Name of Monument:
Sabil of Sultan Qaytbay
Located within the Haram al-Sharif about 15 m northeast of Madrasa al-Ashrafiyya, Jerusalem
Date of Monument:
Built in AH 887 / AD 1482, then renovated in AH 1300 / AD 1882–3
Architect(s) / master-builder(s):
It is probable that the same team of engineers, architects and builders constructed both the Madrasa al-Ashrafiyya and the Sabil of Qaytbay, and that they were sent by Sultan Qaytbay from Egypt to Jerusalem to execute the work.
Period / Dynasty:
The building dates to the Mamluk period and was renovated in the Ottoman period
Sultan Sayf al-Din Inal (r. AH 857–65 / AD 1453–61) founded the sabil where the Sabil of Qaytbay is located today; nothing remains of this original Sabil of Inal. Then Sultan al-Ashraf Qaytbay (r. AH 872–901 / AD 1468–96) completely renovated the structure and made it an extension to his neighbouring Madrasa al-Ashrafiyya. The Sabil of Qaytbay was renovated by the Ottoman Sultan ‘Abd al-Hamid II (Adülhamid II, r. AH 1293–1327 / AD 1876–1909).
The sabil, which is approximately 13 m high, consists of three sections. The first section is the square base, the walls of which open up to high windows in three directions, and a door that leads inside the sabil and opens out on to the fourth, east-facing direction. In each corner of the structure there is a pillar that is supported by the base and ends with a muqarnas capital with hewn-out decoration. The second section of the sabil edifice is the middle section comprising the drum of the dome, and the zone of transition between the base and the dome. At the corners of the drum, small piers are erected which are pyramidal in shape and facilitate the transition from the high square of the base to an octagonal, and then into a 12-sided polygon. The third section of the building is the high stone dome which is decorated with distinctive arabesque ornamentation. This dome is considered to be a unique example of Egyptian Mamluk architecture outside Cairo. The courses of the sabil were built of alternating red and yellow stone, known as ablaq. At the top of the building there is a carved inscription band that includes verses from the Qur'an and which holds a foundation inscription written in prominent Mamluk naskhi script.
View Short Description
The decorative and architectural elements of this sabil (public fountain) was inspired principally by Egyptian building traditions. The building has a square ground plan (4.80 m x 4.60 m) and it towers about 13 m from the ground. It is surmounted by a very high stone dome which is decorated in the arabesque style. Each of its facades contains a large window. Scattered throughout the building are inscriptions, which are primarily Qur’anic verses in addition to the foundation inscription. This sabil is considered to be one of the most famous and beautiful of the many sabils in Jerusalem.
How Monument was dated:
The building is dated by an inscription band which goes around the top of the all four sides of the facade. The date is further verified by the writing of the historian, Mujir al-Din al-Hanbali (d. 928 / 1521) who describes the works of Sultan Qaytbay in Jerusalem.
Burgoyne. M., Mamluk Jerusalem: An Architectural Study, London, 1987.
Citation of this web page:
Yusuf al-Natsheh "Sabil of Sultan Qaytbay" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;pa;Mon01;18;en
Prepared by: Yusuf Al-Natsheh