Prayer niche (mihrab)
Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum
About Hegira 669 / AD 1270
Glazed ceramic, faience mosaic.
Height 395 cm, width 280 cm
Seljuqs of Rum (Anatolian Seljuq)
Bey Hakim Mosque, Konya, Turkey.
A prayer niche (mihrab) is located in a mosque to show every Muslim the direction of Mecca towards which they pray. The mihrab shown here is from the Bey Hakim Mosque, which was endowed by the physician of the Anatolian Seljuq Sultan Kılıç [Qilich] Arslan IV (d. AH 665 / AD 1266) and built in Konya. This prayer niche is very similar to others of the same period in its decoration in faience tiles, especially in its combination of calligraphic and decorative elements. These elements have been combined in a variety of ways, resulting in manifold decorations. Borders of differing widths featuring inscriptions and vegetal motifs create unity. Small columns with cubic capitals frame the imagined entrance to Paradise. As was always the case in this period, the lower half of the niche is embellished with geometric patterns and the niche’s upper half by a muqarnas (stalactite) vault also covered in geometric patterns. The vault is also framed with geometric motifs. The geometric decoration of the Berlin mihrab has an additional 12-star pattern. Raised eight-pointed stars can be found in both spandrel fields. The inscribed areas feature extracts from various parts of the Qur’an. Sura 29 verse 45 is cited on the forefront of the niche: ‘Proclaim what has been revealed to you in scripture and pray. Prayer protects against dishonour and temptation. And truly, to think of Allah is one’s greatest duty; and Allah knows what you do’. The aesthetic unity of the decoration was created by calligraphers and draughtsmen of ornaments in conjunction with the producers of tiles. In terms of colour palette, turquoise, dark blue, black and aubergine were selected. Craftsmen were also responsible for the cutting of the tiles, so that they could be organised into a pattern without leaving any gaps. Tile production in Konya reached its apotheosis around AH 658 / AD 1260, so that, in the AH 7th / AD 13th century, 21 mosques were decorated with faience mosaic.
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Turquoise, brown and dark manganese faience mosaic was common in monumental Seljuq prayer niches. This impressive niche with Qur’anic inscriptions and arabesque and geometric patterns, once belonged to the Bey Hakim Mosque in Konya, Turkey. It was assembled from fragments and restored parts.
The prayer niche comes from the Bey Hakim Mosque, which was founded by the favourite physician of the Seljuq Sultan Kılıç [Qilich] Arslan IV (d. 665 / 1266), and which thus dates it to around the mid-7th / mid-13th century.
The prayer niche was reconstructed from numerous individual fragments.
The fragments of this reconstructed niche in Berlin, along with other fragments housed in various cities (Paris, London, Istanbul), formed part of a prayer niche that once belonged to the Bey Hakim Mosque in Konya. Its identity has also been established through early photographs.
Enderlein, V., “Der Mihrab der Bey Hakim Mosche in Konya: Ein Denkmal und Seine Geschichte”, in Forschungen und Berichte 17, 1976, pp.33–40.
Meinecke, M., Fayencedekorationen Seldschukischer Sakralbauten in Kleinasien,Tübingen, 1976, Vol. II, pp.326–36, cat. no. 81.
Museum für Islamische Kunst, Catalogue, Mainz, 2001, pp.362–3.
Sarre, F., Denkmäler Persischer Baukunst, Berlin, 1910, plates 105–108.
Sarre, F., Seldschukische Kleinkunst, Erzeugnisse islamischer Kleinkunst, part II, Leipzig, 1909, p.32, plate 28.
Annette Hagedorn "Prayer niche (mihrab)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;de;Mus01;19;en
Prepared by: Annette Hagedorn
Translation by: Maria Vlotides, Brigitte Finkbeiner
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: GE 25
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Ottomans | Turkish-Islamic Art in Pre-Ottoman Anatolia
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