Name of Object:



Rabat, Morocco

Holding Museum:

Museum of Archaeology

About Museum of Archaeology, Rabat.

Date of Object:

Hegira 731–49 / AD 1331–48

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Sculpted white marble.


Height 28 cm, bell diameter 20.6 cm, abacus diameter 40.2 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Challa zawiya, Rabat.


This marble capital is one of the different models created by artists from the Marinid dynasty. Unlike the classical type, where there is a marked difference between the bell (lower cylindrical part) and the abacus (upper parallelepipedic part) both in terms of proportions and ornamentation, here the abacus does not overhang the bell too noticeably, and the ornamentation is continuous.
Placed above an astragal with a cable-moulded torus, the bell is represented by a smooth curved acanthus meander on the top. Overlapping scales rising above a step motif fill the central vertical slots and the gaps in the meander. The space above the meander is filled with very finely executed plant decoration that links the two volumes of the capital: two double palms with acanthus leaves tumbling from above the gaps bear coiled lobes that join at the centre of the capital to form two adjacent snail shells. Above this there is a flat strip bearing a pious inscription, sculpted in relief, in cursive characters taken from the end of verse 64 of Sura 12 of the Qur'an, 'Joseph': 'Allah is the best protector and is the most Merciful of the Merciful'. On either side of the band, two symmetrical palms with acanthus leaves fill the corners of the abacus and surround a curved pinecone. A projecting rectangular bracket decorated with a floral motif stands at the top of the capital.
This subtle and vigorous decoration characterises the capitals of Marinid mosques and madrasas.

View Short Description

This is one of the types of finely executed capital with abundant plant decoration created by Marinid artists for mosques and madrasas. It has a flat band on the upper part with a pious cursive inscription sculpted in relief.

How date and origin were established:

Inside the ramparts of the Challa Necropolis, an architectonic element (frame of a monumental door) gives the start and end dates of the work: 731–49 / 1331–48.

How Object was obtained:

Object found at an archaeological site.

How provenance was established:

Archaeological object found in situ.

Selected bibliography:

Cambazard-Amahan, C. and Erbati, E., 6000 ans d'art au Maroc, catalogue, Paris, 1990.
Lévi-Provençal, É. and Basset, H., Chellah, une nécropole mérinide, Paris, 1923.
Marçais, G., L'architecture musulmane d'Occident, Paris, 1954.
Andalusian Morocco: A Discovery in Living Art, pp.229–31.

Citation of this web page:

Naima El Khatib-Boujibar "Capital" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;ma;Mus01;17;en

Prepared by: Naima El Khatib-BoujibarNaima El Khatib-Boujibar

Archéologue et historienne de l'art, titulaire d'une licence en lettres (française), N. Elkhatib-Boujibar a également étudié l'archéologie et l'histoire de l'art à l'Institut d'art et d'archéologie de Paris, l'art islamique et la muséologie à l'École du Louvre (Paris), et suivi des cours à l'Institut d'ethnographie de l'Université de Neuchâtel (Suisse). Elle a occupé plusieurs postes de responsabilité, parmi lesquels directrice des Musées et de l'Archéologie, inspectrice générale des Musées et de l'Archéologie, déléguée régionale du ministère de la Culture.
Elle a dirigé un chantier de fouille durant 20 ans et enseigné à l'Institut national marocain des sciences de l'archéologie et du patrimoine (INSAP). Elle a organisé différentes expositions sur le patrimoine marocain, au Maroc comme à l'étranger, et animé des cycles de conférence, dont celui sur l'art islamique à la “Villa des Arts” à Casablanca.
N. El Khatib-Boujibar a publié différents articles sur le patrimoine archéologique, artistique et architectural marocain, mais aussi sur d'autres sites islamiques et sur les arts mobiliers. Elle a également participé à la rédaction du catalogue Musée Sans Frontières Le Maroc andalou, à la rencontre d'un art de vivre.

Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: MO 21


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period

Marinids and Wattasids

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Architectural Elements


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