The Minaret of the Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo
The mosque is to the north of the suqs and the minaret is located to the north-west of the building, Aleppo, Syria
Hegira 483–7 / AD 1091–4
Hasan bin Mufarraj al-Sarmani.
Atabeg / Seljuq
Abu’l Hasan Muhammad ibn al-Khashshab, the qadi (judge) of Aleppo during the rule of the Seljuq governor, Aq Sunqur.
The minaret is a fine example of AH 5th- / AD 11th-century Syrian stonework commissioned by an urban notable of Aleppo, Qadi (Judge) Ibn al-Khashshab. It belongs to an Umayyad Mosque, an important building similar to the Great Mosque of Damascus which was renovated extensively by the Seljuqs, Atabegs and Mamluks. The minaret reveals a continuation of Aleppo's native architectural heritage. Historical records reveal that Ibn al-Khashshab took the initiative to rebuild the minaret. Thus it is not a manifestation of eastern-inspired Turkic taste but rather that of an Aleppine Arab's.
Made of limestone and designed with a square base of 4.95 m sq, it is approximately 45 m high with 140 steps spiralling inside its length to reach the muezzin's balcony. It consists of six storeys; the exterior decoration is divided respectively into five horizontal fields, topped by a domed wooden canopy. Exquisite Atabeg-period kufic and thuluth inscriptions are carved into the stone at each level.
The higher up one goes, the more elaborate the decoration and the more ostentatious the dedication in the inscription following the order of political hierarchy. At the highest level is the basmala: “in the name of God” and the dedication to the powerful sovereignty of the Seljuq Sultan. The next level down reveals dedication to the Seljuq Turkish prince who governed Aleppo. The third level is inscribed with the founder's name, Qadi Muhammad Ibn Khashshab, then a blessing generally quoted from the Qur'an to anyone who builds a mosque, and lastly, the first floor bears only a simple and elegant cartouche of the architect's name and date of construction: “Made by Hasan bin Mufarraj al-Sarmani in the year three and eighty and four hundred.”
The decorative moulding is designed in harmony with the status of the epigraphic inscriptions. The first storey is undecorated except for the cartouche. The second storey with its Qur'anic inscription is decorated with a moulded ribbon of widely-spaced tri-lobed arches and moulded pilasters. These stone mouldings meander uninterrupted around the tower's faces, a decorative feature of Aleppo's architecture since antiquity.
On the third level are simple mouldings of classical columns on the corners. The fourth storey is decorated by four pairs of heavily moulded poly-lobed arches set on Corinthian capitals; in the centre of each there is a small six-lobe framed circular window reminiscent of the Umayyad stone carving at the Muschatta Palace. The fifth storey is the most ornate, with large square windows framed by tri-lobed and cusped arches that continue in a bracketed arcade around the corners of the tower, echoing the decoration on the second floor. At the top is the main cornice of the tower. It is made of flat niches – as opposed to concave muqarnas cells – and entirely decorated with tiny arabesques.
The style of this minaret's decoration reveals the continuity of Syrian pre-Islamic and Roman architectural heritage.
Towering to a height of 45 m, the minaret of the Mosque of Aleppo is an important work of architecture. Constructed between AH 483 and 487 / AD 1091 and 1094, its building technique features stonemasonry and decorative motifs typical of northern Syrian architecture. It is divided into five fields of decoration, which also includes exquisite calligraphic inscriptions set in a hierarchical order. The topmost level pays tribute to the distant Seljuq Sultan, the third level to the local judge of Aleppo, and the lowest level displays a small cartouche bearing the architect's name.
The monument is dated by an inscription.
Allen, T., A Classical Revival in Islamic Architecture, Wiesbaden, 1986, pp.23–9; figs. 28–34.
Herzfeld, E., “Damascus: Studies in Architecture”, Part II, Ars Islamica, Vol. X,1943, p.35.
Herzfeld, E., “Matériaux pour un Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum: Syrie du
Nord”, Part 2: Inscriptions et monuments d'Alep, 3 Vols, Cairo, 1954–6, pp.150–
3; fig. 60.
Sourdel-Thomine, J., “Le Coufique Alepin de l'Epoque Seljoukide”, Melanges Louis Massignon, Vol. 3, IFEAD, 1957, pp.301–17.
Tabbaa, Y., “Survivals of Archaisms in the Architecture of Northern Syria, 1080–1150”, Muqarnas, 10, 1993, p.29–41; figs 5, 6.
Ibn Shaddad, Izz al-Din (d. 1285), Al-A'laq al-Khateera fi dhikr Umara al-Sham w al-Jazira, [The Crucial Core in the Mention of the Rulers of Greater Syria and the Jazira], Damascus, 1953, p.34.
Zena Takieddine, Samer Abd al-Ghafour "The Minaret of the Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monuments;ISL;sy;Mon01;2;en
Prepared by: Zena TakieddineZena Takieddine
Zena Takieddine is a researcher of Arab history and Islamic art. She received her BA in history (with distinction) from the American University of Beirut, and her MA in art and archaeology (with distinction) from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She has a diploma in art and antique connoisseurship from Sotheby's, London. Her fields of interest include pre-Islamic Arabian epigraphy and the development of the Arabic script, early Islamic art and architecture, Arab miniature painting, the study of intercultural influences between Islamic civilisation and the Christian West during the medieval period, and post-colonial methodology in the study of history and identity., Samer Abd al-Ghafour
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 02
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