Name of Monument:
Fez (Old Town / Medina), Morocco
Date of Monument:
Hegira 8th / AD 14th century, completed in AH 747 / AD 1346
Period / Dynasty:
Sultan Abu al-Hasan (r. AH 731–51 H / AD 1330–51).
Al-Misbahiya Madrasa, which owes its name to the faqih al-Misbahi, the first jurisconsult to have taught there, consisted of a ground floor and three upper stories. The top storey has been entirely destroyed. It has no mihrab, and therefore no oratory, but it does have a beautiful square prayer room with a curious entrance consisting of twin festooned and raised arcades.
The large opening that dominates the north façade of the courtyard is a unique composition in Marinid religious architecture, at least in Fez. It consists of two twinned arches resting on marble columns. The side columns have not survived. The arches are framed by a band of cursive inscription, which in turn is crowned by three openwork arcades that were once embellished with decorative floral knotwork in plaster. The ensemble is topped by a carved wooden arch enlivened by a series of grooves that extend to the edge of the green tiles.
This peculiar opening is flanked by small blind arcades crowned with geometric plaster knotwork (diamonds) much esteemed by Marinid artists. Passing through a bent hallway, it leads to a courtyard with a white marble basin brought from Almería in its centre and galleries consisting of pillars and wooden lintels on each side.
Here and elsewhere, the available surfaces were decorated with expertly rendered zellij (small tiles), carved wood and stucco.
Its annexes have been completely lost since the turn of the century.
The 117 rooms of the madrasa could accommodate up to 140 students from different regions of the country.
The madrasa has suffered a great deal from the passage of time and clumsy alteration. The dome of the prayer room, the ceilings of the latrines and some of the bedrooms have collapsed. Nonetheless, the building has retained some original examples of epigraphic, floral and geometric decoration from the Marinid era. A restoration project was undertaken at the beginning of the 1990s.
View Short Description
This madrasa, which owes its name to a great theologian of the time, was built near to the Qarawiyyin by Sultan Abu al-Hasan in AH 747 / AD 1346. It consists of a beautiful square prayer room, a twin-arched entrance and a large opening that dominates the north side of the courtyard. This madrasa housed up to 140 students in bedrooms on the ground floor and upper storeys. Although now in ruins, having suffered many clumsy adaptations, some original elements of the Marinid decoration have survived. It is now in the process of being restored.
How Monument was dated:
Ibn Marzuq, in his book al-Musnad, states that the work was completed in 747 (1346). The author of Istiqsa (al-Nasiri) allows us to confirm that the madrasa dates from the time of the Sultan Abu al-Hasan (r. 731–51 / 1331–51).
Aouni, H. M., “À propos d'une inscription du fils d'Ibn Marzuq à Fès”, Revue al-Misbahiya, Fez, 2003, Vol. 5, pp. 1–12.
Ibn Marzouq, M., Al-Mousnad as Sahih al Hassan (La preuve solide et juste), partial edition ed. É. Lévi-Provençal, Hespéris, Rabat, 1925, pp.1–82 ; complete edition in Arabic ed. M. J. Viguera, M. J., Algiers, 1981.
Perétié, M. A., Les madrasas de Fas, Archives Marocaines, Vol. 18, 1912.
Terrasse, C., Médersas du Maroc, Paris, 1927.
Andalusian Morocco: A Discovery in Living Art, pp.104–6.
Citation of this web page:
Mohamed Mezzine "Misbahiya Madrasa" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;ma;Mon01;10;en
Prepared by: Mohamed Mezzine
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: MO 13