Great Mosque of Testour
Located in the Great Square, Testour, Governorate of Beja, Tunisia
Before hegira 1041 / AD 1631
Muhammad Tagharinu, émigré of Andalusian origin who settled at Testour in AH 1018 (AD 1609).
The Testour Mosque has two courtyards the larger of which lies to the north and the smaller to the west of the prayer hall. The large courtyard (17.70 m x 36.20 m) is surrounded with porticoes with semi-circular arches on antique limestone columns and capitals. The porticoes are covered with a gently sloping single-pitched roof. The courtyard is paved with re-claimed antique limestone flagstones. In the middle of the courtyard there is a sundial with an inscription bearing the name of the maker, Ahmed al-Harrar, and the date AH 1174 (AD 1761).
The minaret, on the northwest corner, is 22.5 m high. Comprising two superposed towers, the lower one is square, the side measuring 4.50 m, and the upper is octagonal. At the top is a lantern with a pyramidal wooden roof. On the four corners of the square tower sit cylindrical pinnacles capped with icons. In contrast to the square tower, the octagonal tower is richly decorated with enamelled ceramic and the upper part has twinned window openings. Under one of these openings a clock face has been set in the stone, a unique phenomenon in minarets of this period.
The rectangular prayer hall (25.85 m x 19.12 m) is roofed with groin vaults on semi-circular arches, supported by antique columns and capitals. It is divided into nine naves and seven bays. The central passage runs under two domes, one in the centre and one in front of the mihrab. The framework of the latter carries a triangular ornamental fronton. The spandrels are decorated with nail-heads and palm-leaves.
With the exception of the decorative elements (pinnacles, triangular fronton and pitched roofs) the building method used in this monument is from the Andalusian tradition. The walls are constructed from brick courses filled in with rough quarry stone, exactly like the Toledan method.
The Great Mosque of Testour is one of the most striking examples of Morisco architecture in Tunisia. The contractor who built it combined the techniques used in local mosques with architectural and decorative elements of Hispanic origin. The building is remarkable for its imposing tiled roofs resting on a timber structure supported on the extrados of the vaults by means of 48 pillars. The shape and build of the minaret are reminiscent of Spanish bell towers, in particular those of Aragon.
Historical sources and by way of oral tradition. Also a manuscript dating from 1072 (1661) left to the mosque by the son of the founder.
Hababou, I., Reflexion sur l'architecture andalouse en Tunisie : Une ville de testour nouvelles operations et tissue traditionnel, p.122. ITAAUT, 1983, unedited.
Hopkins, N.S., “Note sur l'histoire de Testour”, Revue d'historique maghrebine, Tunis, No. 9, 1977, pp.294–313.
Marçais, G., Testour et sa grande Mosquee, Tunis, 1981, pp.21–3.
Saadaoui, A., Testour du XVIIe au XIXe siecle; histoire architecturale d'une ville morisque de Tunisie, Tunis, 1991, pp.63–145.
Ifriqiya: Thirteen centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia, pp.132–3.
Mohamed Béji Ben Mami "Great Mosque of Testour" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;isl;tn;mon01;3;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 03