi-circular arch-beams. These come to rest on cruciform pillars. The mihrab is at the back and consists of a fluted half-dome above a frieze of flowery kufic script, with Qur'anic verses dating from the AH 5th century (AD 11th).
The niche of the mihrab has five blind arcades with horseshoe-shaped back walls containing medallions of stylised rosettes. The decoration of this mihrab is identical to that of the Great Mosque at Monastir and similar to that of al-Qsar Mosque in Tunis, dating from the Fatimo-Zirid period.

View Short Description

All that remains of the original ribat is the mosque and the west wing of the fort. Built on a single storey, the ribat, which was probably named after a princess, has no watchtower. The mosque, which consists of a rectangular prayer room, is the best preserved part of the monument. It is not known exactly when the ribat was abandoned as the oratory continued to be used for worship until recently.

How Monument was dated:

The remaining parts of the ribat, along with its floor plan, show that it is of the same design as the Aghlabid ribats which were built in the early to mid-3rd / 9th century. Furthermore, the decoration of the mihrab in the oratory, and the kufic inscription which adorns it, are typical of the Ifriqiyan decorative repertoire of the late 4th–mid-5th century (AD 10th–11th century).

Selected bibliography:

Marçais, G., L'art musulman, Paris, 1962, pp.110–12.
Zbiss, S. M., A travers les monuments musulman de Tunisie, Tunis, 1963, p.59.
Ifriqiya: Thirteen Centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia, pp.212–14.

Citation of this web page:

Saloua Zangar "Ribat and Mosque of the Sayyida" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. 2020.;ISL;tn;Mon01;27;en

Prepared by: Saloua ZangarSaloua Zangar

Saloua Khaddar Zangar est née en 1953 à Nabeul, titulaire d'une maîtrise d'histoire de l'Université de Tunis, S. Zangar a obtenu son doctorat en histoire moderne et contemporaine à l'Université de Bordeaux III.
Spécialiste de l'histoire du mouvement national tunisien, elle a été directeur du Centre d'histoire du mouvement national de 1980 à 1982. Directeur de recherche, responsable des publications à l'Institut national du patrimoine depuis 1992, elle est nommée en mars 2006 directeur du département Coopération, programmation, formation et publications de l'INP.
Auteur de divers articles et contributions à des ouvrages sur l'histoire du monde arabo-musulman au lendemain de la Première Guerre mondiale et de la Tunisie à l'époque coloniale, elle a publié notamment La Presse française et le monde arabo-musulman en 1920 (1982), Le cap Bon passé et présent (1993), La femme tunisienne à travers les âges (1997), La femme tunisienne entre hier et aujourd'hui (2002). Elle participe également à un site Web et à un CD sur la femme tunisienne (2005).

MWNF Working Number: TN 27


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